Sunday, May 10, 2009
Tony Jones on why it matters that Jesus REALLY rose.
Tony has some good thoughts up about why he doesn't like the "package deal" among liberal Christians, where it is assumed that if you support GLBT rights (as Tony does, as do I) and other similar causes, you must therefore also reject the historical, physical reality of the Resurrection of Jesus (which Tony does not, nor do I). He writes:
Why is that important? Because I'm a real person. Because the people to whom I have ministered in Jesus' name are real persons. We're not hypotheses, fables, or legends. And we need real healing, all of us. While our realities may be largely socially constructed, we have real DNA, real physical, material properties.

Thus, since the resurrection of Jesus is his defeat of death, evil, and grief, it's important to me that it really happened. Without a resurrected Jesus, Christianity is impotent. (Exhibit A: liberal Christianity) And I don't mean a Jesus who was "resurrected" in the Disciples' hearts, and in my heart. I mean a real resurrection in the space-time continuum by a physical being known as Jesus of Nazareth, as 99.99% of Christians for the last two milennia have believed.
Read the whole post here.

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posted by Mike Clawson at 10:52 PM | Permalink |


At 5/11/2009 12:33:00 AM, Anonymous Autumnal Harvest

Does it also matter that Adam and Eve were really two historical figures who lived in a physical Garden, and were forced to leave after an incident involving a real talking snake and an actual piece of fruit on an actual tree?

It seems to me that the logic of the two paragraphs above flows just as well, with some minor changes, for the story in Genesis 2. For example "Why is that important? Because I'm a real person" goes through unchanged. "Thus, since the resurrection of Jesus is his defeat of death, evil, and grief, it's important to me that it really happened" becomes "Thus, since the story of Adam and Eve is the story of how sin entered the world, it's important to me that it really happened." And so on. But I think you don't consider the Adam and Eve story accurate on a factual level? So why the difference?


At 5/11/2009 06:21:00 AM, Blogger Chris Cottingham

Autumnal, I don't know if you clicked on the link to Tony's complete post - but he acknowledges just that question, so if you haven't, I recommend that you should.

My own partial answer is that a lot of the Genesis stuff reads like poetry (ch. 1) and like "once upon a time" storytelling (ch. 2-11, at least). They say some important things theologically (God is Creator; Creation is good; all people, male and female, are in God's image). But they clearly don't answer (and I think, aren't meant to answer) factual questions about creation. The creation stories in Gen 1 and 2 are different, for one example; there's no account for the other people and cities that Cain encounters, for another.

The Jesus narratives are different. Luke and John, for example, take pains to say that there were eyewitnesses - historical figures living in a physical world - reporting what they saw and experienced. Luke says he made careful investigation; John says he was there and tells what he saw. They're claiming it's not myth, but fact.

People may not accept those claims. But in my opinion, it does violence to the text to claim some inspiration or "mythical truth" in the Jesus narratives while dismissing the author's claims to be reporting factual events. "These guys are liars but they lie so well!"

I can't see much point in giving my life to follow a nice story. When I'm in someone's hospital room watching their last moments, it's no comfort to me that Gandalf came back from death. It's the actuality of Jesus's Resurrection that makes the difference.


At 5/11/2009 11:07:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson

AH - like Chris said, Tony did address your question in the post, though not thoroughly. Personally I'd say two things:

1) Interpreting scripture doesn't need to be an all-or-nothing thing. Just because I read parts of it as figurative doesn't mean I have to read all of it as that, or vice versa. The Bible isn't one single book. It's an anthology of lots of different writings, containing many different genres, so, as Chris has argued, it's important to read the different parts for what they are, and not try to apply the same literary standards to each different piece.

2) As to whether the argument for the historicity of the Resurrection also applies to Adam and Eve, I don't think so. What's important about that story is that something did go wrong, sin did, at some point, enter the world. Whether or not it happened exactly like that doesn't matter so much IMHO. What is important is what the story represents, and that is pretty much the same regardless of whether or not it actually happened.

As for the Resurrection, I think it is also important what the story represents. However, in this case, what it represents is very different depending on whether or not it actually happened. If the Resurrection is purely figurative/mythic, then it can still have some significance certainly, but not quite the same meaning and significance, I think, as if Jesus actually rose. I disagree with Tony that liberal Christianity is "impotent", but I do think that it hasn't tapped into the full power that can come with a belief in the historical, physical Resurrection of Jesus. The historical Resurrection can also include all the significance and power of a purely figurative Resurrection, and a whole lot more besides.


At 5/11/2009 10:29:00 PM, Blogger David Henson

I find it disappointing that the worth of Christianity is hung on its founder's last three days rather than the three years of his ministry.

For me, I follow Jesus because of how he lived rather than how he died (and then undied). I'd still try to follow him if he died a withered, old man rather than a beaten, young man.

But, then, I'm weird. Or so I've been told.


At 5/11/2009 10:44:00 PM, Anonymous Autumnal Harvest

Thanks, Chris, Mike, that makes sense.

"These guys are liars but they lie so well!". . .it's no comfort to me that Gandalf came back from death.Hee, hee!


At 5/12/2009 02:16:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

David - I wouldn't say that the Passion and Resurrection is more important than life of Jesus. Rather, the language of the New Testament implies that the Resurrection serves as a vindication of the life and message of Jesus. The Passion is the demonstration and fulfillment of everything Jesus has been talking about - i.e. non-violent resistance to the powers and ideologies of domination, exclusion, and violence - and the Resurrection is the vindication that this resistance is not merely suicidal idealism.


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