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The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

This work was one of Christianity Today’s “Books of the Year” and, as its title suggests, is centered on the resurrection of Jesus, which the author believes is the “core of the core” of the gospel. The author’s stated purpose is found on the first page: “This book is about the theological significance and ongoing relevance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ in the twenty-first century, including and maybe especially in its times of crisis. It seeks to offer a message of defiant hope for the Christian, for the church, for all humanity, and for all creation” (p. 1).

After spending one chapter defending the historic reality of the resurrection, Ross Hastings, who is a professor of theology at Regent College, moves immediately to reasons the resurrection matters, offering five chapters demonstrating its importance, beginning with the fact that the atonement is not complete without the resurrection (p. 17). Christ did what no one had ever done—defeated death in His humanity and as a result defeated death for humanity (p. 34).

Hastings covers many subjects related to resurrection including the intermediate state (pp. 89-90), the bodily resurrection of the saints (pp. 159-160), the glorified bodies believers will inhabit for all eternity, Christ’s present ministry as sustainer, shepherd, and worship leader (pp. 125-132), the final judgment (pp. 91-93) and the ultimate destination of both the saved and the damned (pp. 166-168). Hastings grapples with numerous theological issues and primarily takes a conservation view of most of them. His thesis that without the resurrection there is no Christianity (p. 5) is well supported.

Unfortunately, Hastings stumbles at many junctures. He:

  • places too much emphasis on the Christus Victor theory of the atonement, although he does not reject the vicarious view (pp. xii, 35, 39, 40-41, 102).
  • promotes inaugurated eschatology (p. 79), stating often that the kingdom is present now and will be fulfilled in the future (pp. xii, 79-80, 151-157).
  • believes that Jesus actually took on a sinful nature but cleansed it (p. 27), yet restates this theory by saying Jesus somehow carried sinful human nature upon Himself, not within Himself (pp. 28-29).
  • draws on Hans Boersma’s sanctification through contemplation view (pp. 37, 50), Dallas Willard’s spiritual disciplines, including Lectio Divina (pp. 52, 74, 136), Karl Barth’s theory of vocation (p. 60, 136-137), and N.T. Wright’s understanding about heaven (pp. 7, 9-10, 61-63, 89, 168).
  • strongly supports the Cultural Mandate as on equal footing with the Great Commandments and the Great Commission (pp. 55-58, 62, 90).
  • couples the biblical gospel with the social gospel, which is demanded by his view of the Cultural Mandate (pp. 62-64).
  • believes we will reign co-creators with God (p. 90).
  • sees believers at the Great White Throne Judgment (p. 91).
  • opens the door to both annihilationism and purgatory, while still calling on his readers to take hell seriously (pp. 91-93, 166-168).
  • states that death existed before the fall, even among “the species that were precursors to the first persons over whom God declared His image” (p. 101). These precursors apparently were some form of humanoids that were not created in the image of God (p. 141).

While much of The Resurrection of Jesus Christ was helpful and insightful, the above concerns prevent me from recommending the book.

by W. Ross Hastings (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2022) 191 pp & xii, paper $23.41

Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor-teacher at Southern View Chapel