A Tale of Two Religions: Liberal Theology Without Illusions

Jones reduces the death and resurrection of Christ to an emotive experience, recasting the empty tomb not as Jesus’ triumph over sin and death but a symbolic expression of unquenchable love.

From the outset, Jones just dismisses the Bible’s consistent truth claim of the bodily, physical resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and its centrality to the gospel. The empty tomb in Mark’s gospel clearly suggests that the dead man who once resided in the tomb is now alive—furthermore, the other three gospels and the entire testimony of the New Testament is filled with the resurrection’s importance to the Christian faith and community.

 

Two times a year, during Christmas and Easter, the secular media becomes a little less secular. The historic Christian dominance within the American population necessitates this pattern, even among the most liberal and mainstream news outlets.

The cycle is easy to spot. By tradition and necessity the major news media generally turn to cover some aspect of Christianity during Christmas and Easter seasons.

That cycle continued yesterday, but in a shocking way during an interview between influential New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and Serene Jones, the president of Union Theological Seminary in New York.

Kristof, who deserved credit for giving attention to theological issues, has interviewed several major theological figures. Those conversations have appeared in his opinion column for The New York Times. His interviews have ranged from New York pastor Tim Keller to former President Jimmy Carter.

Interestingly, his interviews seem to gravitate around two crucial theological questions: the virgin birth and the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Those two theological questions rang loudly in his most recent interview with Serene Jones.

In short, as the interview unfolds, Jones overthrows the entire edifice of orthodox, biblical Christianity. She actually invents an entirely new religion.

The article begins with Kristof asking Jones, “Do you think of Easter as a literal flesh-and-blood resurrection? I have problems with that.” Jones responded by saying, “When you look at the Gospels, the stories are all over the place. There’s no resurrection story in mark, just an empty tomb. Those who claim to know whether or not it happened are kidding themselves. But that empty tomb symbolizes that the ultimate love in our lives cannot be crucified and killed.”

From the outset, Jones just dismisses the Bible’s consistent truth claim of the bodily, physical resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and its centrality to the gospel. The empty tomb in Mark’s gospel clearly suggests that the dead man who once resided in the tomb is now alive—furthermore, the other three gospels and the entire testimony of the New Testament is filled with the resurrection’s importance to the Christian faith and community.

None of this matters to Dr. Jones. She said that the empty tomb merely symbolizes that “the ultimate love in our lives cannot be crucified and killed.” Jones reduces the death and resurrection of Christ to an emotive experience, recasting the empty tomb not as Jesus’ triumph over sin and death but a symbolic expression of unquenchable love.

Kristof then asks, “But without a physical resurrection, isn’t there a risk that we are left with just the crucifixion?” The apostle Paul had this question on his mind in 1 Corinthians 15, when he wrote, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” The apostle teaches that without Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, Christians worship a dead man, cursed on a cross—and there is no hope because mankind remains under the pangs of sin.

Jones, however, views the situation quite different from the apostle. She answered, “Crucifixion is not something that God is orchestrating from upstairs. The pervasive idea of an abusive God-father who sends his own kid to the cross so God could forgive people is nuts. For me, the cross is an enactment of our human hatred. But what happens on Easter is the triumph of love in the midst of suffering. Isn’t that reason for hope?”

Let’s be clear. She is teaching a religion here – but that religion is not Christianity.

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