Does God Rescue or Redeem?
Does the resurrection of Jesus show that God always rescues or always redeems?
Does God Rescue or Redeem?
KEVIN HARRIS: Welcome to Reasonable Faith with Dr. William Lane Craig. I’m Kevin Harris. A real treat for you today at the end of today’s podcast. A listener has sent us a piece of music that he composed and performed, and it was inspired by Dr. Craig’s fine-tuning argument. It is called “Observers.” You’ll love this. It is absolutely beautiful. I’ll play the entire song at the end of today’s podcast, and we will put a link so that you can watch the video that accompanies it on YouTube. Find that link at ReasonableFaith.org right at this podcast link. I want to thank John Lindsey, again, for a beautiful piece of music and for sending that.
Today’s podcast really hits home with me in that many of you know I’ve experienced profound tragedy in my family. It talks about God not always rescuing us but always redeeming us.
We come back to the resurrection time and time again, Bill. As Gary Habermas says, is there really anything else? [laughter] Dr. Craig, in your work on the resurrection you’ve done something very crucial for all of us. And that is show the historic grounds – the grounds for why it is true. But there is also a lot of theology that comes out of the resurrection, isn’t there? Practical application to our daily lives. I wanted you to look at this article because I think it brings that out. “The Resurrection As Revealing God As Redeemer, Not As Rescuer.” This is from blogger Ron Rolheiser.
Let me just ask you right off the bat. Do you think that the resurrection shows God as our redeemer and not merely someone who swoops in and rescues us?
DR. CRAIG: In combination with the crucifixion it does seem to me that that is what it shows. Jesus is not prevented from being tortured and crucified, but then he is vindicated as God raises him from the dead. But he went through the pain and humiliation of crucifixion.
KEVIN HARRIS: He says,
. . . the resurrection won’t save us from humiliation, pain, and death in this life. Faith isn’t meant to do that. Jesus doesn’t grant special exemptions to his friends, no more than God granted special exemptions to Jesus. We see this everywhere in the Gospels, though most clearly in Jesus’ resurrection. To understand this, it’s helpful to compare Jesus’ resurrection to what Jesus himself does in raising Lazarus from the dead.
Obviously, that gets to the point that Jesus allowed Lazarus to die, then went. He actually went there grieving. Then he raised Lazarus from the dead. Mary and Martha, of course, are going, Why weren’t you here? Then Jesus asked the Father, Lord, is there any other way for me to go through this? Please! Take this cup from me. But he is not spared. Nevertheless, your will be done. Two of those things point that God doesn’t always rescue us but he always redeems us.
DR. CRAIG: I think what Ron is saying is that the pattern is that God doesn’t rescue us from the troubles and trials of life but allows us to go through them. But ultimately he wants to say there will be redemption. It is important to understand that he is not here espousing a sort of cheery optimism that there is a silver lining behind every cloud. He is not saying that. He recognizes that some people die, I’m sure, in horrible accidents or in martyr’s deaths or with illness and unredeemed suffering in terms of this life. But he says Jesus doesn’t promise us
rescue, exemptions, immunity from cancer, or escape from death. He promised rather that, in the end, there will be redemption, vindication, immunity from suffering, and eternal life.
That shows that what Ron is talking about is in the afterlife. That is when the redemption will come – when every tear is wiped away and suffering and death are banished. But in the meantime he says that God typically allows us to go through those things.
I do think this has profound implications. If you go to a Christian prayer meeting, very often it will sound like a list of medical problems. Everybody wants prayer for healing. But if Rolheiser is right, it is not God’s will to rescue us from those sorts of illnesses and infirmities. Most people will not get a miraculous healing. Many of them will have to suffer with those diseases and injuries. But ultimately there will be redemption in the afterlife. I think this is profoundly important.
KEVIN HARRIS: He uses a word here in about the sixth paragraph - “ordinarily.” I think that is important. He says it
teaches a very important lesson about Jesus, God, and faith, namely, that God is not a God who ordinarily rescues us, but is rather a God who redeems us. God doesn’t ordinarily intervene to save us from humiliation, pain, and death; rather he redeems humiliation, pain, and death after the fact.
I think the word “ordinarily” we can also use the word “normatively” because in biblical theology I’ve noticed that there are normative things – what God does in the course of events that are rather normative – and then there are things that are rather spectacular, or rather not typical, or atypical. God certainly has every prerogative to do that.
DR. CRAIG: Yes, of course. I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t pray for miracles or pray for healing. But I do think we should recognize that ordinarily God isn’t going to rescue us from life’s shortcomings and infirmities. This is a veil of tears that we go through. Paul says that our bodily nature is wasting away every day. The whole creation groans in travail for its ultimate redemption. Paul says that we have the down payment of the Spirit within in a regenerated spirit, but we have it in these earthen vessels – the metaphor he uses is an earthware pot that is fragile and disintegrating. That is our bodies. But ultimately we’ll receive the resurrection body; this physical body will be redeemed from death and suffering and disease.
KEVIN HARRIS: If I could talk to Ron I would want to know why he wrote this article. He seems to be motivated by perhaps people treating God like he was solely our rescuer. I don’t know. Do you see that?
DR. CRAIG: Think of the health and wealth gospel that is preached from so many pulpits today where they say that it is not God’s will that you be unhealthy or poor. That is so patently false, I think. That sort of a gospel won’t preach in Syria. It won’t preach in North Korea. It won’t preach in the Sudan. And if it won’t preach there it is not the real Gospel.
KEVIN HARRIS: That is huge right now. That is just a huge movement that seems to continue and to spread. This stands four-square against that. I think he’s right. That is shown from the resurrection account of Lazarus and Jesus’ own resurrection.
DR. CRAIG: Yes, I couldn’t agree more.
KEVIN HARRIS: One thing that we talked about over lunch is we don’t know how often God has rescued us today! This light could have fallen on my head two hours ago; maybe God did intervene because it is not my time yet or so on and so forth. It is kind of hard to see the ways that God may have sustained us because we have to manage our expectations. Bill, how can you bring this home?
DR. CRAIG: I think we put our eyes upon Jesus. I find Christianity so remarkable because we follow a crucified Savior – a person who has been through the depths of physical suffering and despair ahead of us. So no matter what a person suffers in this life he can look to the Savior for strength and encouragement to get through it in the same way that Jesus did. It is wonderful that we don’t follow a Buddha or a Moses or a Krishna, but we follow a Savior who has born all of the suffering that we could imagine, not to mention the sin of the world, in order to redeem us.
KEVIN HARRIS: I’ve noticed a lot of the Psalms, though, ask God to rescue. Lord, rescue me! Rescue me from my enemies.
DR. CRAIG: Yes, and Paul asked Christians to pray for him that he would be delivered from his opponents in Jerusalem. And we know that he wasn’t. He was, in fact, arrested and transported off to Caesarea and finally to Rome to stand trial. That is an example in Scripture of prayers for deliverance that were not answered by God. But that doesn’t mean that those prayers were therefore inappropriate or ill-conceived.
KEVIN HARRIS: So it is appropriate to pray for rescue?
DR. CRAIG: I think so, just recognizing that this isn’t God’s modus operandi most of the time.
KEVIN HARRIS: You said something as well in a former podcast that I think really resonated with so many. That is – often we pray strictly for perhaps healing or for a situation to change, and neglect to pray for the sanctification and maturity and the closeness with God and all of those things to come out of this.
DR. CRAIG: Isn’t that right? How short-sighted we are that we don’t pray that God’s redemptive purpose would be achieved in the lives of those who suffer. We need to pray for them that they will have courage, that their faith will not fail, that they will draw closer to God and increase in their sanctification, as you say, so that God’s purposes will be achieved through suffering even as we pray for their deliverance or healing.
KEVIN HARRIS: It kind of reminds me of what Tevye said in Fiddler on the Roof. His neighbor said, Sometimes riches can be a curse. And Tevye said, May the Lord smite me with it! [laughter] We pray for things best as we know how. What is the verse that talks about you can’t even compare the sufferings of this world?
DR. CRAIG: That is in 2 Corinthians 4. Paul says, For I consider that the sufferings of this present life are not even worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. I think that is a deep insight. As we spend time with God in eternity the sufferings of this life will shrink by comparison to an infinitesimal moment. That is why Paul can refer to them as a brief, temporary affliction. They are just overwhelmed by the eternity of divine blessedness and joy that we will spend in heaven.
 See http://ronrolheiser.com/the-resurrection-as-revealing-god-as-redeemer-not-as-rescuer (accessed August 22, 2016).
 Total Running Time: 15:19 (Copyright © 2016 William Lane Craig)