Nearly three-dozen organizations devoted to watching cults and aberrant Christian groups are branding as “unorthodox” and “dangerous to the church” the Resurrection teaching of a professor from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois.
Murray Harris, professor of New Testament exegesis and theology at Trinity, has come under attack by several theologians in recent years for teaching in two of his books the “immateriality” of Jesus’ resurrection body. The latest denouncement seems to spring from growing concerns that Harris’s doctrine parallels that of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who believe that “Christ was resurrected a divine spirit creature after offering the ransom for obedient man,” according to Jehovah’s Witnesses literature quoted in Walter Martin’s The Kingdom of the Cults.
“[Harris] denies that Jesus has human flesh and blood,” says Eric Pement, senior editor of Cornerstone magazine. “We do think it will probably play into the hands of the cults.”
Harris, in an interview with CHRISTIANITY TODAY, insisted that he has “always defended the bodily or physical resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” And he offered a blunt broadside to his critics, accusing them of engaging in “evangelical fratricide” and “counter-Christian activity.”
In his most recent book, From Grave to Glory (Zondervan, 1990), Harris says that Christ’s resurrection appearances were “materializations” of a “non-fleshly” body, and that believers, likewise, will be “raised from the grave in spiritual bodies,” echoing the language of 1 Corinthians 15:44.
Both Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and the Evangelical Free Church of America, its sponsor, solidly back Harris’s views as orthodox and biblical. Trinity President Kenneth Meyer claimed that various apologetics and anticult organizations are being influenced by the writings of Norman Geisler, who has vigorously attacked Harris’s views in books and articles on the Resurrection.
Leaders of these groups, though acknowledging Geisler’s role in publicizing the issue, say they are convinced Harris is unbiblical in his doctrine and that it threatens to undermine the historic foundation of the faith.
Harris’s teaching on the Resurrection “is not a resurrection at all, but a cubic doctrine,” said Duane Magnani, president of Witness Inc. Magnani is himself a former member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and his organization, which is leading the latest attack on Harris, has joined 35 organizations and cult watchers.
“We are going to the church with this issue,” Magnani said. “We will do it in a variety of ways, and we will not stop.”
Both sides say they have offered to meet to discuss the issue but that they have been rebuffed.
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