(Photo: REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas)
As Easter Sunday approaches, pastors across the nation are gearing up to preach about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In their new e-book, Raised? Doubting the Resurrection, pastors Jonathan Dodson and Brad Watson help readers wrestle with tough questions regarding the Christian Savior's miraculous return to life.
Watson, a pastor of Bread and Wine Communities in Portland, Ore., and director of GospelCenteredDiscipleship.com, and Dodson, lead pastor of City Life Church in Austin, Texas, and author of Gospel-Centered Discipleship and Unbelievable Gospel, have made the e-book available for free via download.
In an e-mail interview with The Christian Post, Dodson shared his thoughts on skepticism, the importance of the resurrection and the purpose of the book.
CP: Why did you write Raised? Doubting the Resurrection?
Dodson: Brad Watson and I wrote this book out of our love for skeptics and appreciation for the questions they help us ask. We realize how incredible the resurrection of man (much less God) from the dead sounds. Even Jesus' disciples doubted the resurrection, and Jesus was standing right in front of them. Too often Christians look down on those who doubt, but Christ, we see a response that engages doubt, addresses the intellect, and speaks to the heart. We try to follow that example.
We also wrote the book to promote better Gospel thinking for discipleship. Evangelicals spend so much time on the cross yet so very little on the resurrection. Our Gospel is imbalanced. Therefore, we try to show what difference the resurrection makes to dying, social justice, celebration, and a life of generosity. As a result, the word Easter doesn't even appear in the book. However, we do see an opportunity to bless churches with a short, deep, practical and readable book on the resurrection they could give away on Easter.
Probably the most compelling reason we wrote the book is because we are so taken with the resurrected Jesus. We couldn't help ourselves. We felt a genuine prompting from the Holy Spirit. I was actually supposed to release a book on practical disciple-making, but sensed the Spirit redirecting me to this work. It's been encouraging to see, after over 10,000 downloads in less than a week, just how much is being accomplished through this short book.
CP: In the book you and co-author Brad Watson embrace skepticism as a good thing. Can you explain why?
Dodson: I've noticed that people who don't question their faith can end up abandoning it. Life forces us to ask some difficult questions about the nature and purposes of God. Job and the Psalms show us a faith that is raw, invites inquiry, and embraces honesty in the presence of God. Even Jesus himself queried God: "My God, my God why have you forsaken me?" When people cover up doubts and difficulties with blind faith, they actually miss an opportunity to trust God more. Peter, the brash man of faith who broke down and abandoned Jesus under pressure, teaches us that God appoints trials so notional faith can be tested and made genuine. He wants us move from "Just trust God" to "Here is why I can trust God." When we question our faith in Christ, faith in Christ can become stronger not weaker. God is big enough to handle our doubts.
CP: Would you consider yourself a skeptic? How does that affect your worldview and relationship with Christ?
Dodson: I don't naturally doubt. I've actually learned to be skeptical. It probably started when I was studying anthropology and philosophy in college. After Ancient Philosophy class, I would head to a local bar with all my non-Christian friends listen to their questions, wrestle with doubts, and ponder the deeper things of life. I came alive in those discussions. Since then, I've lived in progressive, well-educated cities for 15 years, where people ask a lot of good questions. Listening to people's objections and doubts about the Christian faith has helped me become more thoughtful and loving. I've come to appreciate genuine intellectual concerns, as well as the stories that come attached to them. Though not always, very often, doubt grows alongside injustice or pain. The Gospel has deep resources for both. Jesus came to show us a God who compassionately dives deep into our doubts, who even invites our ridicule, in order to reveal a solution to all injustice. Most profoundly, he falls on the grenade for the injustice of – not our doubts – but our willful self-worship. He dies to set us free from assigning ultimate value to our intellect, looks, and achievements (good or bad), in order to discover the enduring value of his truth, beauty, and goodness.
CP: Why is the resurrection so important?
Dodson: The resurrection of Jesus is important because it signals the hope of a whole new world. Without the resurrection, all we really have is survival of the fittest, then death. This renders life relatively meaningless. It eviscerates hope. In Jesus' body, we find a preview of things to come, a promise of a whole new world, along with a new body. The resurrection implies that people aren't witless spirits or a random, meaningless series of biological mutations. They are made in the image of God, even if they evolved, and are worth resurrecting. Jesus embraces all wrong, including our own, to make all things right. The deep down longings for perfect love, enduring justice, and never-ending joy consummated in Christ and his new creation.
You should want the resurrection to be true because it changes everything.