Archbishop Carey and the Resurrection

(Posted on the Canadian Evangelical Theological Association Discussion list August 2, 1999)

by Robert Brow   Aug. 1999    (Web site -

Yesterday the English newspaper, Mail on Sunday, gave a poisonous example of taking a faith pronouncement out of context. The headline was ARCHBISHOP DOUBTS THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST.

What the Archbishop of Canterbury had written in a pamphlet was : "While we can be absolutely sure that Jesus lived and that he was certainly crucified on the cross, we cannot with the same certainty say that we know he was raised from the dead." What the Sunday paper mischievously (or was it ignorantly ?) failed to report was that in the very same pamphlet George Carey had gone on to say "I firmly believe that God raised Jesus from the dead" (Reported in the National Post, Monday August 2, 1999 pp. A1 and A2).

This kind of reporting mischief gets headlines in newspapers, but it also bedevils theological discussion among Evangelicals. In the case of Archbishop Carey he was contrasting two different kinds of certainty. Just about all historians accept the fact that Jesus lived and was crucified.

Although the New Testament gives abundant evidence of Jesus' resurrection, this evidence is ruled out by historians committed to a scientific model in which dead people do not rise from the dead.

Christians believe in the resurrection of Jesus based on the evidence of all four Gospels, the Book of Acts, and several of the Epistles. But, as Archbishop Carey pointed out, we cannot prove logically that a model of resurrection by the creative power of God is more persuasive than a model in which there is no God and therefore no possibility of resurrection. The willingness to stake one's life on one model or the other is based on a different kind of faith stance.

The problem among Evangelicals is that we all believe in the resurrection.  And we all believe that in giving us the Scriptures, God also guarantees that they will infallibly guide us into His truth. We take that model for granted. Where we differ is on the exegesis of certain texts. And our explanations tend to be governed by explanatory models. The most obvious example facing us in the next six months is in the very different explanations governed by Pre-Millenial and A-Millenial models of what Jesus said about his coming.

Recently on this list we have tried to contrast two models of the atonement, and two models of hell. But a commitment to either of these two pairs of alternatives can never have the same certainty as our certainty in the resurrection. Or our commitment to the Bible as the Word of God.

Note: In a very important book (On Certainty, Oxford :Basic Blackwell, 1969) Ludwig Wittgenstein showed from many examples that certainty is only possible from within a certain model for settling what is true or false.

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