In this article Dr. Daniel Wallace argues that the bodily resurrection of Jesus is an essential and central doctrine of the Christian faith. To make his case Wallace lays a foundation by examining the Old Testament hope for a general resurrection of the dead (Dan 12:1-2). Then he demonstrates the centrality of the resurrection to the first century apostolic faith by examining the sermons in Acts and passages from Paul’s letters. After the groundwork is laid, Wallace examines nine theological points that are dependent upon the reality of Christ’s resurrection.
Wallace is a much respected textual critic and scholar of the first order, yet this article is concise and written in an accessible style. A major strength is Wallace’s exhaustive command of the scriptures. In addition, Wallace’s reasoning is sound throughout. His nine theological points are evidenced thoroughly and convincingly with appropriate proof texts. Furthermore, these points are well selected to demonstrate their contingency to the resurrection. Points three and four are especially convincing. Jesus cannot be a good teacher if he was a false prophet and “good news” of the gospel is precisely that death was conquered. In light of that truth, Christianity is incoherent without the resurrection. In the discussion on the forgiveness of sin, Wallace offers real life illustrations that show the doctrine to be sensible and relevant. He also makes a compelling parallel between the Sadducees and liberal theologians. In spite of their objections, he demonstrates from the scriptures that the resurrection is a non negotiable belief for true Christianity.
In his brief discussion of the Old Testament, Wallace emphasized the vagueness of Jewish resurrection belief. While that is true, he neglected to mention that there were many prophecies that point to Jesus crucifixion and resurrection. Isaiah 53 is a foundational chapter pointing to Jesus Christ, a discussion of it would have added force to Wallace’s case. For instance Isaiah 53:8 points to his death and verse ten points to the resurrection. The typology of Jonah (Jon. 1:17), the bronze serpent (Num 21:9), and Abraham’s offering of Isaac (Gen. 22:2) also come to mind. There is also a very solid historical case to be made for the reality of the resurrection. For example, the early creed, (1 Cor. 15:3-8), dates to a few years of the actual events.[i] I think it would have added to his case to mention the factual historical apologetic.
Modern skeptics would have us believe that our faith is unreasonable and outdated, yet the popularity of the new age, paranormal and occult has never been higher. I believe that nearly all people intuitively know there is more to reality than mere matter reacting according to the laws of physics and chemistry. One of my passions is to help people to realize that the Christian faith is the true spirituality and that the bible is the true guidebook to the supernatural. One of the best ways to convince people is the evidence for the resurrection. There is a compelling objective basis to believe it really happened. As Wallace demonstrated, once that is established, the rest of Christ’s teaching is authenticated. To my mind the resurrection is not merely part of the gospel, it is the gospel. Boice calls it the pivotal doctrine and makes a similar argument to Wallace.[ii] Most definitively, Paul argued that without it “your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17). The scripture also teaches that when someone believes it is an act of supernatural grace (Eph. 2:8). Faith is a gift of God and conversion is the resurrection of a spiritually dead sinner to new life in Christ. I believe the resurrection because, in a spiritual sense, I have experienced it. It was clear to me that he was writing to evangelicals who may have been influenced by modern liberal theologians or that had perhaps never considered the centrality of the resurrection. I think he was successful and I will refer to this article again in my ministry. To my way of thinking, you really are not a Christian in any meaningful sense of the word if you do not believe that Christ rose from the grave.
[i]Gary R. Habermas, The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ, Rev. Ed. of: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Jesus. (Joplin, MO: College Press Publishing Company, 1996), 154.
[ii]James Montgomery Boice, Foundations of the Christian Faith : A Comprehensive & Readable Theology (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1986), 340.