Can a Christian Not Believe in the Resurrection?
Recently, The Telegraph posted an article with the headline: "A Quarter of Christians Don't Believe in the Resurrection".
The most stand out statistics of the article describe that:
"Fewer than one-in-three Christians in Britain believe 'word-for-word' the biblical story of Jesus rising from the dead, with another 41 percent believing some sections should not be taken literally. But the Palm Sunday poll for the BBC found 23 percent of those calling themselves Christians 'do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead' at all."
When presented with figures like this, what should the reaction be? Outrage at the growing stream of secularism within religion? Excitement that a major British newspaper is talking about Christianity? My first response is puzzlement. If you don't believe in the resurrection, but still identify as Christian, then what exactly do you believe? And how can those beliefs still be called "Christian"?
A word that's been around as long as the word "Christian" has had plenty of time to collect lots of baggage. Like a broom running along the floor of history, much has been swept into the flow of "Christian" that really has nothing to do with Jesus, the Bible or Christianity. Christian is a label for something: "Christian Media", "Christian Clothing", even "Christian Dieting". Some of this is marketing. Some is description. Much is vague connotation.
To find out what really makes a "Christian", we have to go to the one called Christ. It's not our cultural definitions but his eternal words that can truly mark what Christianity is all about. Jesus himself says, in Luke 9:22 that he must die and be raised on the third day. Paul definitively writes in 1 Corinthians 15:17: "And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins." Effectively, without the resurrection of Jesus, we have no hope.
Romans 10:9 says it most clearly: "If you declare with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Salvation is only possible through the resurrection. If Jesus was only crucified, but not raised, then we have a great moral teacher but are still without deliverance from our sin. Christianity without the resurrection is not Christianity. It is something else.
Imagine if the headline read "A Quarter of Atheists Believe in God". We'd be baffled. To be an atheist means to not believe in God. That's what it means. If an atheist believes in God then he is no longer an atheist! Stating that isn't judgmental or narrow-minded, it's an acknowledgment of facts.
The same would be true of "Vegetarians Who Eat Meat", "Blind People Who Can See", and "Married People Who Are Single". One truth must override the other. So sadly, what The Telegraph has reported isn't that "A Quarter of Christians Don't Believe in the Resurrection", it's that "A Quarter of Christians Aren't Even Christians at All".