Pastor Tim Keller Explains Why the Virgin Birth and Resurrection of Jesus Are Non-Negotiables for Him
Is it possible to be a Christian without believing in the resurrection of Jesus Christ? If you ask Tim Keller, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, the answer is a definite "no."
"If something is truly integral to a body of thought, you can't remove it without destabilising the whole thing," he wrote for The New York Times. "A religion can't be whatever we desire it to be. If I'm a member of the board of Greenpeace and I come out and say climate change is a hoax, they will ask me to resign."
Keller said he could accuse Greenpeace officials of being narrow-minded, but "they would rightly say that there have to be some boundaries for dissent or you couldn't have a cohesive, integrated organisation." Religion is the same way, he added.
Keller added that Jesus Christ's teachings here on earth, as amazing as they are, are not actually the main point of His mission. His ultimate goal was to die on the cross for people's sins, so people can have a shot at eternal life with God.
"So His important ethical teaching only makes sense when you don't separate it from these historic doctrines. If the Resurrection is a genuine reality, it explains why Jesus can say that the poor and the meek will 'inherit the earth' (Matthew 5:5). St. Paul said without a real resurrection, Christianity is useless (1 Corinthians 15:19)," he explained.
At the same time, the Christian church would be "inexplicable" if its followers didn't believe in a physical resurrection. Keller even quoted British New Testament scholar N.T. Wright as saying that it's hard to come up with "any historically plausible alternate" to the resurrection of the Son of God.
"It is hard to account for thousands of Jews virtually overnight worshipping a human being as divine when everything about their religion and culture conditioned them to believe that was not only impossible, but deeply heretical," he said. "The best explanation for the change was that many hundreds of them had actually seen Jesus with their own eyes."