April 1, 2013

I See Dead People: Must Christians Believe in the Dead Being Raised?

by Clint Archer

In 2005 a Russian man made the news with his claims of being able to bring dead people back to life. This was no Miracle Max resuscitation of the “mostly dead” nor a psychic sixth sense of channeling revenant spirits. His claims were audaciously clear: he could bring your deceased loved ones back to life, body and soul—for a price.

The fee of such sought-after services would limit his clientele to a select few who possessed an unfortunate composite of wealth, desperation, and gullibility.

One grieving widow paid 118,000 rubles (about $40,000 at the time) for Grabavoy to resurrect her two deceased boys. A cheaper package is the “prevention is better than cure” option, for which one man shelled out 40,000 rubles to heal his dying parents. In an unprecedented callousness this self-proclaimed necromancer marketed his services to the distraught parents of the 300 children who died in the Beslan school terrorist siege of 2004.

Just desserts were served in 2008 when a Moscow court convicted the charlatan of eleven counts of fraud with as many years in prison. Amazingly, though, his attorney promised to appeal the ruling, with these bizarre words: “We think the sentence is based on speculation and is absolutely unfair.”

Speculation? Really? The judge was speculating, guessing, conjecturing that the defendant could in fact not raise the dead. It seems to me that this lawyer has an airtight evidential case, a smoking gun, blue stained dress Exhibit A opportunity here: just have the defense roll in a corpse on a gurney and ask the miracle worker to get said cadaver to sit up. Case closed, speculation dispelled. Simple.

The obvious gap in that legal strategy is that their client is a lying liar who lies for a living.

Obviously, not one living dead person appeared as a witness. No zombies, no revenant cadavers, no netherworld returnees. Not even one. That not so surreptitious lack of evidence demands a verdict.

So, are Christians today required to believe in the resurrection of the dead? Yes and no. Yes, if you are referring to the past resurrections recorded in the infallible pages of God’s revealed word.
To name a few…

  • Elijah’s proof was that the boy he raised from the dead was actually raised from the dead (1 Kings 17:23)
  • Elisha’s bones caused the corpse dumped into his grave to climb out (2 Kings 13:21).
  • When Jesus called into a smelly tomb “Lazarus come out” the effort was followed by a dramatic, mummy-esque appearance of the obedient dead guy (John 11:43).
  • And of course, Christ’s own resurrection was ratified by the eye-witness reports of the apostles, including our skeptic hero Thomas, as well as over 500 others (1 Cor 15:6).

Paul makes the theological point that if you don’t believe in the resurrection of the dead, then you don’t accept that Jesus rose, in which case you are seriously doomed (1 Cor 15:16-17). The resurrection of Christ is a cornerstone essential belief of all true Christians—and Liberals, I don’t mean the “he rose metaphorically in our hearts” way you and the Sadducees pertinaciously hold to, I mean the “he ate a fish in front of his bewildered apostles” way. Luke 20:37.

So, yes Christians believe in the dead being raised. And we are in good theological company with Jesus (see Luke 20:37).

And we don’t think this is something for back then only. It is also for the future. We will all be raised with new glorified bodies, whether you were buried, cremated, eaten by fish, or dissolved in a vat of acid (hey, it could happen). This is a promise of God. See 1 Corinthians 15, the whole chapter.

But, this does not mean that Christians have to believe every report of resurrection we hear. We do not have to be gullible Grabavoy-ites. Christians believe God’s word. It is infallible and inerrant. Not so for CNN, the Moscow Times, Twitter, or your home cell group’s latest visitor who regales you with tales of seeing dead people come back to life after a Charismatic Christianese version of a séance.

If you saw a guy die, get buried, and by the time his corpse starts to smell offish (like Lazarus did), and then return to a fully rejuvenated living, breathing, resurrection, then good for you. God can do anything He wants at any time. But don’t expect other people to believe you. God is not still providing miraculous proof to validate the claims of Scripture. That battle was won long ago (Heb 1:1).

God’s point has been made and proven. Now, we believe what God said, not what Joe Necromancer says. Even if he as Rev before his name and PhD after it (and especially not if there is a Hinn in there somewhere).

I am not hard of heart or slow to believe God. But I am also not required to prove my faith in God be believing the flotsam and jetsam of inspiring urban legends that drift around in Christian circles. My faith is built on the word of God, not the word of man.

So, if you ask me if Christians believe the dead being raised, I’d say yes and no, and then write this blog post (which is what happened to me this week). What would you say?

Clint Archer

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Clint has been the pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church since 2005. He lives in Durban, South Africa with his wife and four kids.
  • busdriver4jesus

    Ok, so the Russian guy couldn’t raise the dead… but he could “rummage through their pockets and look for loose change”!

    • As…you…wish…

  • Armando Valdez

    “…..or dissolved in a vat of acid (hey, it could happen)”

    Sadly, this happens in Mexico, Many people have disappeared because of this practice by the narcos.

    • Wow, really? I had no idea. How insanely macabre.

      • Armando Valdez

        In the city where I live many kidnappings happen (like many cities in Mexico) have seen people hanging from a bridge in broad daylight, they cut off his head. Others have been dismembered. These are dark times.