For reasons unknown to me, I have wound up on the mailing list of an outfit known as Wood Lake Publishing. From what I can gather from their frequent contributions to my inbox, this is a company specializing in providing teaching resources for “Progressive Christians.” I suppose I could spare myself a few gigabytes of data by unsubscribing to the list, as I do with all other junk dealers who offer products I would never purchase. However, I have elected to remain on this particular vendor’s list, and even archive some of its mailings, because the entertainment value more than makes up for the loss of data space. An outside observer, reading the detailed descriptions of the contents of the numerous titles “for Progressive Christians” could be forgiven for thinking the whole operation is some kind of Babylon Bee parody.
Consider this rather detailed blurb for Wood Lake’s latest offering, Easter for Progressive Christians, which is apparently getting rave reviews from readers who have no idea what it means to believe in the resurrection of Jesus.
When it comes right down to it, the Bible doesn’t really tell us much about resurrection. This is hardly surprising, because the gospel writers are trying to make sense of a story that, well, doesn’t really make sense – at least not to a rational mind. This has led people to a variety of positions that roughly fall somewhere between two extremes:
Of course Jesus never rose from the dead; people don’t do that. Anyone who says so is crazy,
Jesus rose physically from the dead and appeared to lots of people, and you must believe this or you are going to hell.
While most people lie somewhere between these two positions, they may not be sure just where exactly – nor are they always sure that they are “allowed” to be where they think they are. To put that another way, many people who understand themselves to be Christian struggle to accept the idea that Jesus physically rose from the dead, but are afraid to say so.
The “two extremes” here are caricatures set up as straw men for the express purpose of marketing the book as a reasonable “middle way” between them. It is a tactic so old and tired that it warrants no effort at refutation. It is a better use of time simply to consider the obvious absurdity of the first sentence. How can one read even a small portion of the Bible and claim it “doesn’t really tell us much about resurrection?” Even if you were to leave out the Gospel accounts, you would still have the witness of the Apostles throughout the book of Acts; frequent references in the letters of Paul, Peter, James, and John; and John’s apocalyptic vision on Patmos; not to mention the numerous prophecies of the Old Testament that can only be understood in light of the resurrection.
So, how can one read the Bible and claim it “doesn’t tell us much about resurrection?” The answer is as obvious as the absurdity of the claim. Anyone who says “the Bible doesn’t tell us much about resurrection” has not read the Bible, at least not as the Word of God. That sad fact is made clear in the remaining portion of the blurb:
This guide does not set out to “prove” or “disprove” that Jesus physically rose on Easter Sunday. Instead, it invites participants to engage with the biblical stories of Christ’s resurrection to try to understand what the gospel writers meant to tell us, what they wanted us to take from these stories. After all, they did not set out to prove a point of history; they wrote them down because these stories had transformed their own lives, and the lives of many others at the time. Hopefully, reading and exploring these stories can enhance our lives too. Ultimately, how we experience Christ today is what matters – not what might have happened 2,000 years ago.
Part and parcel to so-called “progressive” Christianity is the reduction of any semblance of objective biblical authority to subjective human experience. To “Progressive Christians,” the Gospel writers were only recording “stories” that “had transformed their own lives, and the lives of many others at the time.” Never mind if “these stories” were true or accurate or even plausible. They made people feel good (about themselves, apparently) and they inspired them to tell others so they could also feel good (about themselves).
None of this, of course, even remotely resembles the authentic Christian faith and its belief in the inspiration and authority of Scripture. The Gospel writers were not merely relating their own individual experiences. They were proclaiming the Good News that God had sent his Son to suffer, die, and rise again in order to bring forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternal life to all who put their faith in him.
Here is what you might call some Biblical Truth for Progressive Christians: Ultimately, what did happen 2,000 years ago matters as much today as it did then. What we believe about Christ today can only be the same as what was believed about him by those who were eyewitnesses to his life, death, and resurrection.
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)