Jim Rigby is not a name that will resonate with many. However, Rigby represents far deeper than just the person behind the name. Rigby represents that which is wrong with certain branches of so-called Christianity. Jim Rigby, the teaching elder at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church of Austin, Texas wrote the following on his social media page on Christmas of 2015: “Apparently, because I don’t believe in a literal resurrection, I’m not really a Christian…This also means I won’t be going to Heaven with many of you.” Mocking the traditional gospel message, Rigby continues his rant in saying, “All that matters is that we admit that we are worthless trash, but that Jesus likes us anyway. Oh, and we have to LITERALLY believe Jesus’ corpse got up…So, anyway, if you believe the ‘good news,’ your physical cadaver will get up too. Hopefully, someone will remember where you are buried and come dig you up.”
Shocking as it may be, Rigby—a supposed Christian leader—treats the gospel message with more contempt than most atheists would. Houston, we have a problem!!!
There are many things I would like to say about Rigby’s comments. However, I will contain my comments to one general area.
Must one believe in the literal resurrection of Christ to be a Christian?
Well, let’s examine this with four points.
1. Every religion possesses qualifiers.
Norman Geisler writes that “The only alternatives to analogy are skepticism or dogmatism: Either we know nothing about God, or we assume that we know things in the same infinite way in which he knows them.” Only the atheist would assume that one can know nothing about God. Thus, nearly every other worldview would accept that certain things are knowable about God.
Every religion holds qualifiers. For Islam, the Muslim is expected to say the Shahada, an Islamic creed which holds the oneness of God and that Muhammed is God’s prophet. Buddhists are expected to accept the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. Jews are expected to hold to the Shema (from Deuteronomy 6:4).
These qualifiers help distinguish the core fundamentals of the particular belief system. Without the qualifiers, the belief system would become non-existent.
2. Christianity is a religion.
Christianity is a religion and thus possesses qualifiers. Meaning, Christianity is a system of beliefs. These qualifiers distinguish the Christian worldview from other worldviews.
3. One of the earliest qualifiers for Christianity was the belief in the literal resurrection of Christ.
Without exception, Christianity was built upon the belief that Jesus of Nazareth walked out of the grave that first Easter Sunday. Paul writes, “if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless…And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins…And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world” (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17, 19, NLT). Scholars universally consider 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 as a pre-New Testament formulation that dates to the earliest church. The text reads,
“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born” (1 Corinthians 15:3-8, NIV).
Thus, from the very beginning the church focused upon the literal resurrection of Jesus.
4. Therefore, the belief in the bodily resurrection of Christ is a qualifier for Christianity.
If the literal resurrection was a building block of the earliest church, then to say otherwise would be to dismiss one of the cornerstones of the Christian message. Thus, if one denies the cornerstone of the Christian faith—the literal resurrection of Christ—then one would not find oneself within the parameters of the Christian worldview.
The apostle Paul provides an excellent synopsis to this problem. Paul wrote to the Galatians,
“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:6-10, ESV).
It seems to me that Paul pegs the problem quite nicely. One must choose whether God or humanity will be served. Denying the core essentials of the gospel places one outside the boundaries of Christianity. I fear Jim Rigby finds himself in such a position. It is my prayer that Rigby will find himself back into the fold of orthodox Christianity.
On another note, it concerns me how several people are attempting to stretch the boundaries of what constitutes Christianity, making Christianity into something that it was not intended.
Jesus did not come to help us feel good about ourselves. Jesus came to save us from ourselves–to save us from our sin. Which leaves us with this question…
If the Resurrection doesn’t constitute Christianity, than what does?
© January 5, 2016. Brian Chilton.
Clark, Heather. “‘I’ll Try to Keep Down My Screams of Agony’: Resurrection-Denying ‘Pastor’ Mocks Being Hellbound.” ChristianNews.net (January 2, 2016). Accessed January 4, 2016. http://christiannews.net/2016/01/02/ill-try-to-keep-down-my-screams-of-agony-resurrection-denying-pastor-mocks-being-hellbound/
Geisler, Norman L. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Baker Reference Library. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999.
 Jim Rigby quoted in Heather Clark, “‘I’ll Try to Keep Down My Screams of Agony’: Resurrection-Denying ‘Pastor’ Mocks Being Hellbound,” ChristianNews.net (January 2, 2016), retrieved January 4, 2016.
 Norman L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 22.
 Scripture marked NLT comes from the New Living Translation (Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2013).
 Scripture marked NIV comes from the New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011).
 Scripture marked ESV comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).