N. T. Wright on the Necessity of Believing the Resurrection

N. T. Wright, Bishop of DurhamI used to think that the "N. T." in N. T. Wright stood for "New Testament." He's such a fine scholar of the New Testament, it only made sense. However, having read his comments in The Australian, I am not so sure. Contrary to 1 Corinthians 15, and Romans 10:9-10, and a host of other scriptures, the Bishop of Durham thinks that belief in the bodily resurrection of Christ is unnecessary in order for one to be a Christian. He says,

I have friends who I am quite sure are Christians who do not believe in the bodily resurrection. But the view I take of them – and they know this – is that they are very, very muddled. They would probably return the compliment.

Marcus Borg really does not believe Jesus Christ was bodily raised from the dead. But I know Marcus well: he loves Jesus and believes in him passionately. The philosophical and cultural world he has lived in has made it very, very difficult for him to believe in the bodily resurrection. I actually think that's a major problem and it affects most of whatever else he does, and I think that it means he has all sorts of flaws as a teacher, but I don't want to say he isn't a Christian.

I do think, however, that churches that lose their grip on the bodily resurrection are in deep trouble and that for healthy Christian life individually and corporately, belief in the bodily resurrection is foundational (source).

This is very sad. Here is the guy who is a Bishop in the Church of England and who wrote what is probably the definitive defense of the bodily resurrection of Christ, and he doesn't even see how essential such a belief is for being a Christian.

(HT: Al Mohler)


13 thoughts on “N. T. Wright on the Necessity of Believing the Resurrection”

  1. What would NT Wright say are the essentials for being a Christian? Do we have explicit evidence of JC referring to his resurrection?

  2. HAHAHA!!

    I highly respected N.T. Wright, but for him to say what he has said is a blatant denial of Scripture. How much of the NT does N.T. believe?


  3. But Denny, even your quotation notes NT saying “belief in the bodily resurrection is foundational,” so how is he denying this doctrine? It seems instead that he is merely arguing that some do not believe in the bodily resurrection and yet still seem to be Christian, which would make me conclude that he’s not so much saying such belief is unnecessary but that it is not essential. Perhaps a slight distinction, but still.

    Great new site design, by the way!

  4. Jen,

    He’s not denying the doctrine. He very much believes in the bodily resurrection of Christ. He’s just saying that such a belief is not essential to being a Christian. I would argue that that is problematic coming from a shepherd. Can a pastor really stand up and say to his people, “You ought to believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ, but if not, that’s okay. You’re still a Christian”?

    Anywho, thanks for the comments.


  5. Dr. Burk,

    I just took N.T. Wright’s statement as that of a good, high-church Anglican. One who has received Christian baptism (as I assume Borg has) is a Christian, no matter what they believe about the resurrection.

    It’s not a statement agreeable to Baptist theology, but it doesn’t seem out of bounds for an Anglican.

  6. I believe this leads us to the question: how “muddled” can you be on Jesus and still have a real faith? I was preparing to blog on LeRon Schults’ talk at the National Pastor’s Conference. His title was “Decentering the Renewal” as a play on Stan Grentz’s book Renewing the Center. LeRon spoke over most if not all of our heads at the conference. He was explaining a different view of looking/thinking about thelogy that is different from “foundationalism/fundamentalism”. The group asked him about the fundamental truth about the bodily resurrection of Christ and he reformed the question and wouldn’t answer it. All that to say, there seems to be a whole lot going on behind these “great minds” that I am trying to grasp.

  7. I agree with Michael above…and I would also point out the Continental view that citizenship in the Kingdom of Christ is objective to the 3rd party…and based upon baptism. The Kingdom is comprised of those who are faithful and those whom are not. That’s how I read it…there are those with a zeal, but a zeal without knowledge.

  8. Let’s do a look-see at the Bible, eh?

    1 John 4:1-6 NASB Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. (2) By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; (3) and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. (4) You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. (5) They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. (6) We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

    DID you read that? …..He who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us…… who is the us?, the apostles.

    We know from the apostles that Christ physically bodily arose from the dead! I believe this and if you don’t believe the words of the apostles then you are not from God.

    So it is a must!! You must believe the whole Gospel to be saved by it!


  9. As an evangelical ‘low’ church Anglican, I toow as rather disappointed by Wrights comments. However upon further reflection I wonder if we need to take into “consideration the Apostle Paul’s own response to muddled views about the resurrection? I found this entry at http://www.boarsheadtavern.com/ quite helpful:

    Lost in this discussion is any sincere attempt to bring the passage that most seem to assume settles the issue: 1 Corinthians 15. Since Paul wrote this to a Christian church that had some problems holding onto the doctrine of the resurrection of the body (which vv 3-11 seem to indicate they once did), one senses the pastoral hope in his reminder to them of Jesus’s resurrection and its centrality to their faith. If he had wanted to, Paul could easily have said: and if Jesus wasn’t raised then you aren’t a believer. But he didn’t. We want to say stuff like that. What he did say: if you don’t believe in the resurrection of the dead, then you must needs also believe that Christ was not raised, and therefore you have believed in vain. You are an unbeliever? No. You may be a believer, but your faith is in vain. If we must apply logic, then let’s recognize what this is: it’s a reductio ad absurdum. No resurrection of the dead–>no bodily resurrection of believers–>Christ has not been raised–>nihilism. He’s showing believers the absurdity of believing the gospel without the resurrection, because it vitiates all that the gospel brings”

    Now this is no slam dunk on th esubject but it is of considerable note that both in 1Corth 15 and in all of 1 Corinthians, Paul doesn’t call the Christains there ‘apostates’ but rebukes, teaches and encourages to consider the full implication of the truth of the Gospel.

    Perhaps, Wright is simply emulating the Apostle Paul here. He uncompromisingly does affirm the importance of the bodily Resuurection (and in his book takes others to tasks for shoddy dismissal of the NT evidence) and is quite certain that to deny it is indeed muddled and deterimental to the life of the Church.

    Is it possible for one such as Borg to have a genune trust in the Risen Lord – even if conceived in rather vague existential terms?

    How right must our doctrine be before it can be deemed as a proper basis for our trust in the Lord?

    These are merely my random musings on the subject.


  10. Look at this…..

    1 Corinthians 15:13-17 NASB (13) But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; (14) and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. (15) Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. (16) For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; (17) and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.

    What does it mean to still be in your sins? It means you have not been Justified. So, I think, this passage gives strength to my statement earlier. And I affirm, it is essential to believe the whole gospel!

    Paul even starts this resurrection chapter by stating that unless you believe the word as he preached it you have believed in vain.

    Correct me if I am wrong here but is that not the Apostle Paul’s argument?


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