on May 4, 2012
Though the resurrection is intensely practical and our faith would be shipwrecked without it, we rarely think about how the resurrection changes everything. Sam Allberry hopes to change that, I think this little introduction goes a long way down that path. His book is very well written and easy to follow. It helps as well that he tells many short anecdotes that help you conceptualize some of the concepts. The tone is conversational, and this fits perfectly the point of the book.
Allberry organizes his discussion of the resurrection life around four topics: assurance, transformation, hope, and mission. These make up the chapters of the book, and at around 30 pages each, you've got a fairly short book on your hands. But, much like a window is small from a distance, once you're up close you can see outside into a whole new world.
In the introduction, Allberry notes that generally speaking, the doctrine of the resurrection has run into two problems: (1) Credibility and (2) Relevance. After reading Wright's book, I don't see the first being a real problem, but more of a smokescreen skeptics use to dodge the claims of Christianity. The second though is a little more of a pervasive issue within the church. This means that people who don't deny the authenticity of the resurrection will have trouble with the applications of the resurrection. To alleviate this, Allberry explores four topics, which conveniently make up the four chapters of his book.
The resurrection assures of many things, but in this chapter Allberry highlights two in particular. First, it assures of who Jesus is. In Wright's language, we could say the resurrection justified Jesus as both Messiah and Lord. Allberry adds to this that it assures of Jesus as the author of life and our savior. He then explores how this realization changed the disciples before highlighting that the resurrection also assures of what Jesus has done. Without the resurrection, we'd still be lost. But, because of the resurrection, Jesus has conquered sin and death and saved us from both.
This lays the basis for the next chapter which turns to transformation. While the first chapter covered a short "theology of the resurrection," this chapter covers the application of the resurrection. In short, Allberry wants to show how the resurrection really does bring new life, and that this is indicative of the God we worship. Throughout the Old Testament we see hints of this in Abraham and David, but they are really types pointing to what God will do in Christ. Jesus was both dead in our sins (58) and physically dead. But God raised him to new life of a qualitatively different sort than any person had experienced before. Those of us who in Christ by faith participate in this new life in an already/not yet since right now. Because of this, we are no longer bound to live dead in our sins, but can start living in obedience to God.
Now, we've moved up to the window, and can see out into the world in a whole new way. From this vantage point, Allberry explores the nature of our hope as Christians and how it is anchored in the resurrection. Because first, there is a resurrection from the dead, and second, it hasn't already taken place, we have hope for a future transformation. While the previous chapter showed how the resurrection is the basis for change in the present, this chapter is more focused on how the resurrection is also the basis for our hope in future change.
The key difference between our Christian hope and other versions of hope is that ours is not "I wish this would happen" kind of hope. We are definition people of hope (81) and that hope is based on the resurrection of Jesus (93). We learn this from nature itself (94-96) and by looking at the nature of Christ's resurrected body as hope for our own eventual transformation (96-101). Ultimately the entire creation will be resurrected and restored, all on the basis of God's action of raising Christ from the dead. Because of that, we are now anchored in an already/not yet reality where the new resurrected creation in Christ overlaps the old. As Allberry concludes, "God began the resurrection project and he will surely finish it" (112).
This leads naturally to an outworking in Christian mission. Using the unique metaphor of "God coming downstairs," Allberry distinguishes Christianity from all other religions in the world. God acted in raising Christ from the dead and has exalted him in heaven. Because of this, Christianity make claims on all people and demands that Jesus be worshiped. This is the basis for all Christian missions. Though I hadn't really thought of it this way before, while the cross is our symbol, the resurrection is more of the basis for our missionary activity. As John Piper has said, "missions exists because worship doesn't," and by implication, worship of Jesus exists because the resurrection does. Allberry ties this altogether excellently in the final chapter and shows how the resurrection lays the foundation for all Christian ministry.
And with that, the book comes to an abrupt end. There is no concluding remarks, but at the same time, the book almost doesn't need them. Allberry has taken the readers on a brief journey assuring us of our salvation, transformation, and hope. With the final chapter connecting it all to mission, the resurrection paradigm is firmly in place and we should never look out the window on life the same way.
on January 15, 2013
I come from the cross-centered movement, which emphasizes the death of Christ to cover sin, but is often weaker on the other points of the gospel. My wife and I had been struggling with regular discouragement in our local church setting. People were preaching "the gospel" to us all the time - that Jesus had died for our sins and that we were forgiven, but we still weren't encouraged -a thing which only accented our discouragement, since we knew it was true and felt that we should be encouraged. While it is absolutely wonderful news that God is not angry at us, we knew thats something was missing. This book helped us to get part of what was missing - the fact that Christians have more to hope and live for than merely escaping God's wrath in hell.
Being freshly reminded of the resurrection and its wonderful promises for the believer was a beacon of hope for us in a dark time. I am so grateful for the Covenant Life pastor who recommended this book to us. Demonstrating God's victory over death, which not only atones, but creates a new life and a new hope and a new future with God, Sam Allbury helped us to see the hope that we have in the resurrection, both in this life and in the life to come. I think the most helpful thing it did for me, however, was to open my eyes to all of the wonderful passages in Scripture that talk about the hope of the resurrection that I had just glossed over before.
While I don't feel that this book exhaustively covers all of the implications of the resurrection (I doubt such a book has been written yet, if you find it let me know!), it was a great starting place for study, and a manageable size that I could actually read all the way through (I am notorious for "starting" books -this is the first book in two years that I have finished that wasn't an assignment). I am very glad to see the new edition (we had to special order form England) and plan to order copies for several friends in the not so distant future.