Sunday, April 04, 2010

The Resurrection: A Pentecostal Apologetic

Today with permission, I am reprinting a recent post that my good friend, Pastor Paul Grabill, lead pastor of State College Assembly of God, and Assistant Superintendent of the Pen-Del District, wrote on his facebook.   I absolutely LOVE what he has to say about this, and can't wait to share it with you!!   This is just one reason I love being Pentecostal!  Here we go:

by Rev. Paul Grabill

This time of year, the case both for and against the central event of the Christian faith, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, gets aired. No other faith system gets hammered like Christianity on the History, Discovery, et. al. Channels, but that's pretty much par for the course.

Although I am no longer officially blogging, I'd like to share something here regarding a defense of the Resurrection, the Deity of Christ and the reliability of the Gospels that is distinctly Pentecostal in nature. I am indebted to the contemporary scholarship that has arisen around the late 20th century Vineyard movement, but I’d like to overlay that perspective onto some more classical defenses of the above. I'm not as well read as most of you, so maybe someone else has made this same exact argument while I've been busy trying to balance the budget for children's ministry.:)

I certainly do recommend one read the many terrific apologetic works out there (including NT Wright's opus, "The Resurrection of the Son of God"). The modern classic, by C. S. Lewis, is “Mere Christianity,” where he argues that the only three logical alternative views for Jesus was that he was either liar, lunatic or Lord.

To which many have said, “Not so fast.” There is a fourth option: that He was a legend, much like other dying/rising god myths in history.

This alternative view is harder to argue against, I believe. Yes, most everyone can agree that the early disciples thought Jesus had risen, but that doesn’t necessarily make it so. After all, early Mormons thought Joseph Smith had a real encounter with the Angel Moroni, and were even willing to die for it.

So, how do we argue that the Resurrection was more than legend—that Jesus wasn’t just another myth, like Osiris or Apollonius of Tyana?

I believe the key is Acts 1:8 (as well as John 14:12, the long ending of Mark, Acts 4:33 and other passages).

With this approach, it seems to me that we can almost bypass all the arguments about who wrote the Gospels and when. Whether they were written 30, 40 or even 50 years after Christ lived becomes less important. Whether or not they were all penned by the person to whom authorship is claimed also becomes hardly worth debating.

It seems to me that the issue is as follows: The Gospels and the Book of Acts not only claim that Jesus did miracles by the power of the Spirit, but they unanimously claim that His followers did as well.

Think about it. It would be one thing to claim that Jesus, let’s say, flew through the air like Superman. But it is an entirely different thing to claim that Jesus gave all of His followers the power to do the same…if no one was flying through the air in 60, 70 or even 100 A.D.

Get it? How ridiculous would it be to claim that Jesus’ followers would all have power to heal the sick, cast out demons and even raise the dead if no one was seeing any of this happen in their day, in the late first century?? It would be preposterous on its face.

I’m trying to keep this real short, but allow my to briefly address the long ending of Mark’s Gospel. This perspective makes the debate between the short and long ending little more than academic. The long ending claims that Jesus’ disciples would see miracles happen in their own personal experience. That’s either true or it’s not.

So, if someone were to claim that Franklin D. Roosevelt rose from the dead, ascended into the left side of heaven, AND gave power to all Democrats to do miracles, the natural question would be, “And…?”

The proof is in the pentecostal pudding.

If, as former Yale professor Ramsay McMullen argues in “Christianizing the Roman Empire: AD 100-400,” the Early Church was winning the power encounters they had against the pagan powers they faced, then it is no stretch to believe that Jesus was truly divine and risen from the grave.

If, on the other hand, if they grew solely from the social love and kindness, as Rodney Stark argues in “The Rise of Christianity,” then it seems to me that we fall back into the frustrating attempt to make the best historical case we can (some 2000 years after the fact) that Jesus was more than a legend.

The world is dying for us to show that Jesus was who He said He was. They are dying for us to love each other (John 13:35), love our enemies (Matt. 5:44), and yes, demonstrate the power of God in our day (Acts 1:8, 4:33).

Jesus, help us to become living apologists that you are alive!


Ruth, PA said...

I greatly admire Pastor Paul. What a great man of God. You know I'm giving this a two thumbs up!!

Pastor Lisa said...

This is good!