The Objective Resurrection 

Alan Noble writes a tremendous article in the journal The Modern Reformation entitled “The Resurrection in a Secular World.” 

Noble’s article begins with the assumption of secularism. In doing so, he correctly identifies the increasingly secular American context. We live in a culture that is becoming more interested in the temporal than in the eternal, more interested in the natural than in the supernatural, and more interested in the significance of the scientific world than in the existence of a purposeful Creator. The most secular of us have no category for God, and the least secular of us have a shrinking place for divine relevance. Much of the West still remembers a knowledge of God, but they increasingly have no practical use for him in their daily lives. 

The effect this secularism has upon our culture’s understanding of truth and truth claims is catastrophic. We live in a culture which has rejected objective truth and adopted a relativity in which truth and meaning find their source in the rational human rather than in the Creator. Truth in this context depends upon the individual and is necessarily relative, being interpreted one way to one person and another way to another person. Relativity rules in this case, and it is presumed no one person, God, or book – holy or otherwise – can force a specific objective truth on anyone. Referring to this relativity, Noble says, “The secularism I’m trying to describe here isn’t usually a conscious choice or even a comprehensive worldview. It’s more like a reflex – unconscious, habitual, and natural – and as a result, it affects all of us alive in the West today, in some way or another” (Noble, 39). 

This secularism and relativity affects our understanding of the resurrection. Our argument has ceased to be for the significance of the event and has begun to be only for the existence of the event. Now it is regarded enough to say the resurrection is an historical event; it is believed sufficient to say that it demonstrates God’s love or proves he is God. But a thoroughly biblical view of the resurrection understands it to be a significant, once for all event that announces and affects dramatic change for all creation. Making the same point, Noble eloquently writes, “We can understand the event [of the resurrection] as an influential cultural moment, or a dramatic projection of God’s love, but it’s something else to know that we were buried and raised with Christ – that in some profound, immeasurable, and yet completely objective and real way, an event in the past acts upon us today” (Noble, 43).

So the resurrection is more than simply historical; it is profoundly historical. The resurrection is an event that confirms and brings logical grounds to God’s promises of the past. The resurrection establishes and accomplishes the good news of Jesus Christ on behalf of God’s mission and man’s salvation. And the resurrection provides the reality and hope for this life and for future resurrection in Christ. So we must not only believe the amazing significance of Christ’s profound resurrection, we must proclaim its significance for all creation and to all mankind. To sum up in Nobles’ words, “The resurrection is not merely a sign of Christ’s divinity (although it certainly was that), but also an event in the distant past that fundamentally changed us today and who we will be in the future… but unless we preach the resurrection as the transcendent and perpetually potent event it was and continues to be, we are not preaching the resurrection. We are preaching an empty sign, not an empty tomb” (Noble, 44-45). So it seems we should agree with Noble and not only proclaim the event of the resurrection but proclaim its thoroughly biblical and potent significance as well.