Horrock's Pass, Wilmington 2016

Reviving Resurrection

Jan: Do I believe in resurrection? Yes, but I'd have to say it's something I'm not particularly fussed about it one way or the other!

Dean: But doesn't Paul say that we of all men are to be pitied if Christ is not risen?

Jan: Well, yes he does, and I think there's a point there. If there was no resurrection event, no something event that happened after his death then you'd have to wonder what we're on about.

Dean: But you're not fussed about it... this central doctrine to the faith?

Jan: No, I think there's more to be gained from trying to live a Jesus kind of life than from arguing about exactly what happened at resurrection or whether one kind of resurrection is the true sort of physical/cosmic explanation. The arguments leave me cold, let's just live the life!

Dean: But isn't this stuff important?  I mean the Bible really emphasises the bodily nature of the resurrection. How can you avoid it and say it's not important? How can you live correctly as a Christian if you're not paying attention to your doctrine?

Jan: Probably it's got something to do with Grace... but that aside, I think that whatever Resurrection is, it is not bodily. I don't know what it is, but it's not that. He didn't walk around in a body like us.

Dean: You're heretical... it plainly says that in the gospels! How can you say that as a minister?!

Jan: And sometimes you're a bit precious, mate! They didn't know him in some of the appearances. When a grain of wheat dies...what is it he says...Fool! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And as for what you sow, you do not sow the body that is to be, but a bare seed, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. First Corinthians 15 somewhere.

Dean: No! I mean, yes... it says that, but you're just playing with words. They touched him, it says so. You can't throw out a doctrine like that!

Jan: What's more important: a traditional doctrine or a theology that is true to the reality we know?

Dean: That's not a real choice. You can't just throw out a doctrine and say it's because you need to be true.

Jan: You can if that's the case, though. You have to! Look, I'm not denying there is some thing called resurrection. I'm not denying there is a reality that we can call the risen Lord. But we have to remember that the emphasis on physical resurrection had it's own reasons at the time to provide a sense of the reality people were talking about and a guard against docetism. And especially we have to remember that the doctrine of resurrection now needs to guard against the heresies of our day. 

Dean: You can't say that. You can't just change things!

Jan: But we do all the time. I've heard you talk about the way it's wrong to talk about God being unfeeling and so on. And yet it was once a heresy. God was impassible. We regard that as closer to a heresy today. Doctrine is like a guard rail on a mountain road or the warning on the old maps: "This way be dragons!" It warns us where the dangerous areas are. Where we can stray into error or danger.

But if the life situation of our culture changes, then we will put the guard rails in different places. Our life situation has changed. We believe in the passionate love of God for us; feeling, not impassibility. 

And we don't believe in resurrection. That is we would not accept that a person has returned from the dead. It simply does not happen, except as occasional hearsay from dodgy evangelists 3rd hand somewhere far off in Indonesia. The fact is that we do not believe in this event, full stop. Except that we Christians traditionally have made an exception. We say it happened to Jesus. We base our faith, some of us, on the notion that something we say cannot happen, happened. We base our faith on this.

Dean: But doesn't that prove the power of God?

Jan: Not if you say that resurrection is a basis for belief as you want to... you know... we of all men are most to be pitied... What you are saying is that you are basing you faith on a lie. You are going out and asking people to give up their life, to risk their life as missionaries etc on the basis of something you don't believe in. I can't live a faith like that. It's corrupt at its foundation.

I can't do that. I can talk about resurrection as something that changes people. It can be an event that somehow empowers lives beyond the ordinary and the reactive. A special kind of grace-gift that allows a person to redirect their life from self-centred-ness to Christ-centred-ness.... But it can't be all based on a first resurrection which is a lie! The ends of a religious explanation of the person and work of Christ cannot justify the means being a lie.

I would rather try and prove resurrection by living little bits of it than arguing for some un-repeatable, impossible event.

Dean: Well, as usual you sound very sincere and persuasive. But I just can't take what you are saying. It's not right to simply throw out something foundational. You can't make up doctrine as you go along.

May 25 2002

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