One of the things I love about reading Bavinck is that he continually disabuses me of the notion that recent challenges to the faith are really all that new, or that the sound, biblical theology that forms an answer to it was only recently discovered by a few insightful, North American (or British) scholars in the 1990s or something. Instead, Christian theologians have been taking up the charge to defend the faith, and pass on the richness of the biblical vision for a long time.
I was reminded of this when reading through Bavinck’s lengthy treatment of the Resurrection. In it he discusses various alternative, modern hypotheses, that would turn the Resurrection appearances into mere, subjective visions, or even divinely appointed projections of the risen Christ. Or, again, more agnostic accounts that would say the physical resurrection is really of no theological import as long as we affirm Christ’s current Lordship in either case. Besides not being historically satisfying accounts, Bavinck says they’re also theologically disastrous being a rather gnostic, dualist approach to the gospel. He then goes on to explain how the Resurrection presents us with thick, rich approach to salvation that is indispensable or Christian faith and quickly lists 8 reasons it is absolutely crucial to affirm:
Scripture, however, proceeds from a totally different view. It teaches that both heaven and earth, spirit and matter, have been created by God; that the body belongs to the essential being of humans and in its way exhibits the image of God; that death is a consequence of and punishment for sin. For Scripture, then, everything depends on the physical resurrection of Christ. The that is integral to the how: if Christ did not arise physically, then death, then sin, then he who had the power of death has not been defeated. In that case, actually, not Christ but Satan came out the victor. According to Scripture, therefore, the significance of the physical resurrection of Christ is inexhaustibly rich.
Briefly summarized, that resurrection is
(1) proof of Jesus’ messiahship, the coronation of the Servant of the Lord to be Christ and Lord, the Prince of life and Judge (Acts 2:36; 3:13–15; 5:31; 10:42; etc.);
(2) a seal of his eternal divine sonship (Acts 13:33; Rom. 1:3);
(3) a divine endorsement of his mediatorial work, a declaration of the power and value of his death, the “Amen!” of the Father upon the “It is finished!” of the Son (Acts 2:23–24; 4:11; 5:31; Rom. 6:4, 10; etc.);
(4) the inauguration of the exaltation he accomplished by his suffering (Luke 24:26; Acts 2:33; Rom. 6:4; Phil. 2:9; etc.);
(5) the guarantee of our forgiveness and justification (Acts 5:31; Rom. 4:25);
(6) the fountain of numerous spiritual blessings: the gift of the Spirit (Acts 2:33), repentance (Acts 5:31), spiritual eternal life (Rom. 6:4f.), salvation in its totality (Acts 4:12);
(7) the principle and pledge of our blessed and glorious resurrection (Acts 4:2; Rom. 8:11; 1 Cor. 6:14; etc.);
(8) the foundation of apostolic Christianity (1 Cor. 15:12ff.).
I’m sure we could all think of more reasons. Indeed, Bavinck himself does in other sections as well as this one. Still, even this brief list demonstrates how inextricably the benefits and accomplishment of salvation, not only of individuals, but the whole cosmos is tied up with the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. This isn’t only about the coming back to life of one particularly good, holy man, but literally the redemption of the whole world. All of this only serves to confirm Paul’s affirmation that the totality of Christian faith rises or falls with the Resurrection of the Son:
For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:16-19)
Which is why I thank God for Paul’s next pivot–it’s one of my favorites in all of Scripture:
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (v. 20)
Take some time to meditate on the Jesus’ glorious resurrection today. Maybe work your way through Bavink’s 8 reasons. Stop to think about each for a minute or two, and just praise him for what he’s done. More than that, praise him for who he is: the Resurrected Lord of All Creation.
Soli Deo Gloria
Thanks Derek. Good post. The resurrection is encouraging and I look forward to our own.
Without it, we’d be lost for all eternity.
Reblogged this on Glory as Beauty and commented:
The Resurrection, a hinge upon which our faith swings, vital to acknowledge and investigate in our faith journey. Here is a link to the Reformedish blog sampling Bavinck’s considerations upon the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
I was interested to see how he handles the Romans 4 passage and I find myself confused by the choice of words:
“the guarantee of our forgiveness and justification (Acts 5:31; Rom. 4:25)”
But Paul in Romans 4 doesn’t say that the resurrection is the guarantee of our justification, but that he was raised for our justification.
Now I haven’t really gotten around to reading Markus Barth, Bird (found a paper on his online so I’ll read it in a bit), and others on this, but what are your (or Bavinck’s) thoughts on that fact?
Obviously it’s possible Paul means the resurrection is the guarantee for our justification in Romans 4. I also get Bavinck isn’t trying to argue his point here, and insert all the other million disclaimers. I just wonder if we tend to read this Romans 4 text through our theology of the cross because that’s so central in evangelicalism and then we don’t let the text speak for itself and maybe that’s why the physical resurrection can actually seem like just a stamp of approval and nothing more (and thus people think it can be dispensed with; obviously Bavick recognizes that there’s a lot more going on).
Anyway, interested in your thoughts on the Romans 4 passage and how it should play into our thinking on the resurrection. Does Bavinck get it right that Romans 4 just means the resurrection is the guarantee of our justification?