The Foundational Christian Doctrine You May Not Believe

Since its inception, the Christian church has considered a handful of important doctrines to be of central importance to the faith. These truths provide frame on which everything else hangs, to the point that failing to embrace them can result in one effectively practicing another religion.

This is one reason why Christians have often summarized these doctrines in creeds and confessions. These tools are meant to teach vital truths to those new to the faith, and remind even those who’ve long followed Jesus Christ of the same.

That said, the church is apparently doing a poor job with at least one of these biblical truths.

According to a recent, large-scale data collection project called Relationships in America, approximately one in every four evangelical Christians who attend services three times a month gave a negative answer to the following question: “Do you think there will be a bodily resurrection, that is, where the bodies of deceased persons will rise again?”

To put it another way, it’s good bet that roughly twenty-five percent of regular attenders at The Crossing each Sunday morning—and therefore maybe a few people who are reading this post—hold to something other than the following portion of the Nicene Creed:

We look forward to the resurrection from the dead.

Or this statement from the Apostles’ Creed:

I believe…in the resurrection of the body.

Or this part of the Westminster Confession:

At the last day, such as are found alive shall not die, but be changed: and all the dead shall be raised up with the self-same bodies, and none other, although with different qualities, which shall be united again to their souls forever.

Or, more fundamentally, the many biblical passages on which the above statements are based, such as the following two from 1 Corinthians 15:

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain (vv. 12-14).

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive (vv. 20-22).

To be fair, many who would not affirm our bodily resurrection do actually believe in some kind of afterlife. In this kind of conception, we’re thought to live on as something like a benign ghost or spirit, having freed ourselves from our corrupted flesh.

So what’s the harm? So long as we get the eternal part of eternal life right, does it really matter if we’re wrong about some of details? What’s so important about affirming the resurrection of our physical bodies? The following isn’t exhaustive, but it will at least start us in the right direction.

Affirming the doctrine of resurrection affirms the goodness of our bodies and of physical creation in general, as well as God’s commitment to reclaim it from the destructive effects of sin. The idea that we’ll leave our bodies behind in eternity suggests that they are inherently flawed or evil by nature and therefore something we need to be liberated from. Consequently, this kind of thinking is more likely to see the things we do with our bodies in the physical world—eating, sex, vocations or activities in which we work with our hands, etc.—as lesser or even evil pursuits.

By contrast, God’s own evaluation of his creation—which obviously included not only our bodies and but also countless other physical things—was that it was “very good” (Gen. 1:31). God’s promise to one day resurrect our bodies is his endorsement of this inherent goodness: what God values, he redeems and glorifies. It also points to the fact that sin, rather than our physical nature, is our fundamental problem.  And that the activities just mentioned? Rather than view them as sinful or second class by nature, we’re to see them as worthwhile human occupations that may be valued and enjoyed when properly pursued.


HT: Mark Regnerus and R. R. Reno


  1. D Lammy said:

    One of the pastors at a PCA church we attended after we left Columbia used this doctrine as the basis for his vehement opposition to cremation, even going to far to state that (my paraphrase) it was a sinful choice of burial. This stance has bewildered me a bit as I’m not sure how it can be applied to those who have died in ways where their bodies were completely destroyed – not by choice, but circumstance.

    I was just wondering your thoughts.

  2. Ashley said:

    I’m wondering the same!

  3. Josh P. said:

    Wny would it be any harder for the Omnipotent God of the Universe who gathered atoms to create us, have any problem putting those atoms back together again whether from the decomposed body that has been in a coffin for 100’s of years (or more) or from a cremation?

  4. Nathan Tiemeyer said:

    Sorry it’s taken me a bit to reply, D Lammy. I’m inclined to agree with Josh on this. Given a long enough time, all of our bodies deteriorate radically. So I don’t think I’d rule out cremation, for example. (“Ashes to ashes and dust to dust.”) On the other hand, I think it’s completely appropriate for someone to prefer or choose a bodily burial out of respect for the biblical perspective on our bodies and physical creation.

  5. steeve said:

    This also underscores the point that the ultimate endgame is a renewal of _this_ creation, not an escape from this horrible place to some paradise. Being good stewards of this planet is not irrelevant.

  6. Adam DeLuca said:

    This is my first reply, I thought every square inch was more of a blog or forum, so not sure really where to drop this, but it must be said:

    “144,000 accurate but not exact” ???

    What does it all mean? Haha

    (12 tribes x’s 12 apostles x’s many)

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