Category Archives: Theology

Mathematical voting: Was the decision to not vote a vote for Obama?

The position of those on Reformed Inquisitor has been what we call “principled voting”. This is the view that we are to vote according to the admonitions of passages of Scripture like Exodus 18:21:

Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens, etc.

The really really evil guy

Our conclusion has also been that if there are no candidates who fulfill these qualifications, that to abstain from voting is more than advisable.

However, there has been some backlash against principled voters due the failure of the Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney to gain the electoral college and thus fail to become our new President for 2012. Seeing as there were approximately 3 million voters who did not show up to vote on Election Day in the Republican Party, my guess is that those who are perturbed at Romney’s failure need someone else to blame and so, alas! principled voters (among others) get the fallout.


The General Argument Against Principled Voting:


1. Your non-vote obviously doesn’t put forward any outcome of success since no perfect people exist (straw-man)

2. By not voting, you rob the less bad guy  (Mitt Romney) of your vote (false assumption)

3. Therefore, your non-vote was a vote for the evil guy (Barack Obama) and therefore evil (invalid inference)

If you simply replaced the information the abstaining from voting with information about voting for a third party, you can see that the argument is both against non-voters and third party voters.

The guy just right of the really really evil guy – at least in picture placement

There are at least three fronts that can combat this sort of argument,

Law of Identity:

First, a non-vote is a non-vote. Those who say a non-vote is a vote for someone else fail to recognize a fundamental law of logic, namely, the Law of Identity. The Law of Identity, simply put, says, “A is A”. Thus, a non-vote is a non-vote (which ought to be self-evident). To say a non-vote is a vote for Obama is to confuse matters. Does my name register on the ballot as a recorded vote for Obama? Clearly not.

False Assumption:

Second, there is an assumption that those who vote for the third party guy (or who do not vote) are potential voters for the less evil guy (Mitt Romney). Of course, this assumption is unwarranted. My personal voting record does not indicate that I am a voter who would support someone with the ideologies and record of a man like Mitt Romney. Thus, I should not be viewed as a potential voter for the lesser of two evils. Further, one could argue that a vote for Obama is the pragmatically better choice. After all, if the religious life, and not just the economic life, of America is put in balance, is not the popularization of of the cult Mormonism a destructive thing? Why should economics take precedence? Also, have Republicans been known to stop the tide of big government or do they not rather perpetuate it? Therefore, the assumption that those who vote third party or not at all are “stealing votes” away from Romney is based on a false premise.

Argumentum Ad Hominem (Devil’s Advocate)

Third, suppose we grant, for the sake of argument, their conclusion. We voted for Obama by not voting at all or by voting third party. So what? If one is not going to adopt a principled approach, on what basis is evil inferred on our part? That Barack Obama is evil? Well, so is Mitt Romney. That Obama will cause more damage? How do we quantify the potential destruction both candidates might bring without being able to know the future? And on what principle do we say that we ought to vote for the guy that is less evil? There is none. These are the questions that the voter of Mitt Romney need to answer, but is actually ill equipped to do so. The reason – which is also the motivation of his criticism of the non-voter and third party voter- is that he has rejected a principled approach. While he rejects the principled approach, he needs it to justify his condemnation of the non-voters and third party voters. Instead, what the Romney voter does is appeal to vague and general terms like “moral choice”. We ought to vote for Romney because it’s the “right thing to do”. Of course, all this is begging the question.

Now, this is not to say that non-votes and third party votes are always the good moral choices. Some third party candidates (Gary Johnson at least and maybe even Virgil Goode of the Constitution party) are aptly put in the category of “evil men” and a vote for them is no better than a vote for the other evil men. Furthermore, non-voting is not always virtuous. If there was, hypothetically, a piece of legislation put forward that would outlaw abortion, it would be immoral not to vote. In this case, silence is sin since we are obligated to support righteousness. But these things are actually all apparent from the premises of our view: we are not advocating third party votes or non-votes per se, but a principled approach which may entail a non-vote or third party vote in many circumstances. But “not voting” or voting third party is not good ipso facto (in and of itself), but rather the following of the admonition of Scripture that is good.

More Objections: Let’s look at the Math!

There are a few objections raised to the principled approach other than the above argument. There have been some attempts to do the business of quantifying the evil of one candidate versus the other. The idea is that we ought to vote for the person that we can mathematically quantify, based on statistics, the evil one candidate might do and pit it against the other really evil guy and what he might do, again, all based on the records of these men and statistics. If, for example, both candidates are pro-abortion, this view would suggest that we ought to vote for the guy where fewer pre-born babies will die even though the candidate is actually perpetuating abortion. Suppose that under Obama 10 million babies are killed and 8 million babies will be killed under Romney. The difference is 2 million babies that you will “save” by your vote for Romney. Some might say, “It’s just math!”

The objection against the principled voter, ironically, is that we are responsible for the death of the 2 million babies because in our “purest theology” (something our ideas keep getting labeled) we voted for the guy that “didn’t have a chance”, or perhaps didn’t vote at all and thus “allowed” 2 million pre-born babies to be murdered.

Let me suggest that this objection and conclusion is based two detrimental ideologies, namely, pragmatism and relativism.

What is Responsibility?

First, there is the notion of blame. Who is to be blamed for the death of 2 million babies? Or, since I am highly questioning the assumptions behind the allegation, we might ask, “Who is responsible for the death of 10 million babies?” What I am asking is for the person who is alleging that we are to blame to give an account for his theological concept of responsibility. Let me give a brief definition of what responsibility is. Responsibility is you being held to account by a higher power. Thus, responsibility implies a law and a Sovereign to hold you to account to that law. One is blame worthy, then, when one has violated a principle of the law. It is incumbent upon those who rail against the non-voter to show how they can be held accountable for the death of 2 million babies, when, in the first place, the motivation of not voting was rooted in the fact that both candidates are pro-abortion!

Math and Situation Ethics:

Let’s look back in history and place ourselves in a concentration camp in Germany under Hitler. You are standing in front of ten Jews who are being lined up for execution. You are standing next to a German officer who is giving you a gun. He tells you that unless you shoot one of them, he will shoot all of them. What do you do? The principled approach would say that you don’t shoot any of them since responsibility and morality are based on God’s absolutes. If you shoot that person, you are a murderer and will be held accountable before God for your action. So also, in our view, if the German officer shoots all of them, he is the murderer, not you. (without getting into too much detail that if you were in such a scenario, you would be obligated to defend said people with your own life since this is the positive implication of the sixth commandment, namely, defense of a third person). But what must the mathematical ethicist say?  Well, surely if you shoot one and nine are spared, you should shoot the one! Actually, even if the math was that if you shot nine and only one would be spared, you should do it. Thus we have relativism and its offspring of situation ethics. Suffice it to say, the theory is antithetical to Christian morality. So let’s return to the “math” of the above objection. The person raising the allegation can only do so on the premises of pragmatism and relativism. Since both are theologically bankrupt and neither of them can supply a rule of morality that can withstand rigorous analysis nor even an imperative, we are better suited to follow the Wisdom of the Law-giver.

One minor note: we can only quantify what we know of the two candidates. Seeing as Romney was never president there is the difficulty of needing to quantify potential deaths. This is virtually impossible. All we know is that Romney was a status quo guy. He was and is pro-abortion.

Some Reasons To Vote Third Party (or not voting at all):

There are some tactical reasons for voting third party besides the moral reasons cited above. This is clearly seen in the 3 million who didn’t vote in this 2012 election and even the one percent that voted Libertarian. What does it tell to the establishment? What kind of message does it tell those who might run in the future? Often we think that compromise always means a compromise towards liberalism. Well, in the case of the 3 million who didn’t vote, the Republicans are going to need to start compromising towards the conservatives. The lack of turnout is a message to the establishment that says, “Hey! You can’t do this without us!” It means that those who run in the future are going to need to show some credentials of conservatism before they are going to be able to take those voters back. If no one ever voted third party and always voted for the moderate candidate that the Republican party puts forward, the message you send is that you are willing to eat whatever they feed you. However, once they are shown that there is a large body of people that they haven’t won over because the absentees are sick of the nonsense, there may very well be candidates who have conservative values who will run because they know they have a fighting chance.

So next time you’re confronted with the pottage of liberalism with the Republican front, vote third party or not at all! There are both moral and political reasons to do so.

Language and Dominion: Results of the Image of God (Part 3)

(2) Language and Creativity as the image of God:

The following two views are seen by their proponents as being the imago dei.  I would like to demonstrate that although these views come close to hitting the mark, they fail to see the difference between the the results of man being created in the image of God and man being the image of God.

The second view has many things to commend to itself.(1) Language is definitely something unique to man, and we see the first thing God did in the beginning was create, and man likewise is a creative being. After all, a few contrasts can be given between man and the beasts in this regard. While humans construct beautiful architecture, communicate in propositions, build societies and make things for the purpose of beauty, beasts do not. They don’t speak an intelligent language or communicate in propositions.  However, I do not think we are totally left to speculation as to what the image of God in man is. We have already quoted thus far from Genesis and Job. The Job passage makes clear part of this image is understanding and Colossians mentions knowledge. That language is unique to man is clear, and that man has knowledge, indeed, innate knowledge is clear from such passages as Romans 1 and 2. But is there something more foundational to the image of God in man than language and creativity? The point is that we don’t have the biblical basis to say the image is language and creativity. We have conjectures once again. We will leave this view and come back to it later. We come now to the third view.

(3) Dominion in Righteousness as the image of God:

Some Scriptures seemingly show the third view to be correct:

Genesis 1:26-28:

“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. (27) So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. (28) And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

However, an aspect of the image of God should be noted which I think makes this view not as plausible as perhaps might be seen from a superficial reading of Genesis 1. It is this: before and after the fall, man is the image of God.(2) There are a few problems with asserting that dominion is the image of God. First, some men don’t take dominion. Most men are rebels against God and don’t think they need to take dominion. Secondly, whatever limited dominion some men may take in an analogous fashion, is not the dominion talked about in Genesis 1 which is dominion under God or in righteousness.. One could say the Socialist is taking dominion in terms of his Socialistic ideals, but to say dominion in general is what is referred to in Genesis 1 cannot be substantiated by the context. Even Christians are not as faithful as they ought to be in taking dominion for Christ the Lord. Does this mean in a Christian’s life he wavers from being the image of God and not being the image of God? Scripturally and Confessionally, this cannot be so. Man is the image of God; he is not, as some have put it “imaging God” as if the image of God in man is something man does.(2) It is who he is. As Dr. Robert Reymond writes,

“[I]t is because man is God’s image that God bestows dominion over the earth upon him”.

Gordon Clark says something along the same lines,

“The image of God is not something man has, somewhere inside of him, or somewhere on the surface, as if God had first created man and then stamped him with a signet ring. No, the image is not something man has, man is the image. First Corinthians 11:7 pointedly says “He [man] is the image and glory of God.” (4)

“[And since man is the image] the image must in some way or other be a permanent characteristic of personality.” (5)

One reason adduced in the Scripture for the immorality of killing an innocent person is man is the image of God (see Gen 9:6). This was stated after the fall.  Note too that this bears upon those who assert that the image of God is an activity of man (“imaging God”) rather than something man is. The full significance of all this will be elaborated on later. However, the conclusion from what has been presented is clear: Dominion in righteousness is not the image of God. Dominion is given to man as a result of his being the image of God, just like language, but it is not what constitutes that image. This does not alter the significance of dominion under God but this just means that this will not be discussed at this point. Dominion in righteousness is an application of the image of God in man, but is not the image. Next we shall come to the fourth view.

(1) See for an example of this view.

(2) See Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law, page 449. The logical implication of Rushdoony’s position is that after the fall man ceases to be the image of God. The reformed view is that the image of God in man has been marred, not eradicated.

(3) See Stewart, The image of God in man: A Reformed Reassessment:

(4) Clark, The Biblical doctrine of man, pg. 9

(5) Ibid. pg. 8

Is Free-will the Image of God? (Part 2)

The blue M&M or the red M&M?

The introduction gave us the biblical foundation for the discussion of the image of God. Before going into the view that sees free-will as the image of God, I would like to stress one thing. When we speak on the “image of God”, we are not going to be emphasizing the creature-Creator distinction. This is not to say that this is disregarded, for it is, in truth, an essential doctrine. But the very nature of the discussion is drawing our attention to the creature-Creator connection. We are wanting to know in what sense man is created in the “likeness of God”.

Can free-will be the image of God? It is a common conception, especially of those in

Pelagians are adherrents to the basic view of Pelagius, a British monk who lived in the 4th century. He is infamously known for his denial of the doctrine of original sin and his assertions of the basic goodness of man.

the semi-Palagian and Palagian (1) camps, that the creature-Creator connection is the free-will of man. As God has free-will, so God has given to man this characteristic. It it free-will that makes man superior to the beast. It is free-will that is the key to man’s destiny; whether he will choose good and blessedness, or choose evil and the consequent judgments. This notion of free-will being the image of God in man, however, has a few internal difficulties as well as a lack of Biblical support. Those who are of a Pelagian bent tend to see the image of God as constituting free-will to support their already assumed theodicy. The argument seems to be more an assumption than something arrived at through investigation of Biblical texts. It is posed in this manner, “God has free-will and man has free-will. Therefore, free-will is the image of God”. But this simply begs the question.

Besides begging the question, this view has some internal inconsistencies. The most obvious internal inconsistency is if God has free-will, man cannot also have free-will given the meaning of “freedom” to begin with. Those who hold that God, in His freedom, made a being who in turn thwarts the free-will of God, is, to say the least, problematic. Does God give up His freedom to give man free-will? To suppose He does, for the sake of argument, only demonstrates this cannot possibly be the image of God since God Himself ends up losing the attribute of free-will. And how, then, could man be said to be created in the likeness of God? As theologian and philosopher Gordon Clark says in relation to this, “[I]f man were free, God could not confront him imperiously, from which Feuerbach had already deduced atheism, and modernism had deified man.” (2)

The point is simple: If man has free-will to frustrate God in His purposes, man’s will- not God’s will –  is established. Man’s will, then, is ultimate, not God’s. And from this proposition atheism has flourished, and from it likewise man has been seen as his own god determining for himself good and evil.

The second problem is the ambiguity of the word “free-will”. If it means the ability to choose between two incompatible courses of action then the above refutation stands. If it means freedom to act outside of one’s nature then not even God has that freedom. God cannot lie, cannot become weak, and cannot speak in contradictory propositions. Man, by his constitution after the fall cannot will to do something that is outside if his natural bent. Man before and after the fall was determined by his nature. The difference now is that since the fall, man has become corrupted in all his faculties so he is free only to do that which is evil. Man is said to be “born in sin” (Ps. 51:5) and speaking lies as soon as he is born (Ps. 58:3)

The above establishes this conclusion: Free-will is not the image of God in man. It must be sought elsewhere. The next one that shall be examined is “Language and Creativity”: Is it the image of God?

(1) The works of Gordon Clark, vol. IV, page 309

The Biblical doctrine of the Image of God (part 1.)

Introduction: Scriptural legwork for the doctrine

The doctrine of the imago dei, or the image of God in man, has many Scripture texts to give a sound foundation as a

It is tempting to compare the doctrine of the image of God to a mirror. That is, that we mirror God, as it were. But we must be careful to be sure that we understand the doctrine according to Scriptural usage, not preconceived notions

matter doctrine  and application. We first hear of God creating man in His image in Genesis 1:27,

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them”.

And in chapter 2 and v.7,

“And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

Another passage in the book of Job touches upon this subject when it says,

“But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding. (Job 32:8).

From the New Testament we have Colossians 3:10, 1 Corinthians 11a and James 3:9:

“And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:”

“For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God.”

“Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.”

That man was created in the image of God is not much disputed, at least not among Christians. The question we must ask is what is the image of God? And was the image of God in man lost? It might be prudent to start with a few different views that have been espoused by various theologians to narrow down what the image of God in man is. The five views we will consider are:

1. Free-will is the image of God in man

2. Language and creativity are the image of God in man

3. Dominion in righteousness are the image of God in man

4. The persons in the Godhead and the three part nature of man constitute the image of God.

5. Knowledge and rationality are the image of God.

Not all of these views put a hard fast rule as to what the image of God in man is. Some extend their list to many different things. There is also a view holding man in body and in soul is the image of God (Monalism). Nevertheless, that even some of these can be the part of the image of God in man, I think quite untenable. It is the purpose of this author to delineate what the image of God is and what the implications of that image are. In the next post, I will seek to answer the first view, namely, is free-will the image of God in man?

Assurance And Doubt, Love And Fear And It’s Correlation to Lust And Holy Living

“It is not God’s design that men should obtain assurance in any other way than by mortifying corruption, and increasing in grace, and obtaining lively exercises of it. Although self-examination be a duty of great importance, and by no means to be neglected, yet it is not the principle means by which saints do get satisfaction of their good estate. Assurance is not obtained so much by self-examination as by action“1

Jonathan Edwards wrote this in one of his works (reference given at the end of the quotation). I think it is a good point especially in the context in which he gives it. I think he does a most excellent job in expounding it, thus I will be providing no commentary. The following is the context:

“Indeed, persons’ doubting of their good state may in several respects arise from unbelief. It may be from unbelief, or because they have so little faith that they have so little evidence of their good estate: if they had more experience of the actings of faith, and so more experience of the exercise of grace, they would have clearer evidence that their state is good; and so their doubts [about their salvation] would be removed. And then their doubting of their state may be from unbelief thus, when, though there be many that are good evidences of a work of grace in them, yet they doubt very much whether they are in a state of favour with God, because it is they, those that are so unworthy, and  have done so much to provoke God to anger against them. Their doubts in such a case arise from unbelief, as they arise from want of a sufficient sense of, and reliance on, the infinite riches of God’s grace, and the sufficiency of Christ for the chief of sinners. They may also be from unbelief, when they doubt of their state, because of the mystery of God’s dealings with them; they are not able to reconcile  such dispensations with God’s favour to them; or when they doubt whether they have any interest [ that is, part in] in the promises, because they promises from the aspect of Providence appear so unlikely to be fulfilled; the difficulties that are in the way are so many and great. Such doubting arises from want of dependence upon God’s almighty power, and His knowledge and wisdom, as infinitely above theirs.

But yet, in such persons, their unbelief, and their doubting of their state, are not the same, though one arises from the other. Persons may be greatly to blame for doubting of their state on such grounds as these last mentioned; and they may be to blame that they have no more grace, and no more present exercises and experiences of it, to be an evidence to them of the goodness of their state: men are doubtless to blame for being in a dead, carnal frame; but when they are in such a frame, and have no sensible experience of the exercise of grace, but on the contrary, are much under the prevalence  of their lusts and an unchristian spirit, they are not to blame for doubting of their state. It is impossible in the nature of things, that a holy and Christian hope should be kept alive in its clearness and strength in such circumstances, as it is to keep the light in the room when the candle is put out; or to maintain the brightness of the sunshine in the air when the sun is gone down. Distant experiences, when darkened by present prevailing lust and corruption, will never keep alive a gracious confidence and assurance, but one that sickens and decays upon it, as necessarily as a little child by repeated blows on the head with a hammer. Nor is it at all to be lamented that persons doubt of their state in such circumstances: on the contrary, it is desirable and every way best that they should. It is agreeable to that wise and merciful constitution of things, which God hath established, that it should be so. For so hath God contrived and constituted things, in His dispensations towards His own people, that when their love decays, and the exercises of it fail or become weak, fear should arise; for then they need it to restrain them from sin, and to excite them to care for the good of their souls, and so to stir them up up to watchfulness and diligence in religion. But God hath so ordered, that when love rises and in vigorous exercise, then should fear vanish and be driven away; for they need it not, having a higher and more excellent principle in exercise, to restrain them from sin and stir them up to duty. There are no other principles which human nature is under the influence of, that will ever make men conscientious , but one of these two, fear or love; and therefore , if one of these should not prevail as the other decays, God’s people, when fallen into dead and carnal frames when love is asleep. would be lamentably exposed indeed: and therefore God has wisely ordained, that these two opposite principles of love and fear should arise and fall, like the two opposite scales of a balance; when one rises the other sinks. Light and darkness necessarily and unavoidably succeed each other; if light prevails, so much does darkness cease, and no more; and if light decays, so much does darkness prevail. So it is in the heart of a child of God: if divine love decays and falls asleep, and lust prevails, the light and joy of hope go out, and dark fear and doubting arises; and if, on the contrary, divine love prevails and come into lively exercise, this brings in the brightness of hope, and drives away black lust and fear with it. Love is the spirit of adoption, or the childlike principle; if that slumbers, men fall under fear, which is the spirit of bondage or the servile principle; and so the contrary. And if it be so, that love, or the spirit of adoption, be carried to a great height, it quite drives away all fear and gives full assurance; agreeable to that of the apostle, I John iv. 18, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” These two opposite principles of lust and holy love bring hope and fear into the hearts of God’s children in the proportion  as they prevail…

…Fear is cast out by the Spirit of God no other way than by the prevailing of love; nor is fear ever maintained but when love is asleep. At such time, in vain is all the saint’s self-examinations, and poring on past experience, in order to establish his peace and assurance. For it is contrary to the nature of things, as God hath constituted them”2

Jonathan Edwards, “Religious Affections”, pg. 123

Ibid. pg.107-109

The nature of law and Law-giver

It is a common objection against Calvinism that we make God the author of evil. There are several problems with this objection, the main of which is the ambiguity of the words. What would it mean for God to be the author of evil? The second problem is that those who assert the evils of Calvinism do so on the basis that they think God is actually obligated to the same set of standards we are obligated to, namely, God’s law. But, as I shall prove, the law is meant to govern man, not God.

1. “Thou shalt not steal” (Ex. 20:15)

Application: how does God steal? Can God steal? How could He since He owns everything? (Ps 50:10-12, Eze 18:4)

2. “Thou shalt not murder” (Ex. 20:13)

Application: Murdering is taking life on our terms. Since God gives life, He is the only one who decides the extent and bounds of man’s life. But how could God murder?(Job 14:5, Ex. 22:24)

3. “Thou shalt not have any other gods before me”. (Ex. 20:3)

Application: All men are accountable to give God supreme reverence and worship in accord to God’s dictates (2nd commandment). How could God break the first command when it asserts that God is to have the preeminence in all things?

4. “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain” (Ex. 20:7 )

Application: How could God take his name in vain? What would that entail?

5. “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor” (Ex. 20:16)

Application: God cannot lie; it is part of His nature. (Tit 1:2)

6. “Thou shalt not covet” (Ex 20:17)

Application: How would God covet? Again, God not only has legitimate ownership of everything, and He is the be the supreme object of our desires. How could God covet?

7. Thou shalt not commit adultery. (Ex. 20:14)

Application: God does not have a body and does not have the passions of men. He does not have emotions. How could God commit adultery? (Ac 14:15)

To break these commands is for us to sin, that is, to commit evil. Evil, then, is not abiding by God’s law. But God cannot do evil, as I have above demonstrated. It is not a matter of God not willing to do evil (although that could be in view as well), but that God, by the very nature of law and Law-giver, cannot sin; He cannot do evil. If there was a law that said, “God cannot cause men or spirits to lie”, then yes, that would be evil for God to do that. But this would be setting God’s law above God Himself, the Law-giver and thus even this is an impossibility.

Law, then, is not for God, but for man. It tells man how he is to live before God. It does not say what God is obligated to obey. It can’t. God cannot sin for the sole reason that law is given to show how man is to abide himself by, not what God abides Himself by. To know what it is that God does, or how He governs among the nations, this would need to be entirely different study altogether. Nevertheless, what is demonstrated here is that God is above the law. He is accountable to no one and nothing other than Himself.

An Infallible Defense for the Resurrection of Christ

The resurrection of Christ is a most pivotal part of the Christian religion. On the doctrine of the resurrection our entire faith stands or falls. If Christ is not raised from the dead we have faith only in a dead Messiah and failed prophecies. Faith in failure is the quintessential expression  of vanity.

The Apostle Paul makes this inference in his first letter to the Corinthians, “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:14)

A defense of the resurrection is critical to the faith. For our faith to be sure we must have a sure argument for the resurrection. To the degree our evidence is weak, so is our faith.

Faith is not a blind hope in the improbable (e.g., I have faith the Red Sox will win the World Series this year). Faith is trusting assent to a proposition. If the proposition is found to be false you have no reason to have faith. You may have faith in your bank that they will keep your money safe (a foolish faith, but now is not the time to ramble about fractional reserve banking). You have faith in the proposition, “The money I have earned is safer in the bank than in my possession.”  But if the bank is robbed, your faith in that proposition is weak at best. This is to demonstrate you have reasons for your faith. If those reasons are fallacious or unreliable, so is your faith.

What we need then for a defense of the resurrection is an infallible defense. Therefore, when we argue for the resurrection we should not be content to spout off arguments to no profit. Far too often have we heard the arguments from silence (e.g., no body was produced) and appeals to empirical eyewitness accounts in an attempt to defend the resurrection. How definite are these arguments? Are they worth putting your faith in? Remember, faith does not bridge the gap where empirical evidence is insufficient. If your faith is based on empirical eyewitness accounts, your faith is only as strong as the human senses are reliable.

Are the senses infallible? There are optical illusions, mirages, hallucinations, waking dreams, varying sensation of color, taste, and touch. How many accidents have been the result of someone’s false perception of the situation? At best what can be said of the human sensory organs is that they are “generally” reliable. Which is only to say they are “probably” reliable. Which is only to say Jesus Christ was probably raised from the dead, so our faith is probably not in vain, and we are probably not false witnesses of God, and we are probably not still in our sins. When we preach, the most convicting thing we can say is, “You should probably repent and believe in Christ.”

This type of uncertainty is not necessary. It may be objected that Paul appeals to empirical eye witness accounts earlier in 1 Corinthians 15 where he says:

“For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.” (3-8)

At first glance it may appear as though Paul is saying that the eye witness accounts are the reason for believing the resurrection. But let’s look closely at the text. Paul is delivering to the Corinthians that which was delivered to him — the Gospel message. Within this Gospel message are the eye witness accounts. Paul says, “I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures” The Gospel is not confirmed by eyewitness accounts, but the eye witness accounts are part of the Gospel message, the message Paul received, and also preached. Paul does not place his confidence in the sense organs of the disciples.

It may even be argued that Paul is not speaking of a literal seeing, as in images of color perceived through the retina. Paul adds his vision of Christ to the list of those that saw Christ, but Paul never actually saw Him with the physical eye. The accounts of Paul’s encounter with Christ in Acts 9 and 22 tell us that Paul never saw Christ’s resurrected body. Paul expressed this when he said, “I could not see for the glory of that light.” When Paul says that Christ was “seen of him” in 1 Corinthians, he is not speaking of an eye witness account of Christ. Because Paul says, “he was seen of me also” all of the “seeing” must be figurative, as the word “also“ identifies the “seeing” as the same.  If it was a figurative seeing for Paul (and it seems from the two Acts accounts that it is) it must also be for all the other witnesses. “Seeing” seems to be referring to conversion, not to eyewitness testimony.

This becomes more evident in examining the two appearances of Christ in Luke 24; the appearing of Christ to Cleopas and his companion on the road to Emmaus (13-32) and the appearing of Christ to the Eleven and those that were with them in Jerusalem (33-49).

The road to Emmaus

When Christ approached the two on their way to Emmaus the Scripture says, “their eyes were holden that they should not know him.” No doubt, they physically saw the resurrected Christ who was speaking to them but they did not see Him for who He was. At His inquiry they told Christ of all the events that took place. It is obvious from their words they did not believe as of  yet the resurrection. They did not believe because of an empty tomb or even the testimony of the women who saw the vision of angels.

Christ rebukes them, not for disbelieving the women or doubting the implications of the empty tomb, but for disbelieving the prophets recorded in Scripture, “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.” Then, “beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” It was after Christ expounded Scripture and after He blessed the bread that “their eyes were opened, and they knew him.”

The appearing of Christ to the disciples in Jerusalem is even more clear. Christ appears to them and they don’t recognize Him as the risen Christ; they think he must be a spirit. Like the two on the way to Emmaus their eyes did not behold Him for who He was. Christ shows them that He is not a spirit and allows them to touch him. Yet even after this they did not believe: “And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered….” They didn’t believe until He supped with them, “and he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures.”

What is the infallible evidence for the resurrection? The same evidence Christ delivered unto the disciples, the same evidence that Paul received and preach –the Scripture. Because the Bible is the infallible Word of God, its testimony of the resurrection is an infallible testimony. “But that’s not convincing to most people,” one may object. To which I answer: It wasn’t convincing to those staring the resurrected  Christ in the face until he opened their eyes to see. Without God enabling a sinner to believe His Word he cannot believe even if Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity incarnate, put to death and resurrected the third day, was the one delivering the message.

But God by His grace does enable some to believe and what He enables them to believe is not a probability, but the sure Word of the Scriptures. May the same Scripture that Christ opened and explained to those He walked with be our source for every argument and our foundation for faith.

-Ben Murch