Monday, May 21, 2007
Resurrection is Politically Subversive
I was recently listening to some talks by NT Wright from an Emergent Village Theological Conference a few years ago and he made a thought-provoking point about the politically subversive nature of doctrine of bodily resurrection. He refers to a line in Oscar Wilde's play Salome where Herod is being told of Jesus' miracles among the people. He has no problem with Jesus healing the sick or feeding the hungry but when he hears about Jesus raising the dead he flies into a rage. “I forbid him to raise the dead," Herod says. "This man must be found and told I don’t allow people to raise the dead.”

Herod knows that, as a tyrant, his primary tool of oppression is the threat of death. And so Jesus coming along raising the dead is a major threat to Herod's power. If God really will raise the dead, then this seriously undermines the powers of tyranny and injustice that ruled the world in Jesus' day, and continue to rule the world in our own time as well.

That's why believing in the resurrection is not some opiate-of-the-masses, pie-in-the-sky type thing. People who believe in resurrection are social subversives - people who are relentless in their pursuit of justice in this world. In an interview in Christianity Today Wright explains why:

If you believe in resurrection, you believe that the living God will put his world to rights and that if God wants to do that in the future, it is right to try to anticipate that by whatever means in the present. It is your job as a Christian, in the power of the Spirit, to anticipate that glorious final state as much as you possibly can in the present. Live now by the power that is coming to you from the future, by the Spirit. And in the same way, live socially and politically because God is going to put the world to rights. That’s the great theme of justice in new creation. It is up to us to produce signs of resurrection in the present social, cultural, and political world. Because resurrection is a creation-affirming doctrine, it goes with the desire to change injustice in the present.


posted by Mike Clawson at 5:16 PM | Permalink |


At 5/22/2007 12:39:00 AM, Blogger Steven Carr

Why does Paul claim that God appointed these rulers and tyrants?

Romans 13 'Let every person be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority apart from God....'

Such deeply subversive words... Little wonder that for hundreds of years, people were forbidden to translate the Bible, lest they read deeply subversive messages like 'let every person be subject to the governing authorities.'

(Wright).. refers to a line in Oscar Wilde's play Salome where Herod is being told of Jesus' miracles among the people.

Wow! Wright has deeply researched his sources on 1st century Palestine.

Does Wright really think that Herod actually believed Jesus was John the Baptist returned from the dead?


At 5/22/2007 12:42:00 AM, Blogger Steven Carr

When did Jesus feed the hungry?

The 5,000 were hardly starving, were they? They might have skipped one meal.....

When did Jesus feed truly starving people? That is not something God does.

Starving people starve to death.


At 5/22/2007 01:20:00 AM, Blogger Steven Carr

Wright claims Herod was disturbed by Jesus raising the dead because 'resurrection is politically subversive'.

Wright seems to have forgotten his own spin.

It is 'theologically correct' to claim that none of the people raised by Jesus were resurrected, and seeing Jesus raise people from the dead did nothing to change anybody's belief that nobody would be resurrected before the general resurrection.

Still, we just have to wait for the next Wright lecture , where he will no doubt tell us that no Jew would have called what Jesus did to the dead as 'resurrection'.


At 5/22/2007 09:03:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Steven, given the tone & spirit of your comments both here and at Hemant's site, I have no interest in discussing any of these questions with you at either blog. Feel free to go on talking to yourself if you like but you'll get no debate out of me.


At 5/22/2007 09:31:00 AM, Anonymous AgnosticAtheist


I would be careful about which Christian apologists you quote. It may harm your credibility. I don't know much about Wright other than the comments posted on the aA blog on this thread.

Here's what a Jeff wrote:

NT Wright is a controversial figure in the field of apologetics and there’s a reason why. He’s a nutball. A Xian I was debating told me to listen to a 90-minute podcast by him which I did. He made gobs of assumptions based on no evidence or logic, he outright lied numerous times, and horribly misrepresented so many things I couldn’t count them all. But that was only when he made sense. Most of the time he rambled on and on with no point. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever listened to. NT Wright is as good as a source on the Bible as listening to a rock is.

Of course, I don't have a clue as to how credible Jeff is :) but a person I respect, Michael Turton, seems to share this view of Wright.



At 5/22/2007 10:33:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Hey aA,

Yeah, I'm not sure why I'd trust "Jeff's" opinion either. Wright is an Anglican Bishop and a well known and highly regarded scholar of New Testament and Early Church history. He has written extensive scholarly works placing both Jesus and Paul in a first century Jewish context, leading to a revolution in contemporary scholarship in these areas. He counts friends both among evangelical and liberal scholarly circles - including people like Marcus Borg and Dominic Crossan, as well as Rowan Williams, the current Archbishop of Canterbury.

If you really want to know more about him I'd recommend not relying on hearsay but checking out some of his articles here or even just skimming his list of published works on Amazon. You could even find out more about him at his Wikipedia entry.

Anyhow, no offense, but Jeff seems like he might call anyone who simply disagrees with him a "nutball". And if the 90-minute podcast he was referring to is the same one I was just listening to (that inspired this post) then my guess is that he simply wasn't bright enough to follow Wright's line of thought (he's British after all - they're known for tangents and parentheticals!)

As for Turton's opinion, his only argument against Wright seems to be to label him a "conservative" (he repeats it 3 times in one paragraph!) and "accuse" him of believing the gospels are historically reliable and that the resurrection actually happened. First he says that he doesn't know of any credible scholars who believe in the historicity of the gospels, and then when I point one out to him, he dismisses him as not credible because he believes in the historicity of the gospels! I'm sorry, but that's rather circular IMHO.

Anyhow, I'd encourage you to keep an open mind and not assume that just because someone believes the gospels that necessarily makes them a "nutball".



At 5/22/2007 11:15:00 AM, Blogger Steven Carr

Mike once again demonstrates the depth of his commitment to dialogue people he doesn't like, but does love.

Of course, the fact that the people he doesn't like are the people who have studied apologetics and can answer knowledgeably has nothing to do with the fact that he doesn't want to answer their questions.

Mike has stated that he is very prepared to learn from people (provided they don't know enough to prove him wrong)

Put him in front of a knowledgeable atheist and he goes cold on his unquenchable commitment to dialogue...


At 5/22/2007 11:19:00 AM, Blogger Steven Carr

In 'Resurrection', Wright claims he has 'no doubt' about what the anonymous author of the Gospel of Matthew had in mind when claiming that some of the apostles doubted even after seeing proofs supplied by the Son of God Himself.

I think that if Jesus closest followers can doubt proofs supplied by the Son of God, then Wright might have the humility to doubt that he can accurately tell us what was in the mind of an anonymous person who lived 2,000 years ago.


At 5/22/2007 12:08:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Steven, what makes me not want to debate with you is not that you are too "knowledgeable" but that you don't have the courtesy to drop a subject when people tell you they're not interested. I told you that I wasn't interested in discussing one particular line of debate with you over at Hemant's blog and you haven't been able to drop it since. Let it go man. Persistent stalking and heckling after someone has asked you to knock it off is just not cool.


At 5/22/2007 12:21:00 PM, Blogger Steven Carr

Here are your words indicating that you wanted to drop the subject (although you happily kept talking about Wright's theology with other people and on your blog)

'I’m not really interested in getting into an argument about biblical exegesis with you here on an atheist website.'

Is Mike interested in what atheists have to say about the Bible?

No, he politely tells them to shut up. He is not interested in their view on the Bible.


At 5/22/2007 01:23:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Okay fine, you win. You're right, I can't argue against your intellectual prowess and I've been deliberately avoiding debating you. You're oh so very clever. Well done.

Are we done now?


At 5/22/2007 02:59:00 PM, Blogger Steven Carr

Are we done now?

It depends if you are interested in dialogue.


At 5/22/2007 03:33:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Not with you. Not anymore. You've already poisoned that well. Sorry.


At 5/22/2007 03:49:00 PM, Blogger Steven Carr

Notice Mike's lack of ability to quote me 'poisoning the well'.....

But I can quote him simply refusing to discuss what he had said - 'I’m not really interested in getting into an argument about biblical exegesis with you here on an atheist website.'

Perhaps Mike will tell us who Jesus 'resurrected' from the dead, when Wright has claimed that none of the people Jesus 'resuscitated' were resurrected?


At 5/23/2007 12:29:00 AM, Blogger Steven Carr

Mike won't dialogue with me, or respond to reasoned arguments , but as can be seen from Mike responds , he has no objection to taking cheap shots about me ( 'pretentious'....)

I guess that's the Christian love coming through. It is never far from the surface.

One thing I have found. Dialogue is a two-way process.


At 5/24/2007 08:33:00 AM, Anonymous ngilmour

Does it ever make you miss Dan Edelen? ;)


At 5/24/2007 09:33:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson

LOL! Dan was never this bad. :)


At 5/24/2007 10:20:00 PM, Blogger Dan Barnett.

Mike and I disagree on a lot of things. I don't know him outside of what he writes here. I don't know if after reading his beliefs on certain things if I would personally consider him really a Christian in my interpretation of the word. That however is none of my business. That is between him and God. This man has gone out of his way to answer many questions posed by Christians and atheists alike. Do I agree with all of his answers? No I don't. Why do I say all this? I say it to show you that when I and others tell you to just back off and shut up it is not a us versus you. It is the fact that you lack the courtesy to respect his request to stop. He is a VERY respectful man when he debates people. You have completey attacked him for no reason but to make him look bad, and in doing so you have shown yourself to be an arrogant fool. Mike, I'm sorry you have to put up with guys like this. I appreciate your respect that you give unsolicited to others. I continue to read your posts to gain insight and understanding of other people's differing beliefs from mine. Also I think your family blog is an awesome idea for families to keep updated on each other's lives. May God bless you and continue to reveal his truth to you.


At 5/24/2007 11:59:00 PM, Blogger Steven Carr

Rather thn answer questions, Christians like Dan resort to calling people 'arrogant fools' (without ever managing to find a quote of me being arrogant)

But I am well used to the outpourings of Chhristian love, and am as forgiving and patient as the next person, if not more so.

I am also very interested in finding out what people like NT Wright have to say. I have a thirst for knowledge about Christianity.

Wright denies that Herod had any expectation that anybody would be resurrected before the general resurrection.

How then could the raisings of the dead by Jesus be politically subversive when not one of them was a resurrection, or lead to a belief that resurrections were even possible?


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