Can a Christian Not Believe in the Resurrection?

By Fin Sheridan

Today, the Telegraph posted an article with the headline: “A Quarter of Christians Don’t Believe in the Resurrection”.

The most stand out statistics of the article describe that:

“Fewer than one-in-three Christians in Britain believe “word-for-word” the Biblical story of Jesus rising from the dead, with another 41 per cent believing some sections should not be taken literally. But the Palm Sunday poll for the BBC found 23 per cent of those calling themselves Christians “do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead” at all.”

When presented with figures like this, what should the reaction be? Outrage, at the growing stream of secularism within religion? Excitement, that a major British newspaper is talking about Christianity? My first response is puzzlement – if you don’t believe in the resurrection, but still identify as Christian, then what exactly do you believe? And how can those beliefs still be called “Christian”?

A word that’s been around as long as the word “Christian” has had plenty of time to collect lots of baggage. Like a broom running along the floor of history, much has been swept into the flow of “Christian” that really has nothing to do with Jesus, the Bible or Christianity. Christian is a label for something: “Christian Media”, “Christian Clothing”, even “Christian Dieting”. Some of this is marketing, some is description; much is vague connotation.

“Christianity without the resurrection is not Christianity. It is something else.”

To find out what really makes a “Christian”, we have to go to the one called Christ. It’s not our cultural definitions but his eternal words that can truly mark what Christianity is all about. Jesus himself says, in Luke 9:22 that he must die and be raised on the third day. Paul, definitively writes in 1 Corinthians 15: “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” Effectively, without the resurrection of Jesus, we have no hope.

Romans 10:9 says it most clearly: “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Salvation is only possible through the resurrection. If Jesus was only crucified, but not raised, then we have a great moral teacher but are still without deliverance from our sin. Christianity without the resurrection is not Christianity. It is something else.

Imagine if the headline read “A Quarter of Atheists believe in God”. We’d be baffled: to be an atheist means to not believe in God. That’s what it means. If an atheist believes in God then he is no longer an atheist! Stating that isn’t judgmental or narrow minded: it’s an acknowledgement of facts.

The same would be true of “Vegetarians who Eat Meat”, “Blind People Who Can See”, and “Married People who are Single”. One truth must override the other. So, sadly, what the Telegraph have reported isn’t that “A Quarter of Christians Don’t Believe In The Resurrection”, it’s that “A Quarter of Christians Aren’t Even Christians At All”.

Showing 5 comments
  • Rev. Kyle Logan Hamlin

    I won’t argue against the reality of the resurrection; however, outside of the (long since scholarly disposed) ‘gospel’ of “John” and possible interpolations in the Synoptic Gospels, where do we find Jesus even suggesting that one must believe in anything, his resurrection, or otherwise, in order to be saved?

    In the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, faith never enters the equation. When speaking of the Good Samaritan (whose example, Jesus said, one should follow, if one wishes to be saved), faith acts as a hindrance to salvation; rather than its cause. If we are to be forgiven, as we forgive, (as goes the Lord’s prayer), and if one can forgive, regardless of beliefs, then, it stands to reason, that one can be forgiven of their sins, without needing to believe in the reality of the resurrection.

    Jesus tells us that we are to be judged according to words, our works, our motives or intentions, and how we treat others, i.e., our “fruit,” but, our beliefs? Not outside of non-historical texts written in his name, as if he had said them.

  • Peter Cartlidge

    I don’t wish to sound unkind but without belief in the resurrection you cannot be a Christian so the figure of 23% needs to be revised to 100% of CHRISTIANS believe in the resurrection! This is a fundamental doctrine of the gospel of Christ, anything else is a clear Heresy .

    • Fin Sheridan

      Hi Peter! Thanks for your comment. I agree, as I wrote in the article – to be a Christian is to believe in the resurrection! Really appreciate you reading this article. Have a great day. Fin

    • Tanya White

      What if they only believe in the spiritual resurrection I ask mischievously?
      Also the Essenes were devotees of Jesus’s teachings; are we in a position to judge whether they are Christian or not? Also surely this is further confused by Jesus being a Jew.
      Religion remains a man made construct and if one believes in the teachings of Jesus, surely by definition that is what makes them Christian ? Finally, whatever we may profess to believe in surely the final arbiter is God himself.
      So why do some of us take umbrage? Not for us to judge someone else’s professed faith. A matter surely for them and their maker and their professed faith.
      One can perhaps judge a tree from the fruits they bear to an extent but the rest is not for anyone else’s concern from my point of view.
      JC was the greatest iconoclast that walked this earth and many of his followers proudly follow in is tradition. I think that, that is commendable but then I would, wouldn’t I? I love those who challenge conventional thinking and traditions just as Jesus did.

  • Peter Cartlidge

    Rediculas! The whole point about the Christian life is that Jesus has overcome death through his resurrection. Very Man but very God.
    We too believe that the bible is Gods inspired word. Jesus is the word.

    Without faith it is impossible to please God! Faith in what ? Faith in Jesus his virgin birth, his humble life as a son to a family serving and working hard as a carpenter, keeping the law and living quietly until the time ordained by God for him to act. To begin his ministry. Belief in his fulfilment of scripture his persecution by his own people his trial, his betrayal, the denial by Peter and his desertion by most of his desciples. His suffering more than any man to take our suffering in himself his shedding of blood to take our sin and iniquity.
    His conquering of death and hell, his victory over sin, death, sickness, hell and Satan( the devil) and after defeating all of the above his bursting forth from the grave in resurrection power. And then his assertion to sit at the right hand of our father. But not before leaving his Holy Spirit to comfort, to guide, to fill us and to equip us with what we need to spur us on toward our home in heaven, and the reward waiting for all those who truly believe, because it is not by works and not by our power or strength but by faith in what or whom? By faith in Jesus Christ and all I have just said above that we enter heavens gates to be with him eternally.

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