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by on April 4, 2015

Resurrection – or Not

And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.

Liberalism, the belief that the Bible is not factually true, eventually displaced a literal understanding of the Bible. Liberalism, however, fell on hard times because the people-in-the-pew would not believe that God is dead. What to do?

The theologians were not finished yet. Neo-orthodoxy replaced liberalism. What is neo-orthodoxy? Neo-orthodoxy is the new orthodox language about the Scripture. In simpler words, neo-orthodoxy (and all of its related approaches) uses the language of historic Christianity but redefines the language to eliminate literal, factual definitions that would come from a simple reading of the Scripture.

Neo-orthodoxy, then becomes an ideology. This can best be seen in a brief, 1962 encounter between an Evangelical scholar, Carl Henry and the foremost proponent of neo-orthodoxy, Karl Bart. The encounter was about the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In the words of Henry:

Identifying myself as Carl Henry, editor of Christianity Today, I continued: ‘The question, Dr. Barth, concerns the historical factuality of the resurrection of Jesus.’ I pointed to the press table and noted the presence of leading reporters representing United Press, Religious News Service, Washington Post, Washington Star, and other media. If these journalists had their present duties at the times of Christ, I asked, was the resurrection of such a nature that covering some aspect of it would have fallen under their area of responsibility? ‘Was it news,’ I asked, ‘in the sense that the man on the street understands news?’

Barth became angry. Pointing at me, and recalling my identification, he asked, ‘Did you say Christianity Today, or Christianity Yesterday?’ The audience—largely non-evangelical professors and clergy—roared with delight. When countered unexpectedly in this way, one often reaches for a Scripture verse. So I replied, assuredly out of biblical context, ‘Yesterday, Today, and Forever.’
From Confessions of a Theologian by Carl F. H. Henry

In other words, Henry knew how he had to frame the question to arrive at and expose the real beliefs of Bart. If he had asked Bart, “Do you believe in the resurrection? Bart would have answered, “Of course I do.”

What did Henry do?
1. He believed in the literal, bodily resurrection
2. He presented the question from that perspective
3. He asked how Bart thought that reporters would have reported Jesus’ bodily resurrection
4. “Bart became angry.”
5. Bart mocked the concept of “Christianity Today”, calling it Christianity yesterday!
6. The liberal audience “roared with delight”
7. Henry’s Biblical response: Yesterday, Today, and Forever!

I have had similar experiences. These experiences have taught me to be very careful how words are used. They have also taught me to discern who are the real believers and who are deceived into thinking that they are real believers. These encounters can be intimidating.

If you expose yourself to liberal/neo-orthodox teaching you will most likely be deceived. The language is that subtle. The questions have to be framed in ways that will determine what the person actually believes. If you use typical, ordinary, simple language you will not discover the beliefs. You will likely be drawn into wrong thinking. May Henry’s encounter with Bart serve as instructive.

This liberalism/new-orthodoxy vs. fundamentalism/evangelicalism has divided Christendom, including the Anabaptist community. How sad – even the resurrection is called into question.

The last two issues of a weekly farm newspaper included short columns about the resurrection. They sound good at first reading. They are not written from an evangelical perspective. That is how current this discussion is. This farm paper is read by the most conservative Anabaptist farmers. This is the gravity of this discussion.




Resurrection – Yesterday, Today, and Forever!

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