A Resurrection sermon

by Richard on April 14, 2009

by Kim Fabricius

Sceptics who argue that the tomb was empty because Jesus hadn’t actually died, or because the disciples had stolen the body, but also liberal Christians who argue that there probably was no tomb, that the body of Jesus was dumped in a common grave, and that even if there were a tomb it surely decomposed there, but not to worry, the important thing is the awesome visions the disciples had – sceptic and liberal alike view the resurrection of Jesus under the constraints of the historical method, about what can and cannot happen. And even evangelical Christians who try to explain away the inconsistencies and meld the different gospel accounts of Easter morning into a single coherent narrative, while against the sceptics and the liberals they affirm that God raised the dead Jesus, nevertheless in the very way they feel compelled to marshal the evidence, to out-argue the sceptics, they demonstrate that they too are bewitched by the constraints of modern historiography.

But as Dean Inge once famously said, if you wed yourself to the spirit of the age, it won’t be long before you are widowed. So let’s be clear. The church’s Scriptures witness to the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. No, no one observed the raising of Jesus. And yes, there are different accounts of the seeing of Jesus. And no, a consistent harmonised account cannot be constructed from them. But that is precisely the point! If a totally history-friendly account could be constructed, then it most certainly would not be a witness to this event.

Of course everything that happened on Easter morning doesn’t fit together. Of course what has been called the “testimonies of the overwhelmed” (Helmut Thielicke) do not conform to the normal canons of evidence. Talk about astonishment, awe – and confusion! What else when you’re confronted by a reality that exceeds the limits of experience, reason and even imagination, a reality that is, in the strictest sense, indescribable, leaving language in a heap, its speakers tongue-tied. What else when you are hit by an earthquake that shatters the very foundations of human knowing, leaving scraps and fragments, and whose shock waves continue to reverberate and disturb.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1

Steven Carr 04.15.09 at 7:21 am

I had a debate on the resurrection on Saturday on Premier Christian Radio against Canon Michael Cole.

He was slaughtered.

I also have a debate on line at resurrectiondebate.blogspot against Father John Twisleton. He got hammered.

The evidence against the resurrection is overwhelming.

No wonder Christians have never been able to produce a resurrected Jesus, no more than Mormons can produce the Golden Plates.

2

Richard 04.15.09 at 8:12 am

I’ve read the first few posts on your blog, Steven. I think you’ve over-estimated your powers of argument just a tad.

3

Tony Buglass 04.15.09 at 8:25 am

“I had a debate on the resurrection on Saturday on Premier Christian Radio against Canon Michael Cole.
He was slaughtered.”

In your opinion. Which is somewhat less than objective.

“The evidence against the resurrection is overwhelming.
No wonder Christians have never been able to produce a resurrected Jesus, no more than Mormons can produce the Golden Plates.”

There is no evidence against the resurrection. That is nonsense. There is evidence, in the same way as there is evidence for the Big Bang - traces left, which when being interpreted indicate the originating phenomenon, but which do not enable its recreation. In teh case of the Big Bang, cosmologists can recalculate from the movement of galaxies the location and time of the Bang, and mathematically can come to a very small interval from it, but cannot recreate either the maths of the event or the event itself. In the same way, there is evidence of the event which triggered the Christian phenomenon:
- the developing paths of resurrection tradition into the NT;
- the dynamic of the Jesus movement from a small Jewish group of followers;
- the practice of worship on the first day of the week, which can only be explained by an originating event on that day - there is no other reason why the followers of a dead rabbi would meet then for worship.

The evidence may not be as definitive as some would like (I’m thinking of writers such as McDowell “Evidence Which Demands A Verdict”), but if it were as easly falsifiable as you imply, the case would have fallen down centuries ago, and not found the support of such scholars as Wright, Meier, Dunn, Allisn, Swinburne, Theissen - to mention just a handful of people who have published very thorough and academic texts in the last few years.

4

Kim 04.15.09 at 9:02 am

Shock and awe.
Sick ‘em, DH. On second thought … ;)

5

Paul Martin 04.15.09 at 2:41 pm

Steven, as my mother used to say;

“Self praise is no recommendation!”

6

DH 04.15.09 at 2:42 pm

Kim, you will be surprised that I somewhat agree with Tony on his analysis. I will say that I DO believe that “Evidence that Demands a Verdict” DOES show definitive evidence for the resurrection and many other topics as well.

To me there IS harmony of the Gospel accounts. They might have seen the sight post-resurrection at different times but that doesn’t mean they are not harmonized. You have four different people seeing the same thing but focusing on four different aspects of the same thing. Just because one person focuses more on the kitchen of the White House and another focuses on the wings doesn’t mean they are not focusing harmoniously on the White House.

7

Rick O. 04.15.09 at 9:58 pm

You’re right, Steven: it couldn’t have happened! That a smallish group of scared, trembling, and demoralized followers, certain that their earthly king and leader had been slain, suddenly were revitalized and emboldened, and thus embarked on vigorously spreading the Good news that Jesus is indeed the Saviour… it makes no sense! After cowering for some days in fear for their lives, waiting for the Roman knock on the door, they then began to spread the Word to all who would listen.

If Jesus were simply dead, his movement would have essentially died with him. After two days, it was dead. After three, however…:-0

8

fatprophet 04.16.09 at 6:32 am

I found the response from Steven quite interesting in that he uses such emotive language ‘hammered’, ’slaughtered’ in fact I am thinking of checking out his blog to see what other gems I might find.
Rick you had me going for a moment as I read your comment and then the twist in the tale in your last two sentences - very succinctly put!

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