A Religious Liberal Blog

This site hopefully can provide some vehicle by which I can comment, complain, and once in a while praise the state of religion in this country and around the world from a liberal protestant perspective.

Friday, March 25, 2005


As Easter approaches there are a number of voices, both on the blogs and in many churches across the country that will triumphally assert the bodily resurrection of Jesus, proclaiming it as the basis for Christian faith. My question is this: can Easter be religiously significant for those of us who are not likely to think in such terms?

I admit that I'm agnostic about the afterlife so what could a phrase like "conquering death" mean for someone in such a situation? William James writes this concering the hope of religious faith: "she says that the best things are the more eternal things, the overlapping things, the things in the universe that throw the last stone, so to speak, and say the final word."

Or as 1 John 2:17 puts it this "world is passing away with all its allurements, but he who does God's will stands for evermore" I'm apt to believe that the faith of Easter is found here, in the hope that despite the array of forces against it, reconciling love has the final word. It wasn't killed at the crucifixion but rather continues when disciples everywhere break bread together.

And that somehow when we participate in this, we're participating in something which is larger than us and will continue on. 1 John writes of eternal life not as a spatial location but rather something which "dwells" within us, when we love one another. It is through one's acts of love that we touch something of immortality.

Sometimes this is not an easy faith to hold, given the state of the world. But 1 John 2:8b calls us to check back at our experience, to see that the "real light is already shining". Instead of looking at an empty tomb, maybe this is the calling we have. To participate with this reconciling spirit and to discern where such a spirit is already at work in this world, trusting that in doing so we're touching the eternal.

11 Comments:

At 6:46 PM , Blogger niebuhrian said...

Amen Dwight-

I am an ordained minister that asks these same questions (thankfully I don't have to preach on Easter). I have, for the past two or three years, wondered and wandered through the journey of my life asking this same question. Is not the kingdom of God something to behold on this earth? What good is an afterlife, if this life is wasted?

I am wanting to believe that we were not put here to focus on what happens when we die, in fact I really don't care what happens; I do care about how I live in this world and work and play and get along with those who float in and out of my life. It is in those relationships that the kingdom of God is reality, not in some golden gated kingdom.

I have always focused on understanding that Jesus lived and through that life enabled us to understand the relationship between Creator and created. It is hard for Easter to be significant for me, but I try to see the life in it rather than some other-worldly death.

thanks for this post

grace and peace

 
At 6:46 PM , Blogger niebuhrian said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 8:32 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting. My fiancee and I often have these sort of conversations, with her taking a similar tack to what you're saying.

Several questions come to mind. Who is Jesus to you? How do you answer the question "Who do you say that I am?" I think that helps me to understand better where Easter fits for you.

Personally, I have trouble seeing as Christian any theology that makes the resurrection a metaphoric event. But I do like the emphasis on making things work in this life, not just waiting for something beatific to come. Christ spent most of his ministry telling us about the Kingdom, and then in the end trying to show us, trying to embody for us the way we are to serve each other.

The Kingdom is in the future, beyond us, but that doesn't mean it has to be "out there" in some disembodied, ethereal heap. One time is all time for God. The Kingdom is constantly breaking in around us. We should be embracing that.

Just my two and a half cents.

peace,


J-Tron

www.j-tron.org/propaganda

 
At 11:43 PM , Blogger greg said...

Hi Dwight,

I've been thinking about this topic ever since I left church tonight, and posted on my own blog, but I'm afraid you'll find my view of the matter quite a bit weirder than your own. In general terms, I think that there was something unique (in the strictest sense of the word) about Jesus: I express this by saying that Jesus manifested God much more completely than any other person that ever lived. Was he the "son" of God? Was he God himself? Since I don't believe in a theistic God, these questions have no significance for me.

What is for sure is that by choosing to die the way that he did, he showed clearly that there is something more important than each of our individual lives; namely our love for each other expressed through the Holy Spirit. The fact that so many people respond so strongly to this message I take as evidence of the imprint of God on each of us. I.e., Christ's death on the cross, and the response of the human race to that death, are for me the clearest evidence of God's presence in the world. So yes, tonight has special significance for me, even though I don't believe in the physical resurrection of Christ's corpse.

 
At 1:24 PM , Blogger Codias Brown said...

On such a solemn day as Easter, it is unfortunate to have to read such folly from among other people, an "ordained minister." As an alleged minister of Christ, it is mind boggling how you can still be questioning the most fundamental of premises within the Christian faith.

What causes a Christian to question whether, "instead of looking at an empty tomb...[perhaps we should] participate with this reconciling spirit and to discern where such a spirit is already at work in this world, trusting that in doing so we're touching the eternal."

Is a Christian so ignorant of his own religion that he is blind to the fact that our religion means nothing without a resurrection? Without a resurrection, we have not conquered death through Christ! Without a resurrection, we will be forced to stand before a perfect God still entrapped by the sin we are infected with! The empty tomb signifies our new life!

Now, were one to believe that men can attain the heavenly realm through one's own intentions and good works, well then of course the resurrection means nothing! There is no need for a Savior! You have anointed yourself Savior! It is only when one puts his trust in the object of our affections, mainly the Messiah, who died for us to pay our penalty, and rose again to conquer death and our eternal damnation, that we are in a right relationship with him.

What a statement! We are in a finite world, limited in both space and time.

 
At 5:31 PM , Blogger greg said...

Codius,

In the Easter Vigil service that I attended, one of the readings was from Isaiah 55. Isaiah 55:8-9 says "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." I take this to mean that God operates differently from humans, and no human can claim to understand God. We are required to strive toward understanding God, but always with the certainty that our understanding is incomplete and somewhat incorrect. You seem to be demanding a single "right" interpretation of scripture (namely yours). Has it ever occured to you that maybe God doesn't work that way? His thoughts are not your thoughts, and neither are your ways his ways.

And lest you think I'm picking on you, the same applies to me as well. If find it useful to keep this in mind.

 
At 5:56 PM , Anonymous Jeff said...

Christianity without the ressurection. I get it. Kind of like an endless Rotary Club meeting. Dude.

 
At 7:58 AM , Blogger greg said...

Dwight,
I will stop responding after this one - I promise.

Why do some of you insist on forcing your view of the world onto Dwight's post? Where did Dwight say anything about "no resurrection?" Or said another way, why does "resurrection" have to mean that a corpse got up and started walking around?

Dwight says: "Or as 1 John 2:17 puts it this "world is passing away with all its allurements, but he who does God's will stands for evermore" I'm apt to believe that the faith of Easter is found here, in the hope that despite the array of forces against it, reconciling love has the final word. It wasn't killed at the crucifixion but rather continues when disciples everywhere break bread together." What a beautiful interpretation of the meaning of the resurrection! How is this not a miracle, and a potent demonstration of God's love for mankind?

To me the resurrection occured in the minds of the apostles, with the recognition that Christ was not in the tomb, but in their hearts and in the hearts of all those who believe. Matthew ends with "And Jesus came and said to them, 'Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.'" This statement has the form of if-then: if you follow my teaching and spread the Gospel, then I will be with you always. How is this not a resurrection? How can one read this, with full knowledge of the past 2000 years of history, and not understand that Christ triumphed over death?

 
At 8:43 AM , Anonymous Jeff said...

Greg said...

"why does "resurrection" have to mean that a corpse got up and started walking around?"

Because that's what the word anastasis means, isn't it?

Didn't mean to be sarcastic in my earlier post. But why do we have to limit the wonder of this day? The Bodily ressurection of Jesus, strange as it may be, is simply the most logical conclusion to reach. NT Wright, for one, has helped me there.

The scriptural witness seems to point to the idea that eternal life is both a this worldly and a next worldly thing...there's no need for an "either or" dichotomy.

From John Updike's "Seven Stanzas at Easter": (apologizes for the last line, I'm not out to crush anyone)

Make no mistake: if he rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cell's dissolution did not reverse, the molocules reknit, the aminio acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded credulity of earlier ages;
Let us walk through the door.
Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are embarrased by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

 
At 6:50 AM , Blogger Marcus said...

I had no idea Updike was so genuine a Christian.

Of the making of many opinions there is no end.

Just to prove the point, let me agree with Paul and the unanimous witness of the early church that a real and physical resurrection is central to Christianity.

As are the many healings and miracles, both by Jesus and by the agents of the early church after Jesus' departure.

But so is theism and (arguably) the notion of an immortal human soul.

If none of that is true and there is no immortality, what on earth can it mean to say that love has the last word?

The last word, in such a case, belongs to the grim reaper who, over and over, for always each time, says "No."

 
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