Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Changed Is Not Victorious...

First, a parable:

A 12-yr-old girl had a golden retriever puppy name Jack. One day Jack was sniffing too close to the road and was hit by a car and killed instantly. The girl, who did not see the accident, was unaware that Jack had died, so the girl's father went and found the girl a new pit bull puppy. When the girl came home from school to play with Jack she was greeted by Bud, the pit bull. Despite the girl's confusion, the father was immovable: Bud was Jack. The father's lie escalated and he explained to the girl that Jack was hit by a car and killed but was then revived in the form of Bud the pit bull. The girl eventually acquiesced and rumors of Bud the resurrected dog began to spread...

This parable serves to demonstrate the flaw in one of the most common interpretations of the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. In this fallacious opinion, Jesus was put to death in the body but raised in a disembodied spiritual state of sorts. Again, this mistaken view supposes that, despite being crucified on a Roman cross and buried in a tomb, early followers of Jesus encountered a 'spiritual' Jesus of sorts.

The flaw is this: Jesus cannot have defeated the death of the human body if Jesus was merely changed.

The crux of New Testament theology is that human death, the consequence of sin, has been conquered. The crux is not that something incredible happened to a controversial Jewish man, which therefore made him special. The heart of it all is that death has been defeated.

To hold a view that Jesus was not raised in bodily form fails to take seriously any claim that Jesus was victorious. Changed is not victorious. The resolution has nothing to do with the problem. Bud the pit bull does not make up for the loss of Jack the golden retriever.

We all know that Bud the pit bull is not Jack the golden retriever. We all therefore know that the father is a liar.

The same applies to the historical claims of the early Jesus movement. Either we wrestle with their testimony and take seriously their claim that Jesus defeated death by being raised to new life in the resurrected human body. Or, we declare them all liars and quit pretending to be followers of a dead dude by making up allegorized versions of the gospel.


  1. This is a very simple, but thoughtful observation. I appreciate your attempts to think through these types of things and sharing them. One of the most challenging conversations I've had this year was with my muslim friend who insisted on knowing "why would god die?". If he's powerful, and good, and just... isn't it weak and shameful to die? I told her maybe he could have gone about things, could have been victorious in other ways... through other means, but maybe the way god went about things was the best example for US. To show us humility and grace in it's truest form. That small realization affected my thinking quite a bit and your post reminded me of that conversation. Anyways, sorry for rambling. I appreciate your blog!

  2. Thanks, Kay. It seems that your conversation with your friend represents a great dichotomy between Christianity and Islam: God's transcendence. Perhaps Christianity's view of God is interpreted as unholy, un-powerful, etc. by our Muslim brothers/sisters.

    I have also heard that the idea of Incarnation is abhorred by Islam.

    Have you explored the idea of "kenosis" much? That opens up avenues to much about God's openness, suffering, humility, etc.