Monday, March 24, 2008

Faith IN - belief OF - the Resurrection

Well, I'm relieved. I noticed a headline in my blog subscriptions that asked this question:

Must One Believe in the Resurrection to be a Christian?

I wasn't sure I wanted to click on it, to be be honest. It was a post written by a Christian (a prominent one at that) but that really doesn't mean such a question is going to get a straight, Biblical answer. So I clicked, hoping not to be disappointed and here is what I read:

"On this essential question -- Do you have to believe the resurrection is literally true -- that Jesus came back to life in his body -- to be a Christian? -- the Bible is actually very clear... The literal, historical, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the vindication of Christ's saving work on the cross. The issue is simple -- no resurrection, no Christianity. For this reason, belief in the resurrection of Christ is essential in order to be a Christian." - Dr. Albert Mohler
Indeed I was quite relieved to read his answer to this central question on Christian faith. This is of course not the same answer you'll get from every prominent Christian. Another well known name among evangelicals was asked the same question not long ago, and here is his answer:
"Sometimes theological questions can’t be answered by a simply yes or no. You need to define terms, distinguish this from that time frame, etc. So your question, “Do you believe that it is not needed for a modern day believer to profess faith in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ?” is not, in my judgment, as simple as it appears. “Needed”—for what? For salvation? No. As I said before, I agree with the statement in the Westminster Confession that people can be saved who die in infancy without the ability to understand the gospel. I also agree when the Confession extends this provision to others, presumably people who are mentally challenged, etc. There are people like this in the modern day, just as there were at the time the Confession was written." - John Frame (source)
This was taken from an email exchange I had with Frame not too long ago. If you click that source link you can see that he makes exceptions in the case of several categories (infants, mentally challenged, and first century Jews that believed in a coming Messiah but died before they heard the news of the resurrection) - as well as saying here that profession of faith in the resurrection is not needed for salvation, for these same "categorical" reasons. To have a profession of faith, indicates that you are believing what you're saying. Frame clearly states that no, one does not have to believe in (profess) the resurrection of our Lord, for salvation.

I find it interesting that in Mohler's full text of his answer to this question he stated this:

"...the Apostle Paul left no room for doubt when he declared that those who are saved are those who confess with their lips that Jesus Christ is Lord and believe in their hearts that God raised Him from the dead [Romans 10:9]." (source)

I agree that Paul left no doubt. I don't have to worry about the "categories" that Frame sets up as exceptions, I simply leave that with the wisdom of God, and affirm what Romans 10:9 says, and note that I've never seen any kind of "exception" in the Scriptures. OT saints and first century believers that had not yet heard of the resurrection before they died, were saved in exactly the same way we are - by faith. While we look back in history and have faith in His finished work on the cross, they looked forward to the promise of God and had faith that He would do what He said he would, and send a Messiah that would deliver His people.

In another email exchange with John Frame he specifically addressed Romans 10:9 as it pertains to the exception categories he's layed out:
"So explicit confession is not a general rule for everyone. But Paul certainly is saying that if you do make an explicit confession of Christ and the Resurrection you will be saved." (source)

I have to wonder though, would you answer this question with a "The issue is simple" the way Mohler did, or do the categories Frame sets up, present exceptions for you, to believing in and profession of faith, in the resurrection of our Lord? Are there any exceptions or provisions in Scripture that would contradict Romans 10:9?

I'd be most interested in how you'd answer this question, or address these "exception categories".