Resurrection – Grounding Point of Christianity?
Very regularly, including just this week browsing a small slice of the blogosphere of religious sites, I see the Resurrection of Jesus, generally as “bodily” resurrection, reaffirmed as core to Christian faith. It’s not just on the Internet, of course, but what is preached and published in various forms weekly (or more).
The commonly expressed idea is that without the Resurrection, there would be no real foundation for faith for Christians. In the last century or so, an important add-on to this, for many Christians, has been that the Resurrection can be validated historically as certainly (or about) as any ancient historical fact . Without going into reasons for this move and the specific problems with it, let me say it is an unfortunate and misguided move.
One of the great fascinations of the New Testament is the complexity of the stories of and about Jesus’ resurrection. The irony regarding the “historicity of the Resurrection” emphasis is that the Resurrection is actually one of the hardest aspects of Jesus’ life to validate historically. Even in the accounts as they have come to us in the Gospels there is much confusion and contradiction. There is also a brief 2nd hand–or even less direct–report by Paul in addition to his own visionary encounter after the “ascension,” which only confuses things further. Whatever did happen, we do not have any clear or dependable report of.
What is probably getting confused as to historicity, including by well-educated apologists (defenders of the faith), is the historicity of earlyreports about some kind of encounter or experience of a “risen” Jesus with resurrection actuality or true evidence of it. The reports we can say are historical, however close to Jesus’ death they originally occurred. But the miraculous disappearance of his body, his being witnessed close-up and unmistakably (even here, not readily or immediately, according to reports) and physically touched, no.
I have no need of the Resurrection as a point to rest my faith upon. It is admittedly not an “orthodox” form of faith, but an important trust in the persuasive and loving power of God. To me, that operates and gradually redeems regardless of the exact nature of Jesus/Christ (whether or not Jesus is taken as The Christ, or Messiah). It operates regardless of what happened to him after his death. Incidentally, Jesus’ general kind of teaching and ministry and his death, almost surely by crucifixion, ishistorically demonstrable and relatively expectable for his time, in ways quite separate from his supposed resurrection. The overlap, but with major differences, between Paul and the Gospels is one evidence of this.
So what place does the supposed resurrection of Jesus have in your faith, or lack of it? If it did not occur in a physical sense of resuscitation and a new specialized “resurrection” body, did it occur in some other sense, spiritually?