Fred Sanders at Biola University provides this nugget from R.A. Torrey, a prominent evangelist at the turn of the last century. Torrey made some interesting points about the implications of Jesus’ resurrection. I drew two lessons from Torrey’s point. First is that in the apologetic effort to demonstrate the resurrection, we cannot leave it at that because what it proves is what is life-transforming. Second is that only a physical resurrection proves these vitally important theological implications. No spiritual or symbolic resurrection will result in the same conclusions.
But what particularly drew my interest in Torrey’s book was that fourth chapter (Chapter VIII) on the resurrection: “What the resurrection of Jesus from the dead proves.”
Torrey opens the chapter with a recap of the previous arguments, and then asks,
But suppose He did rise from the dead, what of it? What does His resurrection prove? It proves everything that most needs to be proved. It proves everything that is essential in Christianity.
There follow six points:
- The resurrection of Christ from the dead proves that there is a God, and that the God of the Bible is the true God.
- The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead proves that Jesus is a teacher sent from God, who received His messae from God, that He was absolutely inerrant, that He spoke the very words of God.
- The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead proves that He is the Son of God.
- The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead proves that there is a judgment day coming.
- The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead proves that every believer in Christ is justified from all things.
- The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead proves that all who are united to Christ by a living faith shall live again.
The apologetic project of “proving the resurrection” is important, especially to demonstrate that the Christian faith is not a leap into the irrational or a retreat to personal commitment. But on its own, it’s a fairly tiresome business. Unless, that is, you keep the theological context in view: Christ as the revelation of God the Father, as the one judge whose claim on all humanity has been vindicated in a mighty act of divine self-demonstration, as the one whose sacrifice is salvation, and whose rising from the dead catches humanity up in its momentum.
Torrey (and the solid evangelical tradition he spoke from) knew that the two projects had to be held together, and that the apologetic project must serve the theological. Both proofs have their place, but what the resurrection proves is more important than proving the resurrection.
(HT: Doug TenNapel)