29 April 2009

By His Own Power

For a number of reasons, I'm a little more than a month behind in most of my projects right now (actually, I'm a whole year behind in one project). This is why I took a three week break in my podcasts over Easter instead of only one. Seven weeks ago, I heard someone say something theologically incorrect, and it's taken until now before I address it. I didn't correct this person at the time because in this situation I had to look up specific biblical passages to back up my correction. It was actually the beginning of the Intercessions in Tuesday's Morning Prayer that prompted me to finally get busy on this one.

This is the erroneous theological statement that I heard:
"Christ did not rise from the dead of his own accord. God raised him from the dead."

You may say that only the first sentence of this statement is erroneous, but when both sentences are put together, they imply a thoroughly heretical thought. By itself, the second sentence is correct. God did raise Christ from the dead, and since Christ is God, it could be said that Christ raised Himself from the dead. However, when these two sentences are put together, a distinction is made between Christ and God. By saying that God, and not Christ, raised Christ from the dead, it is implied that Christ is not God. This is heresy.

I am quite sure that the particular person that made this statement does believe that Christ is God, and didn't realise the implication of this statement. I'm sure that the only intention was to emphasise the role of God the Father in Christ's resurrection. This is why I said that it was "theologically incorrect" and not actually heretical.

Now onto the statement that prompted me to finally get around to writing this. This is how the Intercessions begin in Morning Prayer for the Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter:
"By his own power Christ raised up the temple of his body when it had been destroyed in death."

I found the same wording, "by His own power," in a section from a creed composed by a unknown theologian of the fifth century, which was received by the Council of Toledo XI in 675, and possible approved by Pope Innocent III:
[The Redemption] In this form of assumed human nature we believe according to the truth of the Gospels that He was conceived without sin, born without sin, and died without sin, who alone for us became sin [II Cor. 5:21], that is, a sacrifice for out sin. And yet He endured His passion without detriment to His divinity, for out sins, and condemned to death and to the cross, He accepted the true death of the body; also on the third day, restored by His own power, He arose from the grave.

The most convincing proof that Jesus rose from the dead by His own accord is His own words in John 2:19-22:
Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." The Jews then said, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?" But he spoke of the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.

Note that He did not say, "God will raise it up," but, "I will raise it up."

John 10:17-18 also says the same thing:
For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from my Father.”

Here Christ states that he has the power to lay down His life and raise it up again by His own accord. However, He also says that He received this charge from His Father.

Christ did not act alone in the Resurrection, but in the unity of the Trinity. Here are a couple of passages that cite the action of the Father and Holy Spirit in the Resurrection.
We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4)

... and designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord... (Romans 1:4)

Pauline theology tends to emphasise that the Father raised Christ from the dead, whereas Johannine theology tends to emphasise Christ raising Himself from the dead. Both are correct (obviously, they're in the Bible). Negating either one creates not only unsound theology, it open the door to heresy.

Addendum May 12, 2009

As Easter progresses, the Liturgy of the Hours gives a fuller expression of the Trinitarian source of the Resurrection. The Intercessions in Morning Prayer for the Friday of the Fourth Week of Easter begin with this:
God the Father raised up Christ through the Spirit, and will also raise up our mortal bodies.

The Intercessions in Evening Prayer for the Fifth Week of Easter begin with this:
The Holy Spirit raised the body of Christ to life and made it the source of life.