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Murray Harris has views of the resurrection body of Jesus which fall within the statement of faith for the Evangelical Free Church in spite of the fact that the body is not a human body.

Another issue of doctrinal tolerance that received a great deal of attention in the Free Church 15-20 years ago was the view of TEDS Professor Murray J. Harris on the nature of the resurrection body. Since I was Chairman of the Ministerial Association at the time of that controversy, I was intimately involved in the controversy and had extensive correspondence with the principals– Harris, Geisler, Culver, and others. While Harris repeatedly affirmed the EFCA Statement of Faith "without mental reservation," he did espouse some unusual views on the nature of Christ's resurrection body and the resurrection body of the believer. Since our Statement of Faith speaks only of the "fact" of a bodily resurrection and does not describe the "nature" of that body, Dr. Harris was judged by Free Church leaders to be in compliance (and I think rightly so). But the controversy raised a legitimate question: just how unusual can a view be and still be acceptable? (Drawing Doctrinal Lines: Where? And How?, EFCA)

Harris teaches that the resurrection body of Jesus was invisible and immaterial.

Some evangelicals take issue with Harris’ view. That being said, do the statements of faiths in Evangelical denominations allow for Jesus to have been resurrected with an invisible and immaterial body? Can those who hold this view teach it from the pulpit?

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There's no authenticating body for evangelicalism, so who could stop an "evangelical" church preaching heresy if that's what they decided they wanted to do? But to teach an immaterial resurrection does go against the clear teaching of the Bible and many other statements of historic Christian, Protestant, Reformed, and evangelical teaching:

Luke 24:38-39 (NIV): He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

39 Articles, #4: Christ did truly rise again from death, and took again his body, with flesh, bones, and all things appertaining to the perfection of Man's nature; wherewith he ascended into Heaven, and there sitteth, until he return to judge all Men at the last day.

WCF 8.4: This office the Lord Jesus did most willingly undertake, which, that he might discharge, he was made under the law, and did perfectly fulfill it; endured most grievous torments immediately in his soul, and most painful sufferings in his body; was crucified and died; was buried, and remained under the power of death, yet saw no corruption. On the third day he arose from the dead, with the same body in which he suffered; with which also he ascended into heaven, and there sitteth at the right hand of his Father, making intercession; and shall return to judge men and angels, at the end of the world.

WCF 32.3: The bodies of the unjust shall, by the power of Christ, be raised to dishonour; the bodies of the just, by his Spirit, unto honour, and be made conformable to his own glorious body.

SBC The Baptist Faith and Message, IIB: He was raised from the dead with a glorified body and appeared to His disciples as the person who was with them before His crucifixion.

The Confessional Statement of the Gospel Coalition, #7, 13: He perfectly obeyed his heavenly Father, lived a sinless life, performed miraculous signs, was crucified under Pontius Pilate, arose bodily from the dead on the third day, and ascended into heaven. ... We believe in the personal, glorious, and bodily return of our Lord Jesus Christ with his holy angels, when he will exercise his role as final Judge, and his kingdom will be consummated.

The IFES statement of belief: The bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead and his ascension to the right hand of God the Father.

National Association of Evangelicals Statement of Faith: We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and in His personal return in power and glory.

Many of these statements do only say the "bodily resurrection", but to conclude that they are compatible with an immaterial resurrection is to completely divorce these statements of faith from their historical contexts and originally intended meanings. These modern statements are much shorter than the reformation era statements of the 39 Articles and the Westminster Confession of Faith, and it is reasonable to read them in line with the more verbose statements that preceded them; if the modern statements were intended to contrast with the earlier statements they would have been explicit about it. As usual, we can trust the WCF to be precise in its verbosity: the resurrection of Jesus was not just in any body, but the same body in which he suffered.

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  • My quote from EFCA does say that for their organization an invisible and immaterial body complies. I disagree that a human body is a clear teaching. Ask that question in Christianity and I will answer it. ;) – Thomas Pearne Feb 10 at 1:35
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    @ThomasPearne As I said, if a church like the EFCA wants to teach heresy (of course they wouldn't consider it to be heresy themselves), who can stop them? – curiousdannii Feb 10 at 1:36
  • I did provide a link to the larger association of which they are a part. I am sure it has a statement of faith. – Thomas Pearne Feb 10 at 1:56
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    @ThomasPearne The NAE is itself just one organisation. I quoted its statement of faith in my answer. They probably didn't intend their statement to be read as compatible with an immaterial resurrection, but even if they did, they don't define evangelicalism. I would say that the vaguer phrases in the modern statements should be read in line with the more verbose reformation era statements; if they intended their statements to be contrasting they would have made that explicit. – curiousdannii Feb 10 at 2:00
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    @ThomasPearne I'm not sure. He apparently regrets the word immaterial and "Harris now holds to the resurrection of Jesus in a physical body with 'flesh and bones' and that believers will be raised in their 'physical' bodies." I think he may have been trying to teach that Jesus' post-resurrection body could become non-material, which I'm not sure I'd disagree with, though I'd say that would be temporary and unnatural, rather than the natural state of it. – curiousdannii Feb 10 at 2:12

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