I’ve been listening to the latest podcast from Premier Radio’s ‘Unbelievable’ show.
Adrian represented an evangelical perspective, Jonathan a liberal approach. At one level, Jonathan tried to present the differences as, ‘Well, we both believe in the resurrection; it’s just that you believe in a physical resurrection, whereas I don’t.’ But the more they spoke, the more you could sense the yawning gulf between them. Both came to the table (well, Jonathan was on the end of a phone line) already convinced, not only of the rightness of their own beliefs, but of the wrongness of the other’s.
Of course, I agree with Adrian on the question of a physical resurrection. As for Jonathan, well, he’s probably more used to debating evangelicals that Adrian is to debating liberals, and Jonathan’s presentation was therefore slicker. But that doesn’t make Jonathan right. His bluff should be called on at least the following points:-
- he maximises the differences between the New Testament witnesses, such that none of them has anything more to offer than ‘insights’ (a favourite word of liberals, it seems);
- he maintains that Paul did not believe in a physical resurrection (never mentioning, for example, the empty tomb), and that in this he has ‘most reputable scholars’ on his side;
- he claims to have history on his side: when Adrian says that belief in a physical resurrection has been a central tenent of historic Christianity, Jonathan rejects this; but I believe that he is mistaken;
- he is liberal in everything except his attitude towards ‘fundamentalists’ and ‘conservative evangelicals’. He is not always able to hide his disdain for Adrian, using dismissive phrases such as, “If that’s the best you can do…”
- he has no coherent doctrine of Scripture. He seems content to play fast and loose (mainly loose) with its teaching, on the one hand peddling idiosyncratic readings of Paul and others, while on the other hand not regarding its teachings as in any meaningful sense authoritative.