The Resurrection problem

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. … If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. – Paul, 1st Corinthians 15

Easter (at least the Western Easter) is this coming Sunday. Knowing that, I’ve been thinking about the resurrection of Jesus for a few days. Of course, I also happen to be reading NT Wright’s new book about resurrections and what happens after we die. Good timing, I guess.

The Resurrection, is of course where the whole defeat of Satan, evil and death happens. If Jesus had stayed dead, then Christianity never would have happened, the Disciples would have gone back to their day jobs, and some of us would be Jewish, and the rest would be heathens. That’s what Paul is really saying; if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then we’re all fools, wasting our time believing in a future that ain’t there.

As NT Wright talks about in Surprised by Hope, until Jesus actually did it, no one expected the Messiah to resurrect before the one and only future resurrection of the dead. The theories about the disciples faking the resurrection are therefore ridiculous; they simply would never have dreamed that this was to happen.

The resurrection of Jesus changed everything. As Wright wrote a few years ago:

Christianity began as resurrection movement. As I have already remarked, there is no evidence for a form of early Christianity in which the resurrection was not a central belief, as it were, bolted on to Christianity at the edge. It was the central driving force, informing the whole movement. In particular, we can see woven into the earliest Christian theology we possess—that of Paul, of course—the belief that the resurrection had in principle occurred and that the followers of Jesus had to reorder their lives, their narratives, their symbols, and their praxis accordingly (see, classically, Rom. 6:3-11).

There are still many people who disbelieve the whole resurrection thing, as if it is beyond credulity. However, the historical case for the resurrection is quite good; in fact, noted atheist-turned-deist Anthony Flew has stated that he finds the evidence for the resurrection “compelling.” So much so, in fact, that he has asked NT Wright if he can join him for one of the stops on his “The Resurrection – Fantasy or Fact?” tour. Flew stated,

“I am very much impressed with Bishop Wright’s approach, which is absolutely fresh. He presents the case for Christianity as something new for the first time. This is enormously important, especially in the United Kingdom, where the Christian religion has virtually disappeared. It is absolutely wonderful, absolutely radical, and very powerful.”

Is it wrong to expect proof of the resurrection? I don’t think so; remember Thomas needing to see for himself. We tend to think of Thomas as having little faith, but recall that Jesus had already appeared to the others; they had their proof. Jesus never chastised Thomas, but obliged him as well.

We, of course, have not had that kind of advantage, but neither are we left with no proof; the historical testimony is “compelling,” even 2,000 years later.

The Resurrection of Jesus is not a problem, it is possibility. The possibility of the Resurrection is not that it is possible to have happened; it is what is now possible because it happened. The hope that we have as Christians is right here. And, it doesn’t matter if Easter used to be a pagan holiday, or if the correct anniversary should be some other day. It’s not the day that’s important, it’s the fact that Jesus rose from the dead, defeating death and opening up a whole new way to live.

Easter – the Resurrection – is something that we should celebrate and live every day.

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.
Because He lives, All fear is gone.
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living just because He lives.
Bill & Gloria Gaither

5 thoughts on “The Resurrection problem”

  1. Steven, As to your first comment, the Bible is clear enough as to what happened after the Resurrection, and you certainly know what I meant.

    As to your 2nd comment, we all know of some of the dead being raised prior to the Resurrection; however, there is no reason to believe that Jesus would “spontaneously” resurrect, and with a new type of body that was flesh and blood but could walk through walls. It just wasn’t what a Messiah was supposed to do. If the Gospel accounts were written to make a believable story, they could have done a better job, don’t you think? (And, written a story that didn’t make themselves look foolish in the process?)

    I’ve glanced through some of your discussions on the Resurrection debate blog, and see that you are very good at cherry picking and obfuscation in your attempts to disprove the Resurrection. I think that goes directly to my point as to the importance of the Resurrection event; if it weren’t so important, you wouldn’t be spending so much time trying to disbelieve it.

    You can argue facts and semantics, but you can’t argue with the collective revelation of millions upon millions of people over about 2000 years who can testify that “He’s alive.” It’s a losing battle.

  2. ‘ The theories about the disciples faking the resurrection are therefore ridiculous; they simply would never have dreamed that this was to happen.’

    Had the disciples been given the power to raise the dead in Matthew 10:7-8?

    Had the disciples seen Moses return from the grave, never to die again?

    Did the authorities think it a very real possibility that people would believe fake claims of a Messiah returning from the grave?

  3. ‘If Jesus had stayed dead, then Christianity never would have happened, the Disciples would have gone back to their day jobs….’

    The disciples did go back to their day jobs after seeing the risen Jesus.

    Even the Bible claims it took more than seeing the risen Jesus to get the disciples to start preaching.

    As for Wright there is a discussion forum on Wright’s work at http://www.jamesgregoryforum.org/viewforum.php?f=4

  4. I had forgotten about that quote… that is a classic.

    And thanks for the link to the Western Orthodoxy blog. This may be my first 2nd generation quote…

  5. There is, of course, the quote from C. S. Lewis’ fellow Oxford don (and avowed atheist) T. D. Weldon: “Rum thing, that stuff of Frazer’s [author of The Golden Bough] about the Dying God. It almost looks as if it really happened once.”

    By the way — I don’t know if the trackback chain makes it all the way back to you or not, but somebody responded to me responding to you responding to Aaron D. Wolf yesterday, found here.

    Richard

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