So-called “unanswerable” questions have dogged Christianity since the days of Jesus himself. No matter what the grace and mercy of God, there are always those who want nothing to do with it, and who look for opportunities to spoil it for everyone else. One of their favourite tactics is to look for the exception to break the rule, and then formulate the question based upon it that can’t be answered. These questions are almost always twisted and convoluted, full of improbabilities and absurdities. But then again, so is any argument that tries to go against the very clear and straightforward Word of God.
How about this one I came across just the other day … The “argument from reasonable nonbelief” as it is called by its adherants. What follows is directly from their website: There are people who do not believe in God whose nonbelief is not the result of culpable actions or omissions on the part of the subject. According to S.L. Schellenberg [a prominent athiest], a perfectly loving God would desire a personal relationship between himself and every human being, or at least every human being capable of it. Belief in God’s existence is a logically necessary condition for such a relationship. Hence reasonable nonbelief is evidence for atheism.
Did you catch the main thrust of it, in all the extravagant verbosity? In essence, the argument goes like this, because there are some who believe that God doesn’t exist, He can’t. How do you answer something like this? Well after you finish having a good laugh, you must then realize that those who ask such questions don’t really want your answer. They’re simply not interested. They’ve already closed their minds to truth and don’t want to hear it. They are dead-end questions, asked by people whose hearts are dead in unbelief.
But as I said before, such tactics are not new. Dead-end questions like these have been around forever. Consider our text for this morning: (27-28) “There came to him some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, and they asked him a question,”
These Sadduces are an interesting bunch. Rich, powerful, highly motivated Jews, they lived for the here and now. They were concerned only with life in this world. According to the Talmud it is not that they officially claimed that there was nor resurrection, just that there was no proof of it in the Torah. However, Luke’s reading of their position is perfectly valid, for it is a very short step from blanket doubt to full denial (as most seemed to do). Everything with the Sadduces was strictly litteral and only the books of Moses were legitimate, thus much of what Jesus did and taught was never going to be accepted by them. In short, if heaven wasn’t like life in this world, they had very little use for it.
Thus their “unanswerable question” meant to discredit and embarass Jesus is drawn from the old Levirite marriage law of Deut. 25:5ff (28-29, 33) “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers … In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife.”
The successive marriages had purposely been so graphically described, in order that the great difficulty of the situation and its ridiculousness might appear at once. Now if there be such a thing as a resurrection, which, they sneeringly implied, could not be, how will this difficulty be solved? Is it not flatly insurmountable?
The Saducces were attempting to use logic (or, what they considered common sense) to deny a Biblical teaching that they did not want to accept. Is that done today? Of course it is! People still try to use what they think they know about life, and especially to use extreme or complex scenarios to deny some aspect of God’s Word that they either don’t understand or don’t want to understand. With similar arguments, that lack, however, the cleverness of this story, modern opponents of the Scriptural resurrection still try to ridicule the hope of the Christians, and there is an interesting lesson in the manner in which Christ. handles the situation.
(34-36) “And Jesus said to them, The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels they are … sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.” The life to come doesn’t follow the rules of life in the here and now. Nor should it, nor has God ever promised it! This is Jesus’ answer. New world, new rules … well actually, no more rules. Think about it, marriages were given by God for us in this world for two main reasons. First to continue the species through childbirth (which is only ever condoned within a marriage relationship in God’s Word). And secondly, to counter the strong pull of sexual sins. But neither of these reasons is valid any longer once we have attained the age to come. Where people are immortal (like the angels) there is no need to give birth to continue the species. And sin is gone, as is any temptation to sin. Family will still be important, you will still have your loved ones there in Christ, but they won’t be “yours alone” in that there EVERYONE will be part of the same family … God’s family.
What’s more, we are God’s people because we are resurrection people, Jesus says. Life in this world does not dictate what life in the next should be like. It is the truth of that everlasting life that makes us who we are even here in this world. No twisted or convoluted answer here. God’s truth is clear. The resurrection is real, it is the proof of being God’s child, and it is given only to those considered worthy of it – those for whom Jesus died, and rose again as the firstfruits of all who would follow. The Saducces do not believe in the resurrection, but they are talking to the resurrection and the life everlasting! They will be confronted with the truth of the resurrection and very soon. So will everyone in this world, no matter how fancy their argument against it is.
But just to prove the point even further, Jesus uses their own litteralistic reading of the Torah to prove what shouldn’t need proving: (37-38) “But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.”
Our God is not the God of the dead. Nor is he a God that gets tripped up by dead end questions. He is the God who raises the dead. He is the God of the living. The God who cuts through the double talk and gets right to the words of life. When God speaks He does so as the God of the covenant. He is the keeper of promises, the great “I Am” of the Bible. He faithfully brought us our salvation, making us worthy of that age to come. He will faithfully bring us into it and His glory. He is our God in this life and in all eternity. He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. He is the God of you and me!