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The Church of England's Vatican Envoy Doesn't Believe in the Resurrection of Jesus

Last week, the Anglican Centre in Rome announced the appointment of the Very Rev. Dr. John Shepherd as temporary director of the Anglican outreach to the Roman Catholic pontiff at the Vatican. This caused a major scandal, since Shepherd has denied the historicity of the Gospels and suggested that he does not believe in the bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ, a cornerstone of Christian and Anglican doctrine.

"The Resurrection of Jesus ought not to be seen in physical terms, but as a new spiritual reality," Shepherd said in a video message for Easter in 2008 unearthed by David Ould, senior associate minister at Parramatta Anglican Cathedral near Sydney, Australia. "It is important for Christians to be set free from the idea that the Resurrection was an extraordinary physical event which restored to life Jesus's earthly body."

Shepherd went on to say that "the Gospel accounts are not historical records as we understand them. They are symbolic images of the breaking through of the resurrection spirit into human lives."

While the Gospels do record Jesus's body as supernaturally powerful after the Resurrection — He could pass through walls and disappear — the books also emphasize the physical nature of this Resurrection. Not only did the Resurrection leave the tomb empty, but Jesus told the Apostle Thomas to feel the physical wounds in His flesh.

Furthermore, 1 Corinthians 15 grounds each Christian's hope in their own bodily resurrection in the Resurrection of Jesus. While there is a spiritual transformation, it revives and transforms the physical body, like a seed growing into a plant. "What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is shown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body," Paul wrote (1 Cor. 15:42-44).

Furthermore, the Apostle Paul wrote that "if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ. ... And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins" (1 Cor. 15:14-15, 17).

Shepherd's teaching did not just cut against the Bible, it also violated the Christian tradition, from the Apostle's Creed to the Thirty-Nine Articles.

The fourth of the Thirty-Nine Articles directly involves the Resurrection: "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."