Can you be a Christian and not believe in His resurrection?

I received an essay from Beliefnet by Shelby Spong, a retired Episcopal Bishop. I would link to it but it has been removed. Anyway, here is an excerpt:

<<Does anyone really think, for example, that a physical resuscitation of a body dead for three days is actually possible? Would anyone believe it if someone today made that claim? If it is not possible today, can we seriously argue that it was ever possible? Does Christianity fall unless a supernatural miracle can be established?

Before we can begin positive speculation about the meaning of Easter, we must clear the debris of literalism and the fanciful claims of pre-modern people. Let me be specific about the following parts of the resurrection story: An angel did not descend from the sky on the wings of an earthquake to roll away the stone from the door of the tomb in order to make the resurrection announcement. A deceased man did not walk out of his grave physically alive three days after his execution by crucifixion. The risen Jesus did not walk, talk, eat, teach or invite the disciples to handle his physical flesh. Jesus did not literally defy gravity and ascend to the top of a three-tiered universe. These legendary aspects of the Easter story are no longer viewed as literally true in the academic world of biblical scholarship. We are not going to make sense out of the meaning of Easter if we have to defend the accuracy of these pre-modern details.>>

Maybe my question should be what are the prerequisites to being a Christian? (And I don’t mean just calling yourself a Christian, I mean what is the bare minimum belief/action as it were) I mean, the resurrection seems to me to be, oh I don’t know, maybe the most fundamental element of being a Christian? If you don’t believe that miracle, do any others pass the test? Do you pick and choose which parts of the Bible are true?

But perhaps I am mistaken, and that is why I put it to you.
-Can you be a Christian and not believe in His resurrection?
-What are the minimum beliefs/actions to be a Christian?

Well, since there’s no central “Christian Standards Board” which is generally recognized as speaking with authority for the Christian religion, I don’t see how you can dismiss the idea that “one is a Christian if one calls oneself a Christian” so offhandedly.

And lacking a concrete factual answer to your query, I suspect this thread is headed for Great Debates.

Different denominations have different beliefs. I would not consider someone to be a Christian who did not believe in the resurrection, but some would. A particular denomination may excommunicate someone who does not adhere to beliefs that they consider essential, but there is no way to stop someone from calling himself a Christian, regardless of what he believes.

I am a Gnostic Christian who does not believe in the physical resurrection, but a spiritual one of course. I think the myth of a physical resurrecton, both Jesus’ and everyone’s on “Judgement Day” comes from a refusal to accept physical death as part of the life cycle. It’s morbid and spiritually retarded. The way to conquer death is not by coming back to Earth in the same body.

Kallisti, do you think the disciples merely saw Jesus ghost before he ascended?

The wonderful wonderful archbishop of Sweden K.G. Hammar recently caused a little controversy here by stating that he wasn’t entirely sure he belived in the literal ressurection, and that on some days, he wasn’t even sure Jesus was the biblically literal son of god. Man I dig KG Hammar, his sincerity is wonderful and his compassion is huge :slight_smile: He is a great example of somone doing gods work :slight_smile: Keeps getting him in shit tho, the pope cancelled an audience with him a few years back over another controversy.

I think Thomas Jefferson might have had beliefs along those lines; I seem to recall him writing a “new version” of the New Testament with the supernatural elements excised. Probably someone more familiar with this will jump in.

Well, Jesus’s body was in a glorified state after the resurrection, so it wasn’t quite the same physical body that was put to death. More like the old body had been transformed by the process.

He appeared out of thin air in a room amongst the disciples, for example, and he instructed them not to touch him, so it wasn’t exactly the same old Jesus.

I think you can be a Christian without believing in Christ’s resurrection, but you’d be a very skeptical Christian. Christianity would have never gotten anywhere if hundreds of people didn’t SEE Jesus after he rose from the dead. The key to “being a Christian” is believing that Jesus sacrificed himself to cover your sin and then persevering in righteousness. The resurrection is just the proof that Jesus was successful.

A thread on this over on the Pizza Parlor. I’ve defined my POV in the second post there.

Several early Christian groups had widely varying beliefs about what happened over those 4 days. Gnostics have already been mentioned. Most lost out over time to the Roman Catholic beliefs. But “heresies” kept popping up all the time.

Even reading the Gospels, it is not clear to me that resurrection is the de facto interpretation. It may be clear if you have been raised that way, but not necessarily so to others.

I know of no single belief that one can identify as a “must” in order to be a Christian. There have been people who are not sure that Jesus even existed but like the values espoused in the “stories” about him and follow those values as Christians.

See also Can a Christian be a Muslim, too? , in which Mangetout notes:

I find it mind-boggling that this is a sticking point for anyone. You believe in God, you believe in miracles, you believe in the Resurrection. Laws of physics don’t apply, and the best response to “wouldn’t he be rotting?” is “so what?” Getting hung up on the physical mechanism of God’s will is like a conspiracy theory in reverse. One may believe or not believe in the Resurrection, but refusing to believe on the basis of scientific arguments is silly.

I certainly think that one can adopt the mission and beliefs of Jesus without accepting his divinity or his resurrection, but such a person is not what the modern world calls a Christian. I also think that a person can accept the divinity of Jesus without accepting a literal physical resurrection, but it’s harder to say “that’s not Christianity.” Remember that Paul emphasized the resurrection, and Pauline Christianity is the Christianity we know today (for the most part – there are Gnostic Christians, and maybe even Judaic Christians, but it’s a pretty small remnant).

Of course, it’s easy for me to be doctrinaire, as I don’t believe any of it. :wink:

A strong argument could be made that belief in the Resurrection is required to be considered a Christian. There is, for instance, 1Corinthians 15, verses 12 through 14:

**Now if Christ preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? **
But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen; And if Christ is not risen, then is our preaching vain and your faith is also vain." (Quoting here from the KJV.)

This said, it must still be admitted that the word “Christian” is an extremely ambiguous one, and amenable to a lot of conflicting definitions. Maybe the best answer is that one needs to accept the Resurrection to fall into most contemporary, conventional, categories of Christian faith.

I doubt there’s a factual answer here, so I’ll move this thread to Great Debates.

moderator GQ

>The key to “being a Christian” is believing that Jesus sacrificed himself to cover your sin and then persevering in righteousness.<

Gnostic Christians do not believe this.

If more people simply tried to live and love like Jesus, rather than fretting over all this supernatural silliness, the world would be a better place.

The idea that the resurrection happened in a spiritual, moral, or metaphysical sense, rather than a literal and physical one, is not a new one - I remember the former Bishop of Durham, Dr. David Jenkins, being roundly criticised by the (generally clueless) popular press for his statement that he didn’t believe in the resurrection as “a conjuring trick with bones”.

Did it, literally, happen? I don’t know, I wasn’t there … if it had, it would defy our understanding of the physical laws of the universe - but God is omnipotent, He can do that if He wants to. (Whether or not He would want to is another matter for debate … )

But, to my mind, the spiritual/metaphorical truth of the resurrection is actually more important than the literal one. It may be that Christ rose from the dead and lived again in first-century Palestine, but that’s not what matters - what matters is whether He lives in our hearts, here and now. And, as far as I can see, people who accept Christ into their hearts are Christians - regardless of whatever doctrine they subscribe to.

You can call yourself whatever you wish, but then your definition of “Christian” differs from mine. I gave you my definition above. This doesn’t prevent you from misusing the word.

You haven’t studied Jesus too much, I take it. His messages weren’t all sunshine and rainbows.

Sorry, hit Submit too early there.

Jesus was pretty concerned with a lot of “supernatural silliness” too.

I think that dil hits it on the heads. To excorcise all of the “Supernatural Silliness” from the bible leaves you with something less than the bible. I would imagine that if God wanted to believe in something less than the bible, then he would have shortened it.

I don’t understand the idea of “I believe in Jesus the Christ, absolutely Pure, son of an All powerful, omnipotent God, but not in miracles cause they are silly!”

That is like saying that I believe in the tooth fairy, but not that she would leave money under the pillow, that would be dumb.

And really, once you remove the specifics of the bible (i.e.) Jesus was just a good man, not the literal son of god) then it gets harder and harder to differentiate between Jesus and the Tooth Fairy.

1Corinthians 15, verses 12 through 14 seems fairly straightforward and unambiguous to me. I am open (really) to hearing how it is not.

Again, do we get to pick and choose which parts we agree with and discard those we don’t?

We can agree to disagree on many things such as head coverings for instance, or heck, women pastors. But maybe I am wrong in thinking there are absolutes. If you don’t have His death AND resurrection, then what do you have?

Ultimately, for me I suppose, Christianity is about a personal relationship with Christ, submitting to His authority. He is in control (or should be). He knows where my (and your) heart is, and that is all that really matters. I just don’t see how you can have that relationship if you dicount some of the very things he said and did (like those wacky supernatural miracles), do you?

If you can have that relationship and submit yourself to Him without believing His words and deeds, please explain it to me s-l-o-w-l-y. Thanks.