The Resurrection Is Our Only Hope
No Resurrection: Theistic Nihilism or Atheistic Nihilism
Jesus Christ rose from the grave, resurrected. This blog will be suspending truth in order to discuss the worldview ramifications if the Messiah did not resurrect from the grave. The reason why this topic is important is that the study of the hopeless situation mankind would be without it helps us appreciate the fact that we have a risen and victorious savior. The technical argument will be, if Jesus never resurrected, then we have two viable options: theistic nihilism or atheistic nihilism.
Nihilism in General
Before one can address the different nuances of nihilism, one must address nihilism’s general outlook. Nihilism can be seen as a destructive brother to the family of worldviews. Its main premise is to rebel against all established authority, tradition, and philosophy. James Sire describes it like this,
“If (nihilism) proceeds to the absolute denial of everything, it even denies the reality of existence itself. . .Nihilism is the negation of everything.”
Nihilism does not make any positive statements, it merely wants to be freed from the “chains” that all the other man-made and subjective worldviews put on it.
Solomonic Theistic Nihilism
Theistic Nihilism is for the theist, or in other words, for the person who believes in a personal God. Religious men from various religions outside of Christianity have religions and worldviews that are man-centered; these also are based on man’s ability to get to Heaven through their religion’s set of works. However, those good works cannot undo mankind’s evil. The Bible says that if we break one law, we break all the laws (James 2:10). So based on the Word of God, all of mankind is rebellious and criminal, having broken the laws of the King of the universe’s kingdom. Thus, the justice system of God has all of mankind on its wanted list.
The condition of man at best, without redemption, is fleshed out in Ecclesiastes. While giving a summary of Nihilism, Church History Theologian from Chicago Seminary, Clyde L. Manschreck, claimed that
“Nihilism reaches as far back as Ecclesiastes in our Old Testament.”
Solomon does the work of a philosopher when he walks through all the different potential avenues man might travel to find ultimate purpose. The pursuits that Solomon puts forward were: wisdom, labor, pleasure seeking, heritage, and wealth. In the end, he concluded that none of these individual avenues satisfy man’s inner longing. The factor that sets Ecclesiastes apart from the rest of the scriptures is that it’s primarily focused on this earth or what Solomon calls “under the sun.” After he works through the different options, he essentially said that if man is examining just this life, then nothing on this earth satisfies. He says it as such,
“Go then, eat your bread in happiness and drink your wine with a cheerful heart; for God has already approved your works”.
Essentially, nothing under the sun matters, so just enjoy this life. If there is no after life to add into the equation, man is left with a vain laboring that leads to being forgotten and all our assets being given to another when a man dies.
Pauline Theistic Nihilism
In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul puts his apologist philosopher hat on. He starts talking in theory about the resurrection not happening so that his readers can understand how pivotal the resurrection is. In Thomas Charles Edwards’ commentary on 1 Corinthians, he argues that if the resurrection did not happen,
“the entire edifice of Christian joy falls to the ground.”
John Calvin, in his commentary on Corinthians, unpacks the reason why Edward’s claim is true by saying:
“For although Christ by his death atoned for our sins. . . yet there would have been none of all these things, if he had not, by rising again, come off victorious”.
For Jesus to have purchased us, by paying for the punishment of our sins, he had to raise again.
Paul conclusively describes the resurrection-less theist’s condition like this:
“If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins”.
Paul follows through with the full force of his argument with a knockout punch,
“If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied”.
In this verse, we see Solomon and Paul intersecting. Solomon uses the term “under the sun,” and Paul has a spiritual version of that, “hoped in Christ in this life only.” Both end in sorrow and bruising of the soul that has no remedy.
Jesus was the only person in humanity, past and potential humanity future, who could be the hero to fulfill the righteous requirement that God had laid out for mankind in the covenant of works. If he fails, there is no backup plan. If he would have failed, then all mankind who had hoped in the protoevangelium or the Old Testament gospel and anyone who came after Jesus who hoped in the gospel of Jesus Christ would have no payment for sin, but instead, would be judged in their sins and sentenced to Hell. The theistic worldview is stripped of all meaning, except for a fear of God that is merely for this life only.
The enlightenment leads to a surge in the study of science. From the study of science came Naturalism. Naturalism supports atheism with Darwin’s theories of Evolution and Natural Selection. Naturalism is not a comprehensive worldview but is a worldview that deals with the material world. The child that was birthed from naturalism was nihilism.
“The reason naturalism turns into nihilism is that naturalism does not supply a basis on which a person can act significantly”[8.]
Most atheists aren’t nihilists, though, because
“most naturalists do not take their naturalism seriously”.
The good news for the nihilist is that they have a more scientific explanation that can bring it validity. James Allen Rogers, a scholar on Russian history, lays out the origin and implications of nihilism on Russia; he describes well the relation of nihilism and naturalism:
“To the nihilists, only the natural sciences dealt with facts untainted by human subjectivity”.
Nihilism’s hatred for systems of thought built on subjectivity caused it to destroy any system they thought was built on subjectivity. Nihilism saw the naturalist’s conclusions from scientific inquiry as tried and true, thus, it could be trusted.
If one is discouraged after reading all this negativity, take heart. Jesus did resurrect. As Christians, believers must know our enemy and the obstacles those enemies have laid out. The atheistic scholars have fortressed themselves with a plethora of systems and flawed arguments. These lies are obstacles to them coming to believe in the gospel. The founder of Nihilism, Friedrich Nietzsche, has laid down the challenge to the faithful people of God. “Nietzsche profoundly knew that one could transcend nihilism only by thinking through and beyond it, such a transcendence is impossible for the thinker who is innocent of nihilism”. This task is what Solomon did in Ecclesiastes, and Paul did in 1 Corinthians 15. Christians must journey through these undesirable places so that others might hear and believe the gospel. If one is still wondering what the religious answer to this challenge is, then look at what Thomas J. J. Altizer says: “The new calling of religious studies is to end nihilism”. The call is to pick up our stones like David did and throw them at the Goliath of Nihilism, both Theistic and Atheistic Nihilism.
Sire, James W. The Universe Next Door. Downers Grove, Il.: InterVarsity Press, 1976.
Calvin, John. Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostles to the Corinthians, Vol. II. Ed. John Pringle. Grand Rapids, MI.: W.M.B. Eerdmans, 1948.
Edwards, Thomas Charles. A Commentary on the first Epistle to the Corinthians. Hamilton, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1885.
Rogers, James Allen. “Darwinism, Scientism, and Nihilism.” The Russian Review. Vol. 19. No. 1 (1960): 10-23.
Manschreck, Clyde L. “Nihilism in the Twentieth century: A view from here.” 04 April 2017. Available from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3264567. Internet.
Altizer, Thomas J. J. “The Challenge of Nihilism.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion. Vol. 62. No. 4. (1994): 1013-1022.
 James W. Sire, Universe Next Door (Downers Grove, Il: InterVarsity Press, 1976), 94.
 Clyde L. Maschreck; “Nihilism in the Twentieth century: A view from here”; 4 April 2017; available from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3264567 ;Internet, 85.
 I have used NASB, unless otherwise stated. Ecclesiastes 9:7
 Thomas Charles Edwards, A Commentary on the first Epistle to the Corinthians, (Hamilton, London: Hodder and Soughton, 1885), 408.
 John Calvin, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostles to the Corinthians, Vol. II. Ed. John Pringle Editor (Grand Rapids, MI.: W.M.B. Eerdmans, 1948), 20.
 1 Corinthians 15:17
 1 Corinthians 15:19
 James W. Sire, The Universe Next Door (Downers Grove, IL.: InterVarsity, 1976), 102.
 Ibid., 112.
 James Allen Rogers, “Darwinism, Scientism, and Nihilism,” The Russian Review, Vol. 19, No. 1 (1960): 12.
 Thomas J. J. Altizer, “The Challenge of Nihilism,” Journal of the American of Religion. Vol 62. No. 4 (1994): 1019.
 Ibid., 1018.
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Tim Bankes II
Tim is a Christian author. His worldview that informs his writing is Calvinist, Baptist, and Libertarian. His main series is his Christian picture book series, "About God for Kids", where he discusses the attributes of God in a way kids can digest. He also wrote a Christian Romance novel, libertarian book for beginners, and Christian coloring books. He graduated with a Bachelor's in Biblical Studies from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
He has written a book on freedom called “Are You Free” (If you are into listening to books I have it in audio also, Are You Free Audiobook )and he has written multiple children’s books about God. Be Sure to check out the podcast version of the blog, Labor for Truth Podcast. And check out “The Truth About” Youtube Channel. You can find his works at his amazon author page, https://amazon.com/author/timbankes. He even has a free digital ebook on how God is the creator. Get your free copy today at, Greater Creator .Also If you are into Christian Fiction, he has made his first book in his Futuristic Christian Fiction series free, Her Dying Wish