Today is Easter, at least the date we celebrate it in our tradition. For Christians, although many don’t really get it, Easter is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Cor. 15:14-19:
And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. … And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.
There you have it in a nutshell; all of the claims of Christianity, the good moral teaching, etc., etc., are all fluff, if in fact Jesus was not raised from the dead on the day we now call Easter. The origins of the name and so on are another story that is quite irrelevant; the issue is whether the event happened, not how it came to be named or calendared.
All of the radical, “fundamentalist” atheists who are trying to disprove Christianity only have to focus on this one thing, according to Paul’s own testimony, which we accept as part of the Word of God. That’s it; this is the line in the sand.
Why would anyone stake an entire religion on this one, absurd claim? It really is, of course, absurd from a “common sense” standpoint. Seriously – the thought that God Himself became incarnate, died and then rose again is absurd. Camus has nothing on God when it comes to absurdist theater. Here, I guess, I’m sounding rather Kierkegaardian, but I think he had a glimpse of something: when compared to man’s ability to reason, God can be quite absurd. Now, I know many theologians who will take issue with that, and I think alot of it has to do with semantics. But, here it is from God’s own word, as spoken through Paul:
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. – 1 Cor. 1:18-25
Now, this does not mean that the Christian faith is irrational; far from it. The historical basis for the resurrection is quite strong, as strong as many things that we accept. In fact, we accept many historical accounts that do not stand up near as well as this story. Yet, to rest an entire belief system on something so seemingly unbelievable – we have to ask ourselves, “why?”
And of course, this is “it” for the Christian: this is essentially all we have to do, to believe in this event, in order to “be saved,” go to heaven, be “right with God” or whatever other terminology you wish to use. Certainly a religion could do better; perhaps add in a few rules or things to achieve – and many religions indeed have. So again, why this simple resurrection story?
The very simple answer – which understandably frustrates people – is that this absurd tale is simply true. The “faith” part of the equation, as I mentioned earlier, is not that we have to make a faith-leap to believe the story. What takes real faith is to believe that this death and resurrection is simply enough for us to be forgiven.
In the words of the ancient liturgy, “Christ is risen! Christ is risen, indeed!”