Van Til Tool

Using the Van Til Perspective as the tool to discover what life means and how it ought to be lived.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

THE COSMIC CONTEXT OF THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST

THE COSMIC CONTEXT

OF THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST


by Forrest W. Schultz




The Conventional Teaching of the Resurrection: True But Incomplete



The first kind of discussion of the Resurrection I heard as a new Christian placed a great deal of stress upon the fact that Christ was (truly, physically) raised from the dead and that the evidence supported this fact and refuted the various theories proposed in its stead (e.g. the swoon theory, the body-theft theory, etc.). There was also a strong emphasis placed upon the fact that (because of His Resurrection) that we Christians do not worship a dead martyr but a living Savior, Who is now seated at the Right Hand of God where He serves as our Mediator with God and as the Head of His Church, which is in vital union with Him. I am grateful for having received this teaching because it is true and very important. However there was something very important omitted from this teaching, namely the cosmic context of the Resurrection of Christ.



The Resurrection of the Cosmos



The first factor in this cosmic context we shall discuss is the resurrection of the entire creation system into its glorified, final state: The New Heavens & The New Earth. A good discussion of this factor and why it is so often omitted from the subject of the Resurrection is found in an excellent book on the doctrine of salvation authored by Dr. John Murray, one of the best New Testament theologians of the twentieth century. I shall now quote Murray’s discussion of this in its entirety. His writing on the subject is remarkable not only for its thought content, but also for its lucidity, succinctness, pathos, and literary beauty – qualities which are not always found in theological writings!



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“One of the heresies which has afflicted the Christian church and has been successful in polluting the stream of Christian thought from the first century of our era to the present day is the heresy of regarding matter, that is material substance, as the source of evil. It has appeared in various forms. …John, for example, had to combat it in the peculiarly aggravated form of denying the reality of Christ’s body as one of flesh. (I Jn 4: 1-3) …In reference to that heresy the test of orthodoxy was to confess the flesh of Jesus, that is to say that he came with a material, fleshly body.
Another form in which this heresy appeared is to regard salvation as consisting of the emancipation of the soul or spirit of man from the impediments and entanglements of the body. Salvation and sanctification progress to the extent to which the immaterial soul overcomes the degrading influence emanating from the material and the fleshly. …
This heresy has appeared in a very subtle form in connection with the subject of glorification. The direction it has taken in this case is to play on the chord of the immortality of the soul. …The Biblical doctrine of ‘immortality’, if we may use that term, is the doctrine of glorification. And glorification is resurrection. Without resurrection of the body from the grave and the restoration of human nature to its completeness after the pattern of Christ’s resurrection…there is no glorification… .
In like manner, the Christian’s hope is not indifferent to the material universe around us, the cosmos of God’s creation. It was subjected to vanity, not willingly; it was cursed for man’s sin; it was marred by human apostasy. But it is going to be delivered from the bondage of corruption; and its deliverance will be coincident with the consummation of God’s people’s redemption. The two are not only coincident events but they are correlative in hope. Glorification has cosmic proportions… .* (emphasis his)


So we see that, just as (during His First Advent) Christ’s destiny was to die and be resurrected by God, so the destiny of the cosmos is to die and be resurrected by God. This state of affairs casts the entire subject of Christ’s resurrection into a new light. In light of the fact that the history of the cosmos is headed for (death and) resurrection, this means that Christ’s resurrection should not be regarded as an oddity -- as something that does not fit into the scheme of things. If the entire cosmos is going to experience a resurrection, then it is not appropriate to regard the Resurrection of Christ as something paranormal. To summarize, since the Christian world-view expects the resurrection of the cosmos, it therefore regards resurrection as something normal, not something abnormal. Therefore, Christ’s resurrection must be discussed in this light, i.e. in light of this cosmic resurrectional context. The humanist considers the idea of the Resurrection of Christ as a “Claim of the Paranormal” because it does not fit into the humanist’s world-view: the humanist does not expect God to resurrect the cosmos. Therefore he regards the notion of resurrection as an oddity, as something that doesn’t fit into his framework because it is a concept which is alien to it.



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Present Day Resurrections



Thus far we have dealt with the universal eschatological resurrection that will occur at the end of the history of this cosmos. But this is not the only factor in the cosmic resurrectional context. There are also present-day resurrections occurring in the plant kingdom, as I shall now show from quotations from two of the finest works in the library of Christian prose.

The first of these comes from John Calvin’s classic opus The Institutes of the Christian Religion, which is arguably the greatest book of general theology ever written: “…Paul by setting forth a proof from nature confutes the folly of those who deny the resurrection. ‘You foolish man’, he says, ‘what you sow does not come to life unless it dies’, etc. (I Cor 15:36) In sowing, he tells us, we discern an image of the resurrection, for out of corruption springs up grain. And this fact would not be so hard to believe if we paid proper attention to the miracles thrust before our eyes throughout all the regions of the world.** Unfortunately we have become so accustomed to these phenomena that we forget that the creation of new life is indeed a miracle. Just because it is not rare does not mean it isn’t a miracle. The resurrection of the dead will clearly be a miracle in spite of the fact that it will happen to all men, and thus will not be a rarity.

Our next source will be the earliest known extant Christian writing since the completion of the New Testament, namely the epistle to the church at Corinth written in circa 96 A.D. by the church at Rome, the authorship of which is generally attributed to one of is bishops, Clemens Romanus, commonly known as Clement of Rome: “My friends, look how regularly there are processes of resurrection going on at this very moment. … take the fruits of the earth; how, and in what way, does a crop come into being? When the sower goes out and drops each seed into the ground, it falls to the earth shriveled and bare, and decays; but presently the power of the Lord’s providence raises it from decay, and from that single grain a host of others spring up and yield their fruit. … need we find it such a great wonder that He has a resurrection in store for those of us who have served Him in holiness and in the confidence of a sound faith? For in Scripture we read, You will raise me up, and I will praise you; … Job too, says, You will raise up this flesh of mine which has had all these trials to endure. … So let us rekindle the ardour of our belief in Him, and also remind ourselves that there is nothing in the world with which He is not in close touch. With the word of His greatness has He assembled all that exists, and with a word His is able to overturn it again; for who can say to him, What have you done? or who shall withstand the power of his might? He will act at all times as, and when, He chooses; and not one of His decrees shall fail.”***

It is worthy of note that in the thinking of these two great Christian writers biology and theology are closely related. They are not kept in two separate compartments as they are in modern education and modern practice under the hegemony of secularistic humanism.
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Resurrection In The Drama Of History



In Christian thought, as we have shown, there is a close relationship between man and nature. We shall be mentioning this again, but now we shall do so from the standpoint of history seen as a drama. We now wish to emphasize that nature is not just the stage on which the drama of human salvation is enacted. Rather nature is intimately involved in human history and human salvation. This principle is beautifully expressed in the following words by one of the greatest thinkers of the twentieth century, Rousas John Rushdoony: “The destiny of covenant keeping man is to be God’s vicegerent in Christ, to be God’s priest, prophet, and king over creation, to rule, interpret, and dedicate the world to Christ, unto God the Father. Man is not passive in regard to nature; rather nature is passive in regard to man. Nature was passive in receiving the consequences of man’s Fall and nature is passive today as man’s sin lays nature waste. Nature will be passive again in receiving her Sabbath rest from man’s hands and it will finally share passively in man’s glorification (Rom 8:19-22).”****

This is the historical perspective we need to properly understand the significance of the Resurrection of Christ. The Resurrection belongs in history because of the crucial role it plays in history. It is a key plot element in the drama of history. God is excellent in all His works. One of His works – one that is sometimes unrecognized – is that He is the Playwright of the drama of history. Therefore the Resurrection belongs in this drama: it is not an extraneous element, and therefore must not be regarded as something paranormal. It seems paranormal to the humanist because he does not understand or is unwilling to accept the plot of the drama because he is in rebellion against the Divine Dramatist, who has authored the drama. The humanist does not want to be in God’s drama. The humanist wants to write his own drama. In this humanistic drama there is no place for resurrection to be done by God just as there is no place for the cosmos to be created by God. Now it must be granted that the humanist often does allow Jesus to play a role, but that role is restricted to being a teacher of ethics (the ethics in which the humanist believes, of course) and perhaps an exemplar (of the kind of life style in which the humanist believes). But the humanist will not allow Christ to be the Word of God through whom the world was created nor the principle of unification in whom all things consist, nor the Resurrector of the dead or the Judge at the Last Judgment. So, you see, the humanist regards the Resurrection of Christ as paranormal because it is not normal according to his criterion of normality: it does not fit his philosophy of history – it has no place in his drama. But the Resurrection is normal by God’s criterion of normality. And God is the One who infallibly knows the true criterion of normality and God is the true Author of the drama. It is God’s drama that becomes reality. As a great poet once said, referring to God, “It is His Dogma that becomes the Drama!”. The humanists’ dramas are pure fiction because their dogmas are false.

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Conclusion: The Resurrection And The Clash Of World-Views



From what we have established here it is clear that we must proclaim the Resurrection of Christ in the context of the total Christian world-and-life view and we must exhort all men to get right with God and to straighten out their thinking. It is not enough to try to get people to accept the historical fact of the Resurrection. They need to change their minds about their philosophy of life. They need to forsake their false world-view and adopt the Christian world-view. After all, repentance (metanoia) means change of mind. The Resurrection is an integral feature of the Christian world-view and only makes sense in terms of that world-view. In the humanists’ world-views it is paranormal. In God’s view it is normal because He designed, planned, and carried it out for his purposes.
Amen!

To any reader who wishes to come to a clearer and deeper understanding of this clash of world-views, I recommend reading the books on The Van Til Perspective in the brief bibliography I appended to my article in last month’s Chalcedon Report.




NOTES



1. John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955), pp. 179 - 181

2. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, III: XXV: 4, Ed. by John T. McNeill, (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), p. 993. Concerning the word “miracles”, I feel obliged, in all fairness, to point out that Beveridge’s translation uses the term “wonders” instead. Whether this is justified by the Latin or whether Beveridge is recoiling in personal distaste from the word “miracles” I do not know.

3. This letter is found in the standard reference work The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, n.d.) under the heading The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, the quoted material being found in sections 24, 26, & 27. However, what I quoted comes not from this translation but the one made by Maxwell Staniforth, which is found in The Penguin Classics paperback, Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers (N.Y., 1968) on pages 36 & 37.

4. Rousas John Rushdoony, The Biblical Philosophy of History, (Nutley, New Jersey: Presbyterian & Reformed Pub. Co., 1969), pp. 3, 14

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Forrest W. Schultz has a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Drexel University and a Th.M. in Systematic Theology from Westminster Theological Seminary. He can be reached at 770-583-3258 or schultzf_2002@yahoo.com.













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NOTE: this article was published in The Chalcedon Report.

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