Thinking Anglicans

Reduced Resurrection

Dawn.
Empty tomb.
Weeping woman.
Angels.
Angels? Supernatural 1.
Garden.
Woman finds gardener.
Hint: THE gardener,
Creator of heaven and earth.
Mary. He calls her name.
Teacher.
She reaches out to him.
He says no, don’t touch.
He is risen from the dead.
Supernatural 2. Mega supernatural.
I am ascending to my Father.
Supernatural 3.

– o – o – o –

Jesus is dead, laid in the tomb. And God does something utterly different. God brings the corpse back to life and transforms him, not just restoring life but making him different. This is a new creation, similar to but different from a human body, similar in some ways to the angels, but different again.

The Resurrection is not natural. The Resurrection is not normal. God breaks in and breaks all the laws. This is supernature. And it makes no sense in our disenchanted world. In our world, we have left no room for the supernatural. When we find it, we deny it and find all sorts of explanations to make it safe.

I have read all the arguments about the resurrection being about the new life of the early Christian community, or the way the evangelists chose to tell the story – so many attempts to conform to the spirit of the age.

But I don’t want to edit out or play down the supernatural – in my life or in my world or in God’s engagement with that, least of all in the Resurrection. To rationalise the Resurrection is to reduce it, diminish it.

Christ is risen! He is Risen indeed! Really He is. Alleluia!

(And yes, I have been reading Charles Taylor, A Secular Age.)

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Pat O'Neill(The only time you'll see me call myself Doctor) JCFFather Ron SmithFord ElmsErika Baker Recent comment authors
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Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold)
Guest

So God brings back the corpse of a dead Jesus, so that (presumably on the level) it can walk unrecognised, and appear and disappear at will. Please send the chemistry, physics and biology for this. While God was able and busy to do that, why did he not reanimate the corpses of 6 million Jews and others, and other thousands and millions unjustly killed? As I preached this morning, it is unscientific and unhistorical. It is myth: myth that has a truth about tragic lives and going through tragedy to get to the other side, about all the death that… Read more »

The Revd Prof J M Day
Guest
The Revd Prof J M Day

Much appreciated! Allelujia…Christ is Risen!

JCF
Guest
JCF

Wow. Tom Wright, Ms. Gilley, and even the Pope: everybody got the talking points memo this year, didn’t they?

“The bodily resurrection of Jesus was/is a ***FACT***, dammit, a fact! Don’t be threatened by those secularists: we’ve got our FACTS, too!”

All I can say by way of commentary, is that “Reduced Resurrection” is certainly in the eye-of-the-beholder. :-/

Me? I’ll stick w/ FAITH, not “fact”, thank you—and Alleluia! 😀

Rosemary Hannah
Guest
Rosemary Hannah

I happen to know it is the ~Rev’d. Dr Gilley, not Ms.

As a historian to trade, as it were (hint – not Ms Hannah) I must conclude that whatever the Resurrection is, it is not unhistorical. Historically it is, in my best professional judgement, well attested.

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

Wow, pluralist, what an amazing missing of the point! There is no chemistry, biology, or physics that can explain it. Of course it’s unscientific. If you can look at the mythology of a redeemed Creation and see in it only a reanimated corpse, I really don’t know where to start. All I can say is that the Resurrection was not about one man coming back from the dead. It was the most important part of something far larger, and was nothing less than the recreation of the universe.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold)
Guest

What recreation of the universe?

Ferdinand von Prondzynski
Guest

Interesting, and somewhat curious, comments. As JCF is saying (I think), it is important to separate the worlds of science and theology the two can complement each other, and can address each other’s concerns, but they are not using the same intellectual methodology, nor should they be. This kind of thing became particularly confusing when David Jenkins, then Bishop of Durham, made some of his statements on the Resurrection – for which he was fond of using rather sensationalist language (remember the ‘conjuring trick with bones’?). This (maybe unfairly) prompted ‘Private Eye’ to refer to the Bishop’s “annual Christ-is-not-risen Easter… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“‘conjuring trick with bones'” Didn’t he say that the resurrection was NOT just “some conjuring trick with bones”? Which is to say it is not merely someone coming back to life, but something else entirely? I remember the outcry then, and was fascinated that some people so feel the need to be persecuted they will react with anger to what seems like a deliberate misunderstanding of what someone else is saying just to gratify that need. “If we do not believe in the Resurrection, I have no idea what we are doing here. If we do believe in it, it… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“What recreation of the universe?” Precisely. The cosmic understanding of the Incarnation is lost to most in the West, under the pernicious influence of a theology that sees the Crucifixion as punishment, the death of God as a bribe, and humans as nothing more than undeserving criminals let off with their crimes by a corrupt and sadistic God. The day of the Resurrection is traditionally called “The Eighth Day of Creation” because it is on that day that Creation is complete, made new. All things are restored in the Resurrection. It is why we keep Sunday as a Sabbath, rather… Read more »

john
Guest
john

FvP, I think your response is very confused. It is absolutely essential to promote a theology which is compatible with science. The reason religion (in the West) is declining is that few people believe it any more. And the reason for that is that most religious formulations hardly bother/don’t see the need/ to accommodate scientific knowledge. You misrepresent David Jenkins (a far more honest and far more profound thinker than the present incumbent). He was NOT saying the resurrection ‘tout court’ was a ‘conjuring trick with bones’. He WAS saying that a traditional, highly physical, interpretation of it was tantamount… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

Let’s be quite clear about what Jenkins said. Here’s a near-contemporaneous report (well only a decade after the event!)
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/durhams-next-bishop-eschews-controversy-michael-turnbull-believes-in-the-virgin-birth-and-in-hell-writes-andrew-brown-1391605.html

Dr Jenkins, 69, caused a huge controversy at the time of his own appointment in 1984 when he told an interviewer that the Resurrection ‘was not just a conjuring trick with bones’. People began to think he had dismissed the Resurrection as a conjuring trick with bones.

peterpi
Guest
peterpi

“the resurrection was not a conjuring trick with bones” Of course, it wasn’t! Jesus of Nazareth, with God’s help (or vice versa if you prefer), wasn’t engaged in magic. The resurrection story has to be metaphor for people so transformed by the aftermath of Jesus’ crucifixion that words failed them. So they used imagery to try to capture what happened. But, … in the literalist mind, it was a divine conjuring trick with bones. Jesus was physically and chemically resurrected, right down to the last finger bone, the last DNA molecule, the last bit of stomach acid. I still shudder… Read more »

(The only time you'll see me call myself Doctor) JCF
Guest
(The only time you'll see me call myself Doctor) JCF

I just want to add that my views of the Resurrection resonate w/ those expressed by most here (possibly including Pluralist—whatever he or everyone else may think of seeing a consistency there! ;-/). “New Creation”: hear, hear! 😀

***

I’m really not interested in title-dropping, though—and honestly, if you consider the Gospels “Historically … well attested” (which, considering their common bias, must be considered a single source—and I trust you’re not so naive to consider Josephus a second source?!), then I also question your “professional judgment”, Dr. Hannah.

(The only time you'll see me call myself Doctor) JCF
Guest
(The only time you'll see me call myself Doctor) JCF

I just want to add that my views of the Resurrection resonate w/ those expressed by most here (possibly including Pluralist—whatever he or everyone else may think of seeing a consistency there! ;-/). “New Creation”: hear, hear! 😀

***

I’m really not interested in title-dropping, though—and honestly, if you consider the Gospels “Historically … well attested” (which, considering their common bias, must be considered a single source—and I trust you’re not so naive to consider Josephus a second source?!), then I also question your “professional judgment”, Dr. Hannah.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold)
Guest

I contrast David Jenkins with this: http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/1717 …if the bones of Jesus were discovered in Palestine I could not be a Christian in the way that I now am. I could not celebrate the Sacraments: I could not understand the life of the Holy Spirit as I do: I might still want to be associated with some of the insights and values of the Christian tradition but you would no longer have me as Archbishop of Canterbury (I rather hope you wouldn’t have anyone as Archbishop of Canterbury!) because I actually don’t think that the Church would be credible in… Read more »

Ferdinand von Prondzynski
Guest

John said: “It is absolutely essential to promote a theology which is compatible with science. The reason religion (in the West) is declining is that few people believe it any more. And the reason for that is that most religious formulations hardly bother/don’t see the need/ to accommodate scientific knowledge.” I preside over a university that has science as its main focus, and in some way I’d love to think you’re right. But you’re not, I think. Most of those who stay away from church haven’t the remotest interest in science or rational judgements. An opinion poll taken a couple… Read more »

rick allen
Guest

“What church you belong to?” “Church of Christ,” the boy said in a falsetto to hide the truth. “Church of Christ!” Haze repeated. “Well, I preach the church without Christ. I’m member and preacher to that church where the blind don’t see and the lame don’t walk and what’s dead stays that way. Ask me about that church and I’ll tell you it’s the church that the blood of Jesus don’t foul with redemption.” “He’s a preacher,” one of the women said. “Let’s go.” “Listen you people, I’m going to take the truth with me wherever I go” Haze called.… Read more »

Dr Paul
Guest
Dr Paul

One side of the easter message is what you believe it to communicate – is it: a metaphor that tells us something about the triumph of love; or a change in the nature of physical reality, since a change in the being of God – who is more than the world we know – is more fundamental? The other side of the easter message – or rather the whole narrative of the life of Jesus Christ, which reaches its necessary conclusion at easter – is: what kind of truth is enough for you to follow Him? For me, the second… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

Atonement is such an integral part of the Christian Gospel message that, for me anyway, it has an equivalence with the word sacrifice. It seems to me that the elements of the sacrifice, whether that of Christ himself, or of our own offering of the self (kenosis), to bring about a transformation in union with him at the altar; when offered at atonement, becomes a living part of the redemptive mission of the Redeemer. The very thought of God offering God’s-self as any sort of sacrifice for the sake of the Creation God brought into being defies all our human… Read more »

john
Guest
john

Ferdinand, Don’t agree with you on any of this. It may seem implausible to assert that religion is declining (where it is declining) by failure to engage with science, because – obviously – most people know actually know little about science. but I think there is a steady, drip-feed, awareness process that penetrates pretty deep on essntial issues. One example: there’s far too much emphasis in traditional Christianity on sin: very few people nowadays believe we are terribly, intrinsically, sinful from birth, or that the general ‘sin’ narrative, however, nuanced, can take the explanatory weight it is given by traditional… Read more »

Ferdinand von Prondzynski
Guest

John wrote: “Don’t agree with you on any of this” – and then proceeded to say a few things with which I agree entirely; so the disagreement may be one-sided 🙂 Of course our faith narrative includes many things that are metaphor or symbol. So for example, I do not believe that the first chapters of Genesis set out anything historical in a factual sense. What some have suggested is that either we should see the Resurrection in a similar light, or else that we should see it as a set of insights or spiritual experiences by the disciples that… Read more »

john
Guest
john

Ferdinand wrote: ‘the disagreement may be one-sided’.

One thing I do think: when people engage in debate in a forum such as this, they must do honestly and without pretence. I’m very surprised by your response: it’s completely disingenuous.

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“there’s far too much emphasis in traditional Christianity on sin: very few people nowadays believe we are terribly, intrinsically, sinful from birth” Can I suggest this is because we have redefined sin to mean ‘crime’? I would argue everybody today accepts Original Sin, they just don’t know it. They affirm it every time they say “Nobody’s perfect”. But imperfection isn’t a crime, so maybe we have to try to better understand what sin is. “It is absolutely essential to promote a theology which is compatible with science.” Maybe it’s because my return to religion was a reaction against the science… Read more »

peterpi
Guest
peterpi

I don’t think I can be called “unchurched”: I’m Jewish, and I participate in the life of a local Episcopal church (I sing in the choir and attend services there). But “I“ find the symbolic resurrection interesting and relevant. I am fascinated by the teachings, ministry, and life of the man Jesus of Nazareth. When I first heard Matthew 25:35-45, I was struck to the core, to my very being. Here in ten sentences is a call to action, a call for social justice, a summing up of one of the main teachings of virtually all the prophets of the… Read more »

Rosemary Hannah
Guest
Rosemary Hannah

The point is that it is downright sexist to refer to Tom Wright and Ms Gilley – either use a title for both or neither. Tom Wright and Meg Gilley is fine – and of course Dr Gilley and Mr Wright would be equally inappropriate. But I fear much less likely to occur, and not because Tom Wright is the better known figure, but because he is the bloke. Academic titles are no use in daily life, no. When somebody starts a put down in areas where they are relevant, then yes, they are of use. I use mine professionally… Read more »

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold)
Guest

Well there are different possible resurrections. First is bodily, which must be objective, as a consciousness is born again after having died, and wanders about in a physical body yet one capable of appearing and disappearing at will. The second is spiritual, which can be objective, that there is still a consciousness but one that presumably appears to have a shape but does what ghosts can do. The third is also spiritual, but is subjective, in the minds of the people impacted upon, being subjected to charismatic leadership, bereavement, expectation and the like. The fourth is purely literary narrative, though… Read more »

Simon Kershaw
Admin

Ford quoted and then commented: ‘”It is absolutely essential to promote a theology which is compatible with science.” ‘Maybe it’s because my return to religion was a reaction against the science of my profession, but I totally disagree with this. First, science cannot explain God, so any attempts to do so are destined for failure. Besides, what good is a scientifically provable God?’ I don’t think your protest is a response to the assertion. The assertion that you quote is that our religion must be compatible with science. But that does not mean that it has to be a religion… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

“I don’t consider Paul and the Synoptic gospels and John to be one source. The fact that all six writers come from one community does not make them one source.”

But what we have of them was all preserved and edited by that one community. We have no earlier versions that were not poured through the same sieve, as it were.

In a more modern context, if all our histories of, say, the Napoleonic wars were preserved and edited by the British government–even if written by many hands–would you treat them as separate sources?

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

“I don’t consider Paul and the Synoptic gospels and John to be one source. The fact that all six writers come from one community does not make them one source.”

But what we have of them was all preserved and edited by that one community. We have no earlier versions that were not poured through the same sieve, as it were.

In a more modern context, if all our histories of, say, the Napoleonic wars were preserved and edited by the British government–even if written by many hands–would you treat them as separate sources?

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold)
Guest

At the cost that it is not the one big thing in history, that no universe is ‘recreated’, that it is not the last miracle.

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“His words still live!” So? His words aren’t all that different from those of any other religion. And, if you take the Incarnate, Living, Dying, Rising, Creation restoring God out of Christianity, what do you have? To me, it’s a rather insipidly spelled out message of “Be nice to one another.” I don’t need a religion to tell me that. I’m on the more liberal end of the scale on a lot of things, but that just doesn’t speak to me at all. If that’s all Christianity is, I’m off to be a Buddhist. I mean, we’ve spent the last… Read more »

peterpi
Guest
peterpi

I don’t think it is essential to have a theology that is compatible with science, but religion should acknowledge science. Regardless of what the fundamentalists believe, regardless of what Genesis 1 says, there is no scientific proof that the Earth and the Universe were created in 6 days — 144 hours — 6,000 years ago. Genesis 1 is a masterful, orderly account of the creation of the Earth as understood a couple of thousand years ago by a specific group of people. It can be interpreted to say that the world is essentially good, that God is the master of… Read more »

Rosemary Hannah
Guest
Rosemary Hannah

“if all our histories of, say, the Napoleonic wars were preserved and edited by the British government–even if written by many hands–would you treat them as separate sources?” I would not consider them to be one source, no. My attitude would be varied, of course, by how heavily they were edited, and by how close to the Government view the writers had been. In point of fact it is not at all unusual to find one is writing history depending on one set of letters … perhaps just one side of a set of letters. That would not be true… Read more »

rick allen
Guest

“Regarding the Ascension, the people who wrote the original accounts held a world-view of a flat world covered by a transparent dome (the “fundament” in Elizabethan English) on which the sun, the moon, and the stars existed.”

Don’t know about that….Hipparchus was teaching what we would later call a Ptolemaic system with a spherical earth in the second century B.C. Can’t remember whether it was he or somebody else who made a pretty good estimate of the earth’s circumference based on the lengths of shadows at noon on a given day at different ends of the Mediterranean world.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold)
Guest

What is there of any value in a Christianity without “the Christ Event”? Ford asks. Such is your hurdle, that has to be jumped. And you jump it. There are creationists who say that if they are wrong, then there was death from the beginning, and so it makes a nonsense of Jesus taking away sin and death. They make a very high hurdle, the one that they continue to jump. But then there are the Jonathan Edwards of this world (the athlete, not the preacher) who suddenly realise it ain’t quite like it’s written, and the hurdle is then… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“To paraphrase an arresting image Bishop John Spong wrote in one of his books, if Jesus of Nazareth had a literal, corporeal, resurrection, and he literally, physically, bodily ascended, where did he ascend to?” See, I found that image frustrating in the extreme. First of all, I doubt the purpose iof the Incarnation was to give first century Jews a crash course in modern cosmological theory, or modern concepts of pathophysiology, for that matter. So, if we accept for the sake of this argument the traditional Christian understanding of the nature of Christ, we have to ask ourselves, was the… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

“If Christ be not raised then is our faith vain” said Saint Paul. (1 Corinthians 15:17) However we view the resurrection happening, it was obvious from the gospels that those who encountered the Risen Christ: Mary of Magdala (when he spoke her name); the men on the road to Emmaus (in the Breaking of the bread); or on the beach (in today’s Gospel where Jesus was cooking breakfast for the fishermen), none of the disciples actually recognised Jesus ‘in the flesh’, but in his characteristic act of loving regard for them, personally. Each situation was one of active discernment on… Read more »

peterpi
Guest
peterpi

Ford Elms, your comment was elegantly put. Jesus accepting people the way they are, not only spiritually and emotionally, but according to their world view as well. You make a wonderful counter-argument to Spong’s “scientific fundamentalism”. But, Jesus going into orbit as a counter-argument to a biblical literalist view of the Ascension I find captivating! I believe it’s a form of reductio ad absurdum rick allen, I don’t know how much — if any! — Hipparchus or Eratosthenes (he’s the Greek man you’re thinking of who computed the circumference of the Earth — hat-tip to Google) played a part in… Read more »

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold)
Guest

I think there is some confusion going on here between the scientific method of returnable reliability and a romanticism of what you would like to feel is the case.

rick allen
Guest

“that’s how I conceive what the world-view of the biblical authors and redactors was.”

peterpi, I suppose my point was that there is not a single “world-view of the biblical authors.” St. Paul speaks of one who was caught up into the “third heaven”–what looks to me like an idea from a Helenistic cosmology. He apparently has no problem with any conflict between that and the older Semitic cosmology of Genesis, with its firmament dividing the waters. And if Paul has no problem with differing cosmologies, why should we?

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

Dear Pluralist. You really do have a problem wioth the salvific nature of the Christian epic, don’t you? What ever was it, or is it, that makes you so very confrontational towarsds those of simple faith in Jesus Christ as Son of God, Saviour of All?

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Fr Ron Finding myself between you and Pluralist, I’d like to say that much of the exasparation we feel with “those of simple faith” is that they insist that theirs is the only way of understanding the Christian narrative, and that those who interpret more broadly or actually struggle with or reject some aspects of doctrine, are somehow not quite there. I am sure that God is ultimately not interested in our theology and our intellectual beliefs, but in how we live our lives. It would help our general Christian conversations a lot if we could start to say “I… Read more »

Rosemary Hannah
Guest
Rosemary Hannah

Spong’s argument there is really a straw man, isn’t it? Not one of the Biblical writers, least of all Paul, imagined for one moment that Jesus had a normal body – he was not, as several on here have pointed out (including Meg Gilley) he was not a re-animated corpse. His body had been utterly changed. He neither kept on going up, nor did he go into orbit. He went. It is no harder than walking through walls. His ‘going up’ is as widely seen as a metaphor as his being the gardener.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Rosemary
Spong’s argument is not with Paul, it is with the evangelical fundamentalists among which he grew up.
He is not telling us that Paul et all got it wrong, but that many of our contemporaries get it wrong.

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“It must be preferable that even those who cannot subscribe to the core doctrines but who are still drawn in by the Christian narrative are included and encouraged to see themselves as part of the body of Christ” Well, there’s some issues with this, Erika. First, if one does not accept the core doctrines of the faith, what is the attraction of that faith? Second, if one does not accept the core doctrines of a faith, can one actually be said to be practicing that faith? Is that an honest claim? Third, if one cannot accept the core doctrines of… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Ford A lot of questions! First: That as Pluralist said in a different context, is your hurdle, you jump it. If anyone finds faith attractive, then it IS attractive to them, even if it’s different to mine. You may not find it soulful or artistic, but that is merely your personal take on it. The second and third questions go hand in hand. You would be right if there was one closely knit group of people all believing in exactly the same things, and if those who do not subscribe to all of those thoughts were outsiders. That’s what quite… Read more »

BillyD
Guest

“…t just a pathway of ethical insights (and, negatively, ethics to criticise) and a spiritual pathway. It is about people trying to get on better than they might have, using communities and the like. My view of Christianity is closer to Judaism, closer in purpose to Buddhism. I’m not setting up hurdles to jump, and happily dump all doctrines, mechanisms and miracles, including the last one.” I’m truly puzzled, Adrian. Why bother with Christianity at all, when there are *already* groups like the Unitarian Universalists who have everything you seem to looking for? Why the apparent attempt to wash away… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“that is merely your personal take on it.” Indeed. But, as I say, Christianity without the Incarnate God and all that that entails seems to me pretty anemic and uninspiring. So I’m asking what about it IS inspiring for you. “if there was one closely knit group of people all believing in exactly the same things” No, because there are core doctrines, and then there are adiaphora. Marriage doctrines are adiaphora, for instance, doctrinal, but not core. I think one of the things that upsets conservatives so much is that they, and others of us, have always assumed that we… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

“I’m just as dismayed at the Anglo-Baptists.”

Ford. I have never heard of this denomination. Are they the same as David Virtue, of V.o.L., who seems to rubbish the catholic idea of Infant Baptism? Or – are you accusing some Anglicans of classical Baptist theology?

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Ford We are in agreement about core doctrines… sort of. I’d love those who claim full agreement to be in a position to conduct a genuine double blind experiment and to canvass all Christians everywhere how they fill those words with meaning. I think we would soon find that “the church” is a far more organic and varied body than we assume. Of course, there is no need to do any such thing, because membership of the church is not by exam, but by self selection. And so I’m not going to be drawn into any “who’s in and who’s… Read more »