The End of the Road
Do I personally believe in an afterlife? No, but to be honest, I do not find it a particularly important question one way or the other. I am not in the least bit interested in fighting those who believe or hope in it. My own interest is in how we live our lives here below. I am sure that we are called to do the will of God "on earth, as it is in heaven." Heaven, however, I leave up to God. Earth is where our responsibility lies, that is where the Kingdom of God is lost or found. Who Is Jesus? by John Dominic Crossan. Westminster John Knox Press: 1996. 131.
Before starting down a path, it is always wise to consider where that path might lead. Similarly, before adopting a certain belief, it is wise to find out the end of that belief. Historically, the biblical faith has affirmed that "Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him for ever" (The Westminster Shorter Catechism). This is much different from the belief stated by Crossan, who (throughout his writings) seems much more focused on on people's relationships to one another than on God's glory. Crossan offers little hope of enjoying God for ever, as he admits he does not even believe in an afterlife.
How can Crossan claim to be a Christian and yet disbelieve in the afterlife, when it is so obvious that Jesus taught the message of everlasting life? For in the Gospel of John chapter 3 Jesus directly connects the message of the Kingdom of God (which Crossan wishes to confine to the time we have on earth) with everlasting life through faith in Him (see John 3:3, 16).
Crossan attempts to get around this clear teaching by denying that the Gospel of John is authentic as historic narrative. What is his basis for doing so? One reason is that the Gospel of John contains so much material that is not found in the synoptic Gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark and Luke). The other is that the Gospel account of John contains language that strongly identifies Jesus as God Himself, and Crossan's theory is that Jesus was not identified as God until long after His death.
But are these objections persuasive from a historical standpoint? Are there other explanations for the unique material and the high Christology in John that do not require this book to be a fraud? For the Gospel of John is certainly a fraud if it is not an eyewitness account of historical events, as the author places such emphasis on his veracity as a witness to the events he records, as demonstrated in John 21:24, which I have quoted before, and also in John 19:35, "He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe" (ESV).
But if the author of the Gospel of John had the synoptics before him as he wrote or had a knowledge of these accounts, then it makes perfect sense that he would focus on reporting important information that was not previously recorded. This explanation would make much better sense than the idea that the writer of this Gospel was a liar who hypocritically portrays Jesus naming Himself as the Truth (see John 14:6).
And the idea that the identification of Jesus with God developed over decades is historically bogus as well. For Crossan admits that the Pauline epistles were written in the 50s-60s A.D. (page 126 of his book quoted above) and these letters contian a similarly high Christology (see Philippians 2:5-7,Colossians 1:15-22). In Titus 2:13 Paul even goes so far as to refer to Jesus as "our great God and Savior" (on why it is grammatically certain that these titles both refer specifically to Jesus in this passage, see this essay Granville Sharp's Rule).
And so any reasonable basis for Crossan's rejection of the Gospel of John as true historical narrative has been proven false. It is clear, therefore, that the quote given by Crossan is in direct conflict with this teaching of Jesus as recorded by John.
Please pause to pray for John Dominic Crossan, that he would submit to the teaching of Jesus and be given the gift of everlasting life, which he now denies.
For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (Mark 8:36-37 NKJV)
[Originally posted on 8/14/05.]