Epiphany 6 – 13th February 2022
Jeremiah 17:5–10 teaches us that those who trust in God are like trees planted by water. The response to Jeremiah in the lectionary is Psalm 1. It is a natural response as it describes those who follow God’s law are blessed like a tree planted by water. The two passages fit like a hand inside a glove.
It is so easy to connect the Old Testament readings with Creation as both use the image of the faithful being like trees planted by water. Water is an issue in many parts of the world today. We pray for those who need water for crops and clean drinking water. However, the New Testament readings keep us grounded in spiritual reality. We can miss the message by seeking to help the planet at the expense of neglecting our own souls.
1 Corinthians 15:12-20 reminds us how vain our religion and good works are without resurrection power. Trusting in God is at the heart of Jeremiah’s passage. We are being encouraged to choose trust in the God of resurrection. In the end, it is the only thing that makes sense. Religion is vain without resurrection reality.
My message today is titled,“Resurrection Dead” and it deals with the theological centrality of the resurrection.
Importance of Resurrection
Last week, we clarified what is meant by the term, “resurrection”. In ancient times, it was clearly understood as a physical return of one’s being into their body. Concepts of the apostles experiencing visions and emotional connections are post-enlightment. Sadly, some scholars have been educated beyond their intelligence.
The fact Paul is dealing with this issue means that early on there has been some kind of debate going on in Corinth about the nature and reality of the resurrection.
There is a kind of ‘let’s sort this out once for all’ tone about chapter 15. Paul suspects that the Corinthians have been sitting about, having late night arguments about exactly what form Christ’s resurrection body took, and whether and in what order Christians will be raised, and getting themselves and others in a great state about it. (Jane Willians, Lectionary Reflections, Year C, page 35).
The first part of chapter 15 covers proofs of Jesus’ resurrection as a historical fact. In our text today, we learn that the resurrection of Christ “is not an additional extra”, as Jane Williams puts it. It is not something that can be debated without affecting every other aspect of the Christian faith. It is central to theology. By that I mean it is central to the doctrine of God and it is connected with our salvation.
The nature of God and the purpose of God are both called into question when you question the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The power that raised Jesus from the dead is the very power that redeemed our souls. In fact, it is the same power that created our very being. Without resurrection from the dead, we have no foundation upon which we can build trust in God as Saviour or God as Creator.
Last week, I appealed to the proofs from history for an empty tomb. Today, I want to make a rational appeal for your faith in resurrection dead. Our sermon text is an appeal to correct the thinking of the Corinthian church.
Perhaps without denying that Jesus had been raised, they were questioning the doctrine of the resurrection because of their unbiblical understanding of the significance of the human body, or the principles of continuity and transformation that relate our present moral body to the coming resurrection body. (Reformation Study Bible, 1 Cor 15:12)
It is quite possible that this local church surrounded by the Greek culture of its day was being influenced to understand the resurrection through Neo-Platonic philosophy. It was real in its day and it is real today. In fact, it is what today’s science appeals to when trying to explain why there is no such thing as a moral body.
Scriptures confirm human consciousness – the inner person you know exists within your body; that person who disappears when the body expires. Science teachers would have us believe there is no spiritual body but only physical. They teach us that the soul and mind are simply physical functions of the human brain. They teach the soul is physical, not moral. Science teaches materialism based on a faith and religious fervour in Darwinian evolution.
I appreciate this message might be getting a bit deep. But I believe we are in the same situation as the Corinthian church. Our culture today elevates materialism as the only rational explanation of everything. The sensual wisdom limits all knowledge to observable science. To explain what it cannot observe, it resorts to neo-platoism, just like during the time of Corinth.
By the way, Platonism a reference to the philosophy of Plato, an ancient thinker from Greece. Greece and Italy are the foundation of Western culture. Today’s descendants – the European race, forget that their culture is one of the last to be developed. Eastern cultures and Eastern philosophy preceded Plato and Aristotle. There are no truths stated by the ancient Europeans that were not already stated by others before them such as Solomon whose philosophy is preserved in our Bibles today.
What is a Human Being?
Materialism cannot give a straight answer to the question, “What is a human being?” No matter what name scientist give the human soul, it remains a mystery. They cloud the question with answer that try to give “soul” another name like “”a superseded ontology”. Physicists call it “an emergent behaviour”. Neuroscientists call it “a single integrated entity with a repertoire of highly differentiated states”. In the words of Matthew Connally:
All their abstract and esoteric words are still referring to the same thing: that invisible, untouchable phenomenon summed up in the word you… no matter how hard Darwinists try, they cannot reduce you to physical stuff.
To them, there is nothing abstract, much less spiritual. That means experiences such as joy and sorrow and personal identity are, literally, physical things just like KFC chicken and chips are physical things. They try to draw distinctions between consciousness, the mind, and rational thought. The bottom line is that they have to presuppose that we are our brains and believe with religious fervour that they will one day discover how matter becomes mind.
Darwinists are acutely aware that they have no other choice but to say such things. For the alternative to presupposing materialism is nothing less than classical notions of immaterial spiritual. And since evolution could not touch spirital (literally), materialism simply must be presupposed.
There is no scientific evidence for their explanation of soul and who you are because you are immaterial.
Who is the author of scientific truth anyway? The mystery of life, who we are, and how we got here, have coherent answers. They all point back to an Authour; an Intelligent Design; a Creator; God.
What is infinity? It is intangible and immaterial. It is pure meaning. It can never have any physical representation but we know it is real. Mathematics even have a symbol for it! But what is real? What does real mean? We are face to face with a non-physical phenomenon.
Our brains interact with knowledge which is something that cannot be seen, heard, felt, tasted, or smelled. The organ inside our skulls cannot do such a thing. It’s like asking whether your colon can comprehend organic chemistry or whether your fingers can count to 10 or whether your smartphone can understand English or whether a dictionary knows what the word dictionary means.
The Soul’s Connection to Resurrection
Time limits me to continue on that topic. I believe we have established the possibility that the human soul is immaterial. But how does that connect to resurrection dead?
The resurrection is not only God’s affirmation of Jesus’ life and teaching, but it is also God’s demonstration that he is ‘Christ-like, and in him is no unChristlikeness at all’, to borrow a phrase from Michael Ramsey. The power that raised Jesus from the dead is the power that offers us redemption and the power that made us in the first place. It is all of a piece. It cannot be a matter for idle debate and speculation, Paul insists. If it is not true, then we have no foundation on which to put our trust in God. (Jane Williams)
Simply put, our belief is not based on assumptions. Christians do not begin from a place of hypothesis and then reason their way to a position. Science does that and believes we ought to have the blind faith to do that. But we do not. Christianity is not based on assumption.
How does Christianity work? It does not presuppose the existence of God as that would be arrogant and irrational. Instead, we believe that God has revealed Himself to us. Do we need to presuppose spirituality? No. But we can ask questions and look for evidence. (Matthew Connally, article 7)
THAT is rational. God has revealed Himself to humanity and demonstrated His creative power by resurrection. Are you brave enough to examine the evidence?
Almighty and everliving God, whose Son Jesus Christ healed the sick and restored them to wholeness of life: look with compassion on the anguish of the world, and by your power make whole all peoples and nations; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.