Debunking–once again–the notoriously-slippery-slope notion that Paul believed in a spiritual resurrection.
Since the start of the 20th century, the typical party line for liberal Protestants on Jesus’ resurrection has been this:
Paul does not preach the resurrection of a corpse…but of a spirit.
Why argue this way?
Well, it allows liberal Protestants plenty of theological wiggle room. But it’s a notoriously slippery slope.
And even though a vast majority of Pauline scholars declare it a thoroughly dead thesis, it still rears its ugly head.
Most recently I’ve seen this argument in the March debate between Richard Carrier and William Craig Lane.
Carrier and Jesus’ Intangible Resurrection Body
Carrier adopts the line that Paul did not believe in a physical resurrection, but in a spiritual one. An immaterial, intangible and massless body.
Why a notable atheist would adopt this theory is intriguing. But he’s got a plan.
Carrier then argues that Paul is our earliest witness of Jesus’ resurrection. From there he sets Paul’s letters against the Gospels with their empty tomb narratives and resurrection appearances of Jesus.
Carrier finally concludes that if Paul’s account is the primitive view, then the Gospels, which came later, are legendary corruptions and theological re-definitions.
The Slippery Slope
Some may argue that we still have a resurrection if we adopt Carrier’s position. “Let’s rejoice!” they say. “An atheist is arguing for the resurrected Jesus.”
Not so fast.
Carrier’s naturalism would then say to any one who clings to a spiritual resurrection:
Wait a minute…which is more plausible to believe…that there were hallucinations or a theft of the body…or to believe there was this immaterial, supernatural event?
If Carrier can get you to believe in a spiritual resurrection and not a literal, bodily resurrection then he’s done two things:
1. Stripped you of historical proof. [Jesus rotted in the tomb all along, ha ha.]
2. Backed you away from the historic Christian faith. [ftw]
And once he’s done this, Carrier will then say you no longer have any reason to believe in Jesus’ resurrection. Why believe in this invisible, spiritual, immaterial resurrection…which is really no resurrection at all?
From there, you either become a gnostic Christian.
Or an atheist.
Where Carrier’s Position Breaks Down
Natural man does not mean “physical man,” but “man oriented toward human nature.” And spiritual man does not mean “intangible, immaterial man” but “man oriented toward the Spirit.” [via]
In the end, all the Gospels support a tangible, physical resurrection of Jesus’ body…as does Paul. Which is huge.
A Christ who did not rise from the dead is not a Christ to worship. And if that’s the case, our faith is futile. We are still in our sins. Those who are dead are lost. And so are we.