I recently read an article over at Charisma Magazine (not my typical reading, but one link led to another). The story dealt with a Presbyterian minister down in Austin, TX who denies the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. What struck me about the article was the way the minister was lashing out at his critics in social media. The quotes attributed to him were of the sort I would expect from a militant atheist, not a “Christian” minister.
Yes, I put Christian in quotes. The reason is simple: from what I understand of the New Testament there is no way that this man can be a Christian. Now, I know that at this point many people will call me judgmental and blah, blah, blah. But, I am simply going with what the New Testament teaches.
In Romans 10:9, Paul says, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” (NIV)
In 1 Corinthians 15:14-17, Paul states, “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” (NIV)
So, as you can see from both of these texts the resurrection of Jesus is a key tenet of the Christian faith. Even beyond these passages of Scripture the early creeds of the church all affirm the central belief in the resurrection.
Now, this brings me back to the title of this post. Whatever this man believes, it should not be described as Christianity without some sort of qualifier. For instance, there is Jewish Humanism. These are ethnic Jews who do not believe in God, but enjoy the ritual and want to preserve the distinctives of their culture. In the same vein, I think this man may be walking down a similar path, that of Christian Humanism.
But, this makes for a challenge. What should be done in the case of the pastor in Austin, Texas? While I wish no ill will on anyone, the proper thing to do in this situation is for the pastor and the church to part ways. Even more so, the denomination should defrock the pastor. To have a pastor leading a church into disbelief is simply irresponsible on everyone involved’s part.
It is vital that we keep a close eye on the leaders of our churches. With all of the challenges that the church faces from outside, there is no reason that we should sit idly by and watch cancers grow within the body. And, let’s face it, when you stand up in the pulpit and say, “I don’t believe in the central tenet of the Christian faith,” you have self-selected to be removed from ordained ministry.