“But someone will ask, ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?’ You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
The whole idea of the resurrection is a big one. It’s a huge one. It’s beyond what we can really understand. We get resuscitation. We get reanimation. The latter is a pretty popular pop culture genre right now. But resurrection? That’s something new. At least, it was in first century Corinth. So, naturally, people who were culturally trained to be skeptical of theologies and philosophies that seemed to glorify the material over the spiritual as the Christian doctrine of the resurrection seemed to do began to ask some hard questions.
How will it work? What is the resurrection body going to be like? These seem like pretty normal, reasonable questions, yes? Then why does Paul respond so harshly?
Two reasons: First and as I just said: This was a totally new idea. Nobody had ever seen or thought of something quite like this. Thus, nobody knew how it was going to work. Nobody knew for sure what exactly it was going to be like. Folks had seen Jesus after the resurrection, and so they had at least some idea, but this only helped so much. What Paul goes on to explain in the following verses is essentially this: Nobody knows what the resurrection body is going to be like just like a seed does not usually give any idea as to what its plant will look like.
Second and more significant in terms of our understanding Paul’s tone here: Given the Platonic preference for the spiritual over the material, these questions weren’t being asked in the Corinthian church from the standpoint of faith, but doubt. Paul jumped on them because their goal in asking these questions was to undermine the reasonableness of the claims of the reality of the resurrection in the minds of those who were trying to learn more about it. He wasn’t willing to stand for that. If they wanted to ask questions with the desire to learn and believe, that was one thing. But these folks didn’t. Thus the response.
For us too, asking questions about the faith is a good thing. We should ask all of our questions, even the hardest ones. But, we need to stick around to get answers lest we waste our time. When folks around us have questions, we need to encourage this and be ready to answer them. But, if the person has no real desire to learn and is just asking to undermine our faith or the faith of the people around us, we should gently, but boldly, observe this and challenge them to be intellectually honest. There is a balance between sharing the Gospel and offering a defense for what we believe and laying out pearls before swine. It is a hard balance to find, but find it we must if we are going to be effective at making disciples.