No, Marcus Borg, the Resurrection Does Not "Make Sense" – That's What I Love about It

At Patheos, Marcus Borg recapitulates what he’s been saying for years: that the resurrection of Jesus was not bodily, it was mystical/spiritual (to be fair, he demurs on these terms, too; not because he doesn’t like them, but because people don’t rightly understand them).  Money quote:

Moreover, what would it mean to say that the risen Jesus is a physical/bodily reality? That he continues to be a molecular, protoplasmic, corpuscular being existing somewhere? Does that make any sense? How can the risen and living Jesus be all around us and with us, present everywhere, if he is bodily and physical?

I have written before that I think Borg and others in his camp are beholden to a paradigm of modern rationality: if the resurrection of Jesus doesn’t jibe with modern understandings of science, then it doesn’t wash.

In 2009, I battled this notion with a series of posts.  In Why Jesus Died, I wrote,

Jesus’ death offers life because in Christianity, and in Christianity alone, the God and Creator of the universe deigned to become human, to be tempted, to reach out to those who had been de-humanized and restore their humanity, and ultimately to die in solidarity with every one of us. Yes, he was a sacrifice. Yes, he was “sinless.” But thank God, Jesus was also human.

Then, in Why Jesus Rose, I wrote,

What I’m saying is that Jesus (God) really, materially healed people — if he hadn’t, then the miracle stories are without worth.

Jesus (God) really, materially died.

And Jesus (God) really, materially rose from death.

It’s only in his resurrection, his victory, that his death has any meaning at all.

And, finally, in Why It Matters that Jesus REALLY Rose, I explicitly took on Borg’s influence on progressive Christianity:

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.

Now, as then, I’m sure that liberal readers will rush to Borg’s defense in the comments.  In the past, I’ve been chastised by my friend, Diana Butler Bass, regarding my criticism of Borg, and I’ve been chastened by Phyllis Tickle who’s reminded me how many liberals are Christians today because of Borg.

But I need to ask, again, what kind of Christianity it is that denudes the Savior of a real, historical, bodily resurrection? It might not “make sense” that Jesus would be bodily resurrected two millennia ago, and yet still cosmically reign today.  But, for me, I can live with that unrelieved paradox.

  • http://www.travismamone.net Travis Mamone

    I like Borg, but I’m with you on the Resurrection. If Jesus’ body stayed in the grave decaying, then Paul’s illustration about dying and rising with Christ as new people won’t make sense. The Resurrection is evidence that God truly is making all things new.

  • Brian Spahr

    Thanks for this Tony.

  • Tom

    I read Borg. In fact I am re-reading his Jesus book. I’ve learned alot from Borg, his books have deepened my faith, but I don’t always agree with him, and this is one of those points that I diverge from Borg. I believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ, in part as a glimpse into what our bodily resurrection on the day of judgement will be like. His resurrection appearances to his followers give us some clues as to the kind of resurrected body we might have on that day. I’m in step with N.T. Wright here, and I often read Wright right after reading Borg as a kind of “antidote.” :-) I agree with you, Tony. Without the empty tomb, without the resurrected Christ, we don’t have much of a faith.

  • Greg Gorham

    That doesn’t really address Borg’s point. Do you see Jesus as still having a real physical body now, while also being omnipresent?

  • http://jmsmith.org JM Smith

    Thank you for pointing out (as others like N.T. Wright have been doing for years!) how vapid Borg’s version of the gospel is. Paul really was onto something in 1Corinthians 15…

  • http://www.robsellitto.com Rob

    I greatly appreciate your comments Tony. Most of all I appreciate that for so many areas you challenge what is accepted as true and not thought much off, but that you still hold to the essentials of Christianity (or atleast what I think are the essentials). Thank you for this

  • Jake

    The rules all change at the subatomic level, and that is entirely physical. Who’s to say it isn’t possible for a glorified, physical Jesus, to be present in more than one place at once? If we are seeing evidence for multiple dimensions in modern science, I believe there is plenty of room for the work and presence of Jesus, and that is only considering the logical and natural – let alone the supernatural.

  • http://helapingsten.wordpress.com/ micael grenholm

    The church has written tons of materials explaining why gnosticism is wrong. Unbelievable that it can still exist.

  • ben w.

    Are there really biblical texts that suggest that Jesus is “present everywhere” after the resurrection? I agree that his appearances are mysterious (locked rooms) and of a physical nature that is not exactly the same as mine, but it’s a resurrected, glorified body!! The church has always understood Jesus’ glorified body to be of a somewhat different nature from common flesh. Who said Jesus is “everywhere”, except as mediated by the Spirit? If I’m missing some obvious texts, please let me know…

    Tony, I’m honestly encouraged that you believe in a bodily resurrection. Thanks for stating it so plainly.

  • http://www.kingdomseeking.wordpress.com K. Rex Butts

    Thank you for this apologia of Jesus’ physical resurrection which is also a defense of our physical resurrection. For if this is not true… 1 Corinthians 15.13-14.

  • http://www.brittianbullock.wordpress.com Brittian

    Tony–that was solid man. The Absurd, impossible, reality of Christ is the resurrection…or else we are pretty hopeless.

  • Patrick Marshall

    Just to play devil’s advocate, Tony, you say that “Borg and others in his camp are beholden to a paradigm of modern rationality: if the resurrection of Jesus doesn’t jibe with modern understandings of science, then it doesn’t wash.”

    So how does that fit with what you have written on this blog about angels/demons/evil spirits? Seems like you’re doing the same thing. Again, just playing devil’s advocate…not trying to slam you, because I know I do the same thing. Just genuinely interested in how you reconcile that.

  • Michael Dise

    Thanks for writing this. It’s important that people know your stance on the resurrection and where you distance yourself from Borg since a portion of the Evangelical community keeps worrying that the emerging church is just liberal and in denial. I’ve actually been reading about Borg lately and wondering where the emerging church stood in relation to him myself.

  • Charles

    The strength of the emergent folks is the larger conversation about what the historical/traditional church teaches. Challenging what tradition says about Jesus, his life and teaching, is a very valuable exercise. It causes one to formulate ones personal faith, regardless of what the church says you should believe about Christendom. The resurrection is one of the major crossroads in that journey of personal faith. What one believes about a bodily resurrection vs a spiritual one is tough. There are excellent documents defining and defending each position. I’ll postulate that as long as a person seeks a knowing and some understanding of their Creator and what their life is about, the resurrection in either form is not the point. Let’s sort that out later…

  • Rob

    Patrick @12,
    I’m with you there. Great point. I agree with Tony, and see demons/angels and such as things that can be possibly explained by modern psychology. But aren’t we doing the same thing as Borg does with the resurrection then?

  • Matt

    Just a quick thought. I for one desire to believe in the resurrection because it is the most hopeful and beautiful of all religious teachings. (Even though according to the interpretation of some it will be miserable for most of the human family whose ever existed) My difficulty with it has always been rooted in the transient nature of the body itself. When the body is closely examined whether it be through modern scientific means or even the probing of meditative practices in the eastern religious teachings the body is found to be in a constant state of flux. What exactly would be resurrected? What part of this transient ever becoming body-mind combo platter is resurrected? No answers here just some thoughts? I know resurrected life is supposed to be a breakthrough to a new dimension of reality but the I do agree with Borg that the NT evidence gets more bodily the further away from the event itself. Hope its true though and I love Jesus.

  • http://www.pastorpam.typepad.com/ Pam Fickenscher

    I love what the great scholar Raymond Brown said, when asked if he would follow up his scholarly tomes on the Birth of the Messiah and the Death of the Messiah with something on the resurrection. “No, for that I would rather see face-to-face.”

    I find it fascinating that Borg and other liberals are basically trying to redo the conservative evangelical project of the 20th century: make the faith entirely reasonable.

  • Wes

    This discussion points out the real problem with Christianity today. The idea that if Jesus was not physically resurrected then Christianity is meaningless leads to the marginalization of his teachings. The only teachings that are important become “I am the way, the truth and the life” sort written 70 years after his death.
    I would suggest that his teachings of a loving God, an abundant life and compassion for others would make for a better grounding of Christianity. It seems to be an element lacking in the literalist version that emphasizes condemnation and judgment, and this is the point that “liberals” like Borg and Spong have been pointing out for years.
    I think that if you believe that Jesus is meaningless without the physical resurrection, then you’ve missed the whole point of his life.

  • Andrew

    Make no mistake: if he rose at all
    it was as his body;
    if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse the molecules
    reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
    the Church will fall.
    -John Updike, from “Seven Stanzas at Easter”

  • http://bobhyatt.typepad.com Bob Hyatt

    “what kind of Christianity it is that denudes the Savior of a real, historical, bodily resurrection?” According to Paul, not much of one at all…

  • http://aneverydaytheology.blogspot.com/ Bo Sanders

    a comment and a question: to believe in a ‘mystical/spiritual’ resurrection IS to believe in the resurrection. In the comments above some have said ‘without the resurrection…’ but Borg HAS a resurrection. So what we are really saying is “without the resurrection the way that I believe in it”. That’s not good.

    Question: What do we think that Paul encountered in Acts 9? That certainly was not a biological-bodily carcass and yet look at the effect it had. Why can that not be what the followers encountered after the empty tomb and before the ascension? I see that as a more than viable option.

    and as far a history goes – we are allowed to revisit this. I don’t want to be bound to thinking about this only in ways that people did when the earth was flat. We hear the voices of history and we integrate them into the conversation.

  • Matt

    @ Andrew…..my point is that the process you describe as resurrection by quoting Updike is a perpetually recurring event that is happening at every moment of our lives. Are those processes somehow frozen after the resurrection?

  • http://matt-doyle.livejournal.com Matt Doyle

    I’m with Wes @ 18 on this one. Personally, I DO believe in a physical resurrection… but to say that Christ or Christianity lose meaning without it is a baffling, absurdist statement to me. Luminous beings we are, not this crude matter…

    And the teachings of Christ do not in any way seem to rely on the necessity of bodily resurrection in any sense. I won’t deny that it contributes to the narrative in meaningful ways, but the ethical codes laid down, the worldview, the hope of a place in His Father’s house, prepared for us… none of these require us to return with a physical body in any sense we understand the term, glorified or no.

    Can you explain why bodily as opposed to non-bodily resurrection is so essential to you, Tony? Maybe I’m just missing something.

  • Dan Hauge

    Fully agree with you on this, Tony. Particularly with this statement: “I have written before that I think Borg and others in his camp are beholden to a paradigm of modern rationality: if the resurrection of Jesus doesn’t jibe with modern understandings of science, then it doesn’t wash.”

    On the other hand, I don’t get why you then cling to the paradigm of modern rationality when dealing with issues like angels and demons, and healings :).

  • Charles

    I’m with Wes #18. Once you lift the lid on the box of Evangelical construct and peek at other traditions a whole new world of understanding opens up. Looking at the life of Jesus and his teaching through a new lens is very inspiring and exhilarating. Quite often, for me anyway, scriptural conflicts are resolved and some of the doubts are eased.

  • Andrew

    @Matt: I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive. Updike’s point is not actually about resurrection as a single event or an ongoing reality–the distinction he’s feeling his way around in the poem is between the resurrection as a mere symbol of rebirth and hope and spiritual comfort or a physical reality that has an impact on materiality.

  • Matt

    @ Andrew: Well said. Nice clarification.

  • http://mousique.wordpress.com peTer

    Amen, Andrew!

    i agree that the need to deny parts of the faith that cannot be explained by modern science is an expression of a modern worldview. as is the same with christians who try to explain biblical truth by using scientific arguments.

    honestly, i don’t care for any of these arguments, wheather they are pro or con. which does not mean i deny science, but the supernatural is simply not an area modern science can claim to have any authority. the resurrection of Christ is such a supernatural thing, and it’s beautiful!

    greetz,

    peTer (the Netherlands)

  • ben w.

    Bo @ #21 – I’m confused because you mention an “empty tomb” and the disciples meeting Jesus. Are you saying someone could have stolen his phsyical body? Did it vaporize?

    If you’re simply debating the nature of Jesus’ glorified body, then I’m happy to consider that. But if you’re holding out that Jesus’ body was taken out to the desert to decay and be eaten by dogs, while the disciples went to praise His name in the streets, that’s a problem. The fundamental question seems to be: what was in the grave?? When Pentacost happened (and I beleive it did…) what was in the grave? When Paul met Jesus on the Demascus road, where was the physical body of Jesus? I believe that his “physical resurrection” included a significant transformation of a human body as we know it, but that’s much different from believing that there was still a stiff in the tomb (or the desert, or another grave, etc….)

  • JoeyS

    Great post, Tony. As somebody who grew up learning some false things about the “essentials” I appreciate somebody who will defend the risen Christ (God) but who is still willing to challenge the status quo.

  • http://zoecarnate.wordpress.com Mike Morrell

    So Tony – when are you ready to attend a deliverance session with me & encounter some demons? :)

    I agree with you, btw. I love me some Borg – especially his vision of God’s Kingdom as “open commensality” that takes place around tables – but I don’t get the modernist obsession with probability. It’s one of the reasons why ‘emergent’ still makes sense for me as a descriptor, and not simply ‘progressive Christian.’ I’m post-evangelical, but the gems of evangelicalism I affirm are a powerful & saving Jesus, a warm, affective piety (including conversion every now & again), an incarnationally-inspired canon (fully human, fully divine), et al.

    Plus I like to speak in tongues.

  • http://soulache.posterous.com Trey Lyon

    So I heard Borg “debate” William Lane Craig through one of the Veritas forums in Texas about 10 years ago. Craig did his thing, and alot of people cheered. Borg stood there and in a beautiful, humble kind of way said things about Jesus that made arguing/debating about it seem really silly.

    Finally, in a moment of slight exasperation, Borg said something like “Look, I’m not saying there wasn’t a bodily resurrection–I’m just saying that it is not necessary for me that that happened. I still find Jesus captivating, meaningful and worth following whether it happened or not.”

    And I felt then (as I still do a bit now) a great deal of faith envy. I think it does matter, I do believe in a physical, bodily resurrection–but if I have to have that to have faith, than I feel the slightest twinge of exchanging faith for religious certitude and that makes me feel like an impostor.

  • Paul Clifford

    I disagree. It does make sense if God is outside of, but able to relate to the universe, that He can remodel the physical human body of Jesus into something wholly different that can do different things (like move in and out of space/time and never die).

    If God is inside the Universe and limited by it, then the bodily resurrection doesn’t make sense.

  • Curtis Froisland

    I confess I didn’t read nearly all the comments and havent read much of Borg…but I haven’t heard much of eschatology. Isnt what the early Christians expected to happen in the ‘after life’ informed by what they believed happened to Jesus? If heaven coming down to earth and the LORD dwelling with us in the fullness of his glory is the expectation, then this spiritual mystical resurrection doesn’t ‘make sense’ (of Jesus or us). Also, it is this nonsensical resurrection that vindicates Jesus as the Christ, and solidifies the need to answer the question of his divinity. If he was spiritually or mystically resurrected (can that word even mean that?) and it made sense there would be no need to worship another false Christ, merely another type of Messiah we could strike through as not the one.

  • http://aneverydaytheology.blogspot.com/ Bo Sanders

    Ben w. @ 29. Thank you for the thoughtful response. I am interested in the talk of the nature of the glorified body. That’s what I am after.

    I am comfortable talking of an empty tomb even if I hold to a “mystical/spiritual” resurrection because the point is not to get the physics behind the miracle right. That is part of the mystery. Whatever kind of a body Jesus had after the resurrection was certainly not the same as before – it could ‘walk through walls’ and stuff :) so the biological nature of that glorified body is not the main point. What happened to the carcass in the grave? We don’t entirely know – is it enough to say that it was ‘re-assembled’ in some mystical/spiritual way? I think so.

    I still hold that Paul’s experience of Christ in Acts 9 is a helpful interpretive lens. In 1 Cor. 15:8 he chains it right on to the pre-ascension appearances.

  • http://www.dualravens.com/ravens Patrick Oden

    “How can the risen and living Jesus be all around us and with us, present everywhere, if he is bodily and physical?”

    This is an interesting question. Because does orthodox Christianity believe this? I’m not sure it does. The post, the original quote, and the comments seem to take a very binarian perspective on the issues.

    We believe Jesus is as the right hand of the Father. While it is the Holy Spirit who is all around us and with us, present everywhere, and in the Spirit we encounter Father and Son.

  • http://www.dualravens.com/ravens Patrick Oden

    …at the right hand of the Father…

  • http://www.dualravens.com/ravens Patrick Oden

    Though, it would be a nicely Irenaeun way of putting things to see Jesus as the right hand of the Father thus including the Spirit as the left hand of the Father.

  • toddh

    “exchanging faith for religious certitude ” Trey 32 – well-said. I believe in a physical resurrection too, but that’s a great point.

    I’d also add, what about the Hebrew Bible? Resurrection and the hope thereof is not just a Christian invention, but has been around for a long time. If there is no hope of future resurrection, then what do we have?

  • http://aneverydaytheology.blogspot.com/ Bo Sanders

    Patrick, you have actually touched on something very humorous. :) [I don't know if you meant to]

    When we take these phases found in scripture like “at the right hand” and instead of reading them as subversive allusion to Caesar imagery or relational comparisons – and we make them ontological locations (or something) we really twist ourselves into a pretzel. By not reading them as an ancient sort of theo-poetics we really make a mess for ourselves!

    Then we end up micro-categorizing and hyper-defining (I’m not saying that is what you are doing) every detail of an antique literary genre that was never intended to be dissected through the modern literal lens.

  • Jim

    Great post Tony, much appreciated.

    I’m disturbed by the mild Platonism that seems to creep into Borg’s language. It’s the spiritual which is “really real,” and he tries to scare us away from the physical with talk of reanimated corpses, protoplasm, and corpuscles.

    But I am not at all willing to give up on the physical. Didn’t God make it good? Whatever the resurrected body is, it must be more, not less, than our bodies now. I refuse to give up fingerprints, taste-buds, heartbeats, or even sweat, toe-hair, and earlobes. Bring on the resurrected corpuscles!

  • Korey

    Amen. Glad you are still comfortable with a little unrelieved paradox. It is a significant element of my faith.

  • http://aneverydaytheology.blogspot.com/ Bo Sanders

    I hold a position in Borg’s direction – just not as far out. What has been interesting for me since changing to this position (from a Josh McDowel, Ravi Zacharias, Lee Strobel styled one) is the large jumps that defenders of the classical position take when a new interpretation is presented.

    I am living proof that you can move in Borg’s direction without going anywhere near Gnosticism. You don’t have to buy into bad dualisms or even be Platonic in the slightest.
    I could hold a position similar to Borg’s and in no way “give up on the physical” (Jim 41).
    Here is what I am growing suspicious of: that we so heavily marry things together in our mind that we begin to think that they are inseparable. We then are hesitant to revisit one thing for fear that we would lose them both. Is it possible that we have just gotten so comfortable with them being paired in OUR mind that we can’t see how one doesn’t NECESSARILY have to lead to the other?

  • http://ephphatha-poetry.blogspot.com/ Brian

    Tony, I’d like to respectfully say that I think you have an overly simplistic and reductionistic understanding of progressive Christianity and its theologies (yes, that’s plural). You can disagree with our perspectives. That’s fine. But I just ask that you afford us the dignity that you would like to be afforded for yourself. For many of us, it’s not about being beholden to a paradigm of modern rationality. It’s something much deeper, messier, and more visceral than that. The picture you painted of progressive Christianity and its theologies is simply not accurate – and doesn’t get to the heart of the matter.

  • Greg Gorham

    “I think that if you believe that Jesus is meaningless without the physical resurrection, then you’ve missed the whole point of his life.”

    Wes that was perfect!! For what its worth I still lean towards a physical resurrection, but to second Brian as well, I don’t think Tony is painting a very accurate picture of what progressive Christianity is about.

  • http://ephphatha-poetry.blogspot.com/ Brian

    Death, evil, and grief have not been defeated. They’re still present in our world. Cancer. Holocaust. Depression. Rape. SIDS. Sexism. Bullying. Poverty. Addiction. Murder. Abuse. War. Racism. Apartheid. Terrorism. Plutocracy. Torture. Pedophilia. Colonialism. Etc. All of these things are in our lived experience as human beings. We can’t ignore the reality of death, evil, and grief. Those things can’t be explained away by comfortable doctrines, academic theories, or theologies of false hope. The defeat of these things isn’t a “done deal.” And to suggest it is a done deal, when it is clearly not, makes some people question the existence of God, makes some people resentful when bad things continue to happen, makes some people passively accept evils (such as abuse), etc. It doesn’t work to tell people these things have been defeated – and it might be downright harmful to try to convience people of it. The key isn’t to try to believe in a final victory over these things. Instead, the key is to face reality – real reality with all the messiness included – and work for the transformation in a sometimes difficult world. In other words, we need to recognize death, evil, and grief in the world and then work with God to avoid it, disrupt it, resist it, transform it, heal from it, and help one another through it. For some people, this will require too much ambiguity, messiness, and work. For others, this will be what the resurrection is all about. So let me be clear: For some people, the resurrection isn’t about death, evil, and grief being defeated. It’s about being led by God into the sacred mission of transforming death, evil, and grief in day-to-day life. Do I believe in the resurrection? Yes. It happens everyday!

  • Cindy

    Borg and progressive Christianity have saved Christ for many, myself included. For me, it all comes down to one real question…what DOES it mean to call yourself a Christian? Does it mean you have to believe in the divinity of Christ? The resurrection? Literal interpretation of the Bible? Virgin birth?

    Or is being a Christian all about following Christ’s teachings? Funny, we force ourselves to believe in everything that is reported in the Bible as having happened to Jesus, as if the events are the lessons themselves. They are not. If one is not a literal interpreter, then they can become mere events reported on as truthfully or from as biased a perspective as any news report is today.

    Simplistic? Perhaps. But sometimes we muddy the waters so badly that we can’t even see the real Jesus amongst the arguments about bodily resurrections and virgin births. What is it that really matters? The lessons we learn at Jesus’ feet. Sadly, many take up the arguments in lieu of doing the harder work of becoming Jesus-like in attitude and walk. For some reason, I highly doubt that Jesus would sit around and debate such things. Instead, he would say “Follow me…love one another…” and the rest would remain there silently on the table, long forgotten.

    Too bad we can’t do the same.

  • Patrick Oden

    Bo, I’m always happy to amuse. :-)

    My point being, though not using such complicated words, is that orthodox Christianity does not suggest that Jesus is everywhere. So, the contrast that Borg makes isn’t really a valid one.

    The words in Scripture are clear on this, as is Christian confession. This isn’t limited to the “at the right hand” conception. It also is in John 14-15.

    Interpret the various passages in whatever literal or theo-mode you’d like, the implications are that that Jesus goes away but we get the Spirit. The Spirit is the everywhereness, the field of force as Pannenberg might put it. Making the point about a conflict between bodily resurrection and belief in Jesus’ everywhereness a sort of non-issue.

    Though, binarian theology is pretty common so I know that what Borg is suggesting might be an argument against some popular conceptions.

  • http://aneverydaytheology.blogspot.com/ Bo Sanders

    Patrick! wow. You couldn’t know this but invoking Pannenberg – as far as I play the game – is an automatic trump card. You win. Hands down. ;)

    on a different note: Tony – what would you say to someone who said “of course supernatural creatures like Angels and Demons don’t make sense… that is what I love.” Or Transubstantiation. ??

  • http://www.knightopia.com/blog Steve K.

    I love me some Bo Sanders.

    And Mike Morrell.

    And Tony Jones. Thanks for this post, Tony.

  • delusion

    I think it’s clear that when he died he came back in the flesh, not just in spirit. I mean, it says it right there in a book, so it must be true, right? It is a significant element of my faith. How else could he be heard? Which side was it again though? I think Obi Wan might have been standing on Yoda’s left side, not the right. Or maybe it doesn’t matter because it’s all made up by some guy.

  • http://ephphatha-poetry.blogspot.com/ Brian

    Progressive Christianity is a diverse bunch. They and their theologies make up a rainbow of diversity. Look at just a few of the public theologians: Diana Butler Bass, Michael Kinnamon, Michael Piazza, Jeremiah Wright, Tex Sample, Musa Dube, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan, etc. All of these folks have different understandings of God, salvation, resurrection, etc. It’s unfair to toss out dismissive statements that try to collapse all of these folks together – especially in disparaging ways. For example, this quote from Tony’s post is indecorous: “Without a resurrected Jesus, Christianity is impotent. (Exhibit A: liberal Christianity.)” It might be wise to talk with these folks and look at the fruits of their labor before they are all declared impotent – or lumped together in an exhibit of failure. There might just be a few surprises.

    The Jesus Seminar – Borg’s group – is also quite diverse. A common mistake in conversations like these is to suggest that they are all the same. In fact, that’s a red flag for me when reading critiques of the Jesus Seminar. In reality, there is major diversity in the group. For example, here are a few members of the Jesus Seminar: Pamela Eisebaum, John Crossan, Marcus Borg, Stephen Patterson, Melanie Johnson-DeBaufre, Rubén René Dupertuis, John Spong, Hal Taussig, Walter Wink, etc. They represent different ages, genders, theologies, methodologies, denominations, etc. They are Christian and Jewish. And they even come to different and conflicting conclusions. In fact, a few years ago I heard Stephen Patterson (the new Marcus Borg) reflect on some problems he saw in the work of John Spong. Diversity abounds. Therefore, attempts to collapse all of these folks into a simplistic category is reductionistic at best. Things are always more complicated than we first imagine.

  • Bruce H

    So, your argument is that without a bodily resurrection, Christianity would have little meaning. I can agree with that, but I fail to see how it supports the veracity of orthodox theory. The problem is that the entire edifice seems built on a shaky foundation of borrowed myth and outright fantasy.

  • Tony

    I’m not sure how he can conclude it was not bodily either. If he doubts the physical aspect, it’s good to point out the story of Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead. If it’s spiritual (how can he be among us now?) I would point out the Holy Ghost fills that need for me.

  • Scot Miller

    First of all, I think Wes (#18) and Bo Sanders are right on the money. Thank you so much for your comments. I couldn’t have said them better myself.

    As for my half-baked thoughts: Maybe progressive Christians actually affirm the bodily resurrection to a greater degree than orthodox Christians. Orthodoxy maintains that there is essentially some kind of (magical) continuity between the biological body of Jesus of Nazareth and the glorified body of the risen Christ, both of which are somehow locatable in space and time (e.g., the appearances of the risen Christ before the ascension). Maybe the resurrection is the actual resurrection of the activity of Jesus of Nazareth in the material/physical/flesh-and-bone reality of the followers of Christ: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Matt. 18:20), and “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Cor. 12:27). So let’s embrace the ambiguity of the meaning of the word “body:” the individual, corporeal body of an individual human being Jesus of Nazareth has been resurrected into the corporate but equally corporeal body of the church (which is made up of individual, material human beings).

    So the historical question, “What happened to the body of Jesus if there was an empty tomb?” is a question that misses the theological significance of the Resurrection. A closed-circuit video camera on the tomb of Jesus wouldn’t make a difference to the bodily resurrection of Christ.

  • joe f.

    Holding supernatural beings or events to natural laws is always a mistake. If you can’t agree that they operate outside the laws of nature, you reject the definition of supernatural and there’s nothing left to talk about. The problem is that people are trying to reconcile their need to believe in god with their need for their beliefs to conform to reality. So the problem lurking behind the problem is that the evidence that would convince such people all took place 2000 years ago in a corner of a remote place in front of not very many people. The reports on which they are asked to base their beliefs are inconsistent, have passed through many hands and translations, and are included in a book with events that are clearly beyond the pale in today’s Western world (stoning people for obscure, minor offenses, offering one’s daughters to a crowd or having sex with them while on the run, etc.). The book and the religion have been used to enforce authority, often clearly corrupt authority, almost since they were created, adding to what people have to overlook or forgive to believe the good stuff. Worse, they are generally commanded to ignore the most famous incidents that are more recent because what Joseph Smith and Muhammad claim to have heard is at odds with what mainstream Christianity or Catholicism wants them to believe. So people are asked to believe the unbelievable with no evidence, to reject similar claims that lead to different conclusions and overlook the horrible abuses that litter the religion’s past and still go on today. So the miracle of faith isn’t that there are people who accept whatever religion their parents and society pass on to them, or whatever belief they happen upon when they have given up on making sense of life. It is that there are those who, seeing all that is wrong and all that is impossible, still try to find a way to believe. You should be thankful they’re making the effort and stop bitching because you think they’re two degrees off of top dead center of what you choose to believe. My understanding was that Jesus was out to include people in salvation, not exclude people with finicky theological bickering. Take a hint.

  • Rob K

    Quick question… and perhaps I’ll just have to study up on Marcus’ arguments…

    How can one’s spiritual self die? If indeed the Christ died and was resurrected from that death, Marcus would have to argue that the Christ’s spirit died as well… which leads me to ask in what form did the Christ exist if both his physical body and spiritual self ceased to live? I am under the impression that while the body decays and dies the spirit is eternal.

    Nevertheless I thank you for your rebuff and agree completely. Thank you!

  • http://confessionalouthouse.wordpress.com RubeRad

    Without a resurrected Jesus, Christianity is impotent. (Exhibit A: liberal Christianity)

    Let’s call that Exhibit B. Surely Exhibit A must be 1 Cor 15:12–

  • PhillipJ

    @joef

    You go through some of the the exact reasons why believing in Christianity makes no sense:

    1. It has no basis in reality. “The problem is that people are trying to reconcile their need to believe in god with their need for their beliefs to conform to reality.”

    2. There is insufficient evidence for the religion. ” …the problem is that the evidence that would convince such people all took place 2000 years ago in a corner of a remote place in front of not very many people. ”

    3. The Bible is just another book and can no way be considered an authoritative text. “The reports on which they are asked to base their beliefs are inconsistent, have passed through many hands and translations, and are included in a book with events that are clearly beyond the pale in today’s Western world”

    After all of this, how can you then go on to say it is a miracle that people try to still believe?

  • Rob K

    @PhillipJ and @joef: Are you guys arguing FOR or AGAINST Christianity? I’m confused.

    The reason people “bitch” is because the Church is continuing to have yeast dumped onto it and it’s ruining the dough. (Galatians 5:9) And this leavening turns the Church from a revolutionary concept and light in the darkness into a smoldering coal. Each step Christians take toward secular thought is another step away from Christ himself.

    PhillipJ, what reality? If you call reality what society tells you is real, then no, Christianity doesn’t conform to it. Christianity defines a reality beyond your reality: that men are not animals (counter-Darwin) but have a tendency toward evil things (Romans 7:18) and hope for eternity (a counter-societal concept) is faith and belief in the Creator’s Son.

    The beautiful thing about the Scriptures is that they prove themselves. They are valid historical documents and wonderful descriptors of man’s inner intentions. (Jeremiah 17:9, Proverbs 19:21a, Proverbs 18:12)

    “The Bible is just another book”. Actually, a collection of manuscripts. Ask a historian whether the Bible’s basic historical references (regardless of whether they were written before or after the fact) are accurate. If a “book” is historically accurate, accurately describes the inner desires of man, and we possess many thousands of manuscripts of this “book”, why don’t you call it authoritative? What does it take for something to be authoritative? Are Darwin’s words authoritative? Isaac Newton’s words? Pythagoras?

    John 10:26-27

  • PhillipJ

    @RobK

    I’m arguing against, although I believe joef is arguing for it.

    “Christianity defines a reality beyond your reality…” What does this mean? When I say “reality” I refer to the actual nature of the world and universe–things that we can test to determine their existence/truth. If something cannot be tested, it cannot be considered part of reality.

    Even if you call the Bible a “collection of manuscripts” that does not mean that it proves Christianity. By that rule, the vedic texts would prove Hinduism, Greek mythologies would prove the Greek gods, etc.

  • joe f.

    @PhillipJ: You seem to believe that I said it was a good thing that they still try to believe. I did not. I just said it was a miracle — and even that’s just hyperbole. I did say that, as a believer, Mr. Jones should think it is a good thing and should therefore be thankful for it instead of niggling over the details of their beliefs. Maybe that’s why I was unclear.
    I’m sure that makes you curious about my beliefs. I half-jokingly consider myself the pope of the First Church of the Good Lord Only Knows.The church’s doctrine is that, just because man has misperceived, misunderstood, misused and just plain missed the divine doesn’t mean it’s not there; doesn’t mean it is, either. It’s up to us to figure that out.

  • Rob K

    @PhillipJ

    Thank you for the clarification.

    I believe I see where you’re going with all this… correct me if I am wrong.

    You’re argument isn’t necessarily specific against Christianity, but against all untestable beliefs (religion as a concept, Darwinism, etc). Christianity (, religion, Darwinism, string theory) is based on faith (“substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” -Hebrews 11:1) because it cannot be tested/proved and thus cannot be included in “reality.” But the reality of “reality” is that there are properties of it which we don’t know nor can we test or discover with current technology… yet it is still part of “reality.”

    Christianity will only be proved at judgement (Revelation 20:12) and up until that very moment there will be skeptics and critics. There are thousands, however, that have had some aspect of “reality” changed which could not be tested or studied; it just happened.

    I wasn’t saying that having a collection of manuscripts proves what the manuscripts say. That sentences was to remove the idea that the Bible is just a “book.” I was attempting to say that society, in its workings and attempts to find truth, proves the Bible. (2 Timothy 3:15,16)

    If I am indeed correct in my above assumption of your position, I applaud you. You are a thinking man and are not easily swayed because of fancy words… I wish there were more people like that. My hope is that you’d have your reality adjusted by something you can’t prove. ;)

  • Gnip Gnop

    What I would like answered is why is any of this considered a “sacrifice”?

    If i were to die knowing (did he know? if he did not know then that is a different problem/discussion all together) I would either be reserected to save humanity or end up sitting the right hand of God. Well that’s not much of a sacrifice really. A day of excruciating pain to be sure but awesome ending.

    Now then. If I were to burn in hell for eternity in exchange for others doing the same for their sins…that would be a sacrifice.

    I just dont understand the term sacrifice here. If anything he ended up in the same or MUCH better situation depending on your beliefs. So I suppose in my mind it’s the opposite of a sacrifice.

    peace out. -GG

  • Charles

    @GG #64: The problem here is ones view, position, belief, regard atonement theology. Or, why did Jesus die? did he have to die? was he assassinated for political reasons? or was it part of “God’s master plan?” Some of us follow Jesus’ teaching on how to live the life we’re given without all these “extra” theories attached to Jesus life and purpose. Other folks add all the various theories to Jesus, God, and “God’s Spirit,” in an effort to understand the religious connotations of a life lived. Both groups (and many others) call themselves “Christians.” For my money, we all work out our own understanding of all these religious gyrations until we’re someone satisfied with understanding the life we are given and go on our merry way enjoying it immensely.

  • joe f.

    @Rob K

    “Christianity defines a reality beyond your reality…” This is why I can’t in all honesty go beyond agnostic. I know people who will gladly entertain the possibility of alternate dimensions and universes that we can postulate, but not see or measure, but they balk at the concept of heaven. It’s been said plenty of times, believing the science without having done it gives you no more certainty than believing in the resurrection without having seen it.

    I must say, I was surprised by your final statement to @PhillipJ. It was so…Christian. Sad to say, most of what I run into now from Christians is so…Republican.

  • http://ghbiblestudy.blogspot.com John Golden

    While I do subscribe to the idea that our faith should be reasonable (which I associate to Aquinas), I do not think that it is deducible. We cannot prove that God exists, let alone individual facts about what He is like or what exactly He has done. Those things we know through his revelation.

    We know Jesus resurrected physically because he was touchable. Because he ate fish with his disciples, afterward. Scripture addresses that because it is the fundamental question about resurrection. It’s not metaphorical, it’s not allegorical. It’s miraculous in the most major way.

    If your faith has no room for miracle, you’ve constructed a non-Christian faith. If you’re teaching it to people, you’re not leading them to Christ, but to some good guy, swell example idol.

    As for me and my house, we’re Easter people. Alleluia!

  • delusion

    Darwinism isn’t based on faith. If you think it is, you don’t understand it, and not understanding something doesn’t make it the logical equivalent of all things you don’t understand. This is a logical fallacy: appeal to ignorance.

    “The beautiful thing about the Scriptures is that they prove themselves.” This is complete nonsense. Nothing proves itself, particularly not the inconsistent ramblings of long dead sheep herders. Another logical fallacy: petitio principii.

    Can you keep a straight face while you attempt to refute that offspring tend to carry the traits of their parents? Can you refute that those more fit for their environment are more likely to survive and therefore breed? This is all that is claimed by natural selection. I dare you to disprove either of the above statements.

    Believe what you want, but don’t pretend that there is any rationality in the blind faith in an invisible sky wizard. This is an extraordinary claim which requires extraordinary evidence, but instead you have nothing but “some book says so” which is not evidence, but yet another logical fallacy: appeal to authority. Rational people aren’t saying that Darwin’s book is more right than the bible because Darwin because of attribution, but because his ideas work. Science is about evidence alone, not some cultist belief in the infallibility of one 2000 year old book versus another.

    When you figure out why you don’t believe in unicorns, leprechauns, Thor and Apollo, you will figure out why people are atheist. We just believe in one fewer god than you do. Religious people claim morality yet are the most intellectually dishonest people on earth. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EXMKPvWqgYk

  • Jim

    delusion – At the risk of being accused of feeding trolls, I’d like to respond to your comment. I only really want to say that you are entirely justified in your claim, “you don’t understand [Darwinism], and not understanding something doesn’t make it the logical equivalent of all things you don’t understand.” You are right, I really don’t understand it, and I try to avoid saying anything about it.

    But I would urge you to follow your own guidelines here. If you think Christianity believes in an invisible sky wizard, then you don’t understand it. If you think atheism is just monotheism with one less god, and that there aren’t radical differences in monotheism’s view of the whole universe, then you don’t understand it. If you think Jesus is the same as Thor, then you don’t understand him.

    You seem rather angry at God and Christianity. May I invite you to learn a little about it first? I can testify, and my life can show evidence that Christ’s resurrection (despite various beliefs about it) “works,” as you say. Would you dare to learn how?

  • Rob K

    @delusion

    “Darwinism is a set of movements and concepts related to ideas of transmutation of species or of evolution” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darwinism)

    “Highly energetic chemistry is believed to have produced…” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution#Origin_of_life)

    Perhaps you don’t understand faith, delusion. As before stated, faith is the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” You have not witnessed the origin of life, nor the major genetic shift required to change one species into another. In your words, “not understanding something doesn’t make it the logical equivalent of all things you don’t understand. This is a logical fallacy: appeal to ignorance.”

    I apologize… you are correct in that nothing proves itself. However, I did later say that society proves the Scriptures. Also, I’m not sure petitio principii applies here, as petitio principii involves arguments, not statements. If I had said “The beautiful thing about the Scriptures is that they prove themselves because they are the Scriptures” (or some other similar argument) then your logical fallacy argument would be valid.

    I made no reference to natural selection… I’m not entirely sure either of us understand why you mentioned it. Natural selection is quite prevalent in the world and I doubt there would be anyone who would disagree with it.

    Oh delusion, I envision you foaming at the mouth. I am not here to beat you into the ground, but to simply provide insight for Christianity. I can tell you hate religion and I understand. But the way you’ve tried to prove your point has caused more damage than helped.

    Your last sentence (minus the link) is terribly true. Religious people can be the most greedy, selfish, uncaring, snobbish inhabitants of this planet. Unfortunately, they live a difficult life under the microscope of critics. Christians follow Christ and if you look into who He is you may find him to be more palatable and not at all hypocritical. People, however, still sin even if they don’t want to. (Romans 7:15)

  • Josh Mueller

    All I know is that it mattered a lot to the original witnesses, for a number of reasons. Without the empty tomb, they believed that we have no indication that Jesus was more than a mere man, quite possibly discredited by God Himself in his manner of dying. In their mind, it would even be impossible to show that his death had any reconciliatory qualities regarding our relationship with God whatsoever. So it touches the core of faith in Christ as incarnated God and Savior, not just the issue of a physical instead of disembodied hope regarding the afterlife.

    To the degree we make similar connections in our minds, the factuality of the empty tomb and of the resurrection will remain central. Not just a little bit but pretty much all is at stake when the question is asked whether the eyewitness reports are dependable or not.

    This is not to say that a meaningful faith wouldn’t be possible without it. I don’t believe God’s acceptance is based on the degree of our mental capacity to grasp every aspect of what He’s done for us. But I don’t see it as necessarily helpful either to teach that it really doesn’t need to matter to anybody. We suffer in the flesh, we die in the flesh, we’d like to have some tangible evidence that we’re gonna be more than just dust in the wind and that death doesn’t ultimately win.

  • delusion

    Jim:
    1) “You are right, I really don’t understand it, and I try to avoid saying anything about it.”
    Thanks. I encourage you to read up on it. It’s fascinating stuff.

    2) “You seem rather angry at God and Christianity. May I invite you to learn a little about it first? I can testify, and my life can show evidence that Christ’s resurrection (despite various beliefs about it) “works,” as you say. Would you dare to learn how?”
    I do not claim to be an authority on any religion, however I will be happy to hear your evidence, provided it is rational. I caution you against the texas sharpshooter fallacy whereby all good things are attributed to god’s divine guidance and caring of your wellbeing and all negative things are dismissed as mysteries.

    Rob:
    1)“Darwinism is a set of movements and concepts related to ideas of transmutation of species or of evolution”
    Do you claim that speciation is not a logical consequence of heredity and disparate geography?

    2) “Highly energetic chemistry is believed to have produced…”
    Evolution and the origin of life are not the same thing.

    3) As before stated, faith is the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
    No, faith is believing things without evidence or in spite of contrary evidence. The mental gymnastics in the parent article are clear examples of the divergence between reality and faith.

    4) “You have not witnessed the origin of life, nor the major genetic shift required to change one species into another”
    Farcical. First, the origin of life is not the subject of evolutionary science. Second, direct observation is not required for knowledge. I assume you would agree with this, since you did not witness Jesus, either.

    5) “society proves the Scriptures.”
    Fallacy: Argumentum ad populum

    6) “Natural selection is quite prevalent in the world and I doubt there would be anyone who would disagree with it”
    I have no such presumptions of those who think faith and science are somehow equivalent but opposite sides of a coin.

    7)
    “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians” -Ghandi
    You are right, I am hostile to any world view that subjugates rational thought to fairy tales and is responsible for more evil than all other forces combined.

  • delusion

    Point 7 was intended to respond to the (remainder) of your post, but I foolishly used inequality signs rather than parentheses in a web form.

  • joe f.

    @delusion

    Darwinism isn’t based on faith, but if you believe it without having seen and understood the evidence, you’re just going on faith in the people who explained it to you. I believe in black holes, even though they are things inferred from data collected on things that exist and happen in deep space. Dy definition you can’t see one, and at our present state of technology you can’t directly measure it or anything else. But I’ve seen the deep space photos and the explanations offered about what I was seeing made sense. But I know I’m believing in the people who are telling me this. I understand the qualifications of these guys, I see what jobs they have, what degrees and so on. But I know that I don’t really know if there are black holes in the same way that I know there are, say, lakes. It is somewhat the same for Darwinism. I did the experiment with fruit flies in high school, so I know that works, and educated people whose judgment I trust say that it works the same in a much bigger way, including for humans. But for that part I have to look at the reasoning and my judgment of the evidence and choose to believe or not believe. I won’t be around long enough to know — no human will.

    I read once that you can look at science as a record of human intellectual achievement and understanding, but that you have to remember that every breakthrough overturned what had been, until that discovery, the best scientific understanding we had. So you can also look at science as a record of wrong ideas being corrected, and then the corrections being corrected. Will that happen to Darwinism the way it has happened to other scientific facts? I don’t know. I think not. But then again, people a lot smarter than me — the best scientists of their time — once thought rotting meat generates maggots.

    A lot of what we think we know is actually just stuff we choose to believe, not actual knowledge. And you have to act accordingly. If we did that there’d be a lot less arrogance in the world, as well as a lot fewer beheadings, burnings at the stake and so on.

  • delusion

    Joe:
    There is a continuum of knowledge where at one end are things for which there is no evidence, and at the other is seemingly incontrovertible first hand evidence. Unfortunately, there is no certainty at either end. Even eyewitness accounts are often wrong. It is true that one must decide based on the sum of information and the trust in the reliability of each source, however to call all beliefs “faith” is I think a misnomer. If there are two competing hypotheses on a subject and neither can be refuted, one can argue that the choice of one over the other is arbitrary, and one should only be as “faithful” as the evidence presents.

    We do have plenty of pictures of black holes, though as with anything you can twist logic to say that it’s an illusion or a vast conspiracy. http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/exotic/black-hole/ Considering the reputational damage scientists would risk in a hoax, I consider this nearly impossibly unlikely on anything beyond the scale of a few deranged individuals.

    “science as a record of human intellectual achievement and understanding”
    I completely agree with this. Darwin’s original ideas have been refined significantly, particularly with the advent of modern genetics. I think the labeling of science that disagrees with a fundamentalist biblical interpretation as “Darwinism” is really an effort to create an “us vs. them” duality when really none should exist. Darwin lived a long time ago, and no scientists now are combing through his documentation as though it were the word of god. I think this is the only rational approach to any book.

    “If we did that there’d be a lot less arrogance in the world, as well as a lot fewer beheadings, burnings at the stake and so on.”
    Agreed. Violence and oppression in the name of religion is my principle objection to it. I think it’s goofy for people to believe in tarot or astrology, but I don’t see people passing laws against astronomy or murdering people for using the wrong deck of cards.

    (Also, I butchered the spelling of Gandhi.)

  • joe f.

    @delusion: There are a few cases of semantics, I agree. Whether you use faith or belief, I guess depends on how you go about it. As a long-time soldier I learned you have to have faith in other people, that they’ll do what they say and so on. I extend that to scientists who are explaining things to me. I believe they know the math, I believe it’s been vetted, I believe they aren’t fudging for reasons I don’t know. At a certain point all that belief becomes faith to me, but I’ll admit I may be using that word to achieve some kind of parity between my religious and scientific statements.

    Photos of black holes is also a case of semantics. We have pictures of black holes in that we have pictures of black places in space we call holes. But we don’t have a picture of the thing itself, because light cannot escape it. We have a picture of the effect it has on space around it. So without a way to directly observe the thing itself we can only guess at what we’re seeing by testing what we do see against the laws we know and reasoning out a theory.

  • Rob K

    @delusion

    Speciation can be used to describe diversity in cats’ coats, so no, I don’t think micro speciation is illogical. Speciation is also used to describe large shifts, as in apes to people. I claim that this is illogical. It has not been proved by observation that placing two entirely different animals in the same area will cause them to mate and birth a new species.

    Evolution and the origin of life cannot be untangled. Evolution MUST have a beginning or your entire argument for speciation is irrelevant. Without a beginning, how did evolution, speciation, etc suddenly appear?

    Why are you arguing the definition of faith? delusion, is there any evidence at all as to the first few millenia of speciation? How about the first few thousand years? First 100? 10? 5? At what point will you admit that you believe in a hypothesis without evidence? That, delusion, is your faith. The reference to the Origin of Life article was to show you “is believed” is the basis.

    I have my direct observation, delusion. Romans 1:20 explains that. In Jesus, no. God? Yes. What is knowledge without direct observation? I believe that would be faith.

    I apologize, delusion, I assumed a greater understanding of the Scriptures. When I said society proves the Scriptures, I meant that depravity of society and its searching for something more proves Scriptures. (Ecclesiastes 1, Romans 7:18) In this case I am not appealing to society at all.

    Again, delusion, I didn’t mentioned whether I thought faith and science are equivalent. Why did you introduce it?

    Someone committing a crime in Christ’s name doesn’t mean Christ approved of it. Look at the teaching of Christ. Matthew 5:21-25. Does it sound like all those who committed evil were following this teaching? Yes, much evil has been done and it is not validated, but that doesn’t mean you should hate others because of it.

  • delusion

    In order to live with any semblance of sanity in the world, you must make certain assumptions based on present knowledge and proceed as though it were correct. You leave your house by the first floor door rather than the third floor window because you assume it is safer. Maybe there will be a bear at your door one day and this will be wrong, but to assume that both exits are equivalent because there is a miniscule level of uncertainty would be irrational. Similarly, I consider it to be far less rational to believe in the infallibility of one particular 2000 year old book than to believe that there is at least as much knowledge contained in all the others combined.

    I think the point here is that religion must ignore all evidence to its contrary and silence those who disagree, often by violence, whereas science encourages the open discussion of ideas. The list of Nobel prizes is full of people who have disagreed with the dominant philosophy and via experimentation have proven that the original idea was faulty. This indeed is the goal of science, to understand the world as it is, to the best of our ability.

    I do not believe in anything for which there is no evidence, and I particularly don’t believe in things for which there are huge volumes of contrary evidence. I am certain that some of the things I believe are wrong, but since I don’t have an international power structure to protect, (and, since I’m a nice guy) I don’t need to scare people into thinking they will go to hell for disagreeing with me, pass laws to silence their views, or execute them for heresy. The other side of this argument is not similarly unburdened and has the track record to prove it. That they choose to corrupt the thinking of their flock with irrationality and twist ancient words to fit modern life should make this obvious.

    If your book contained, for example, secret insights into the complexity of the galaxy or the genome, only to be discovered by scientific instruments thousands of years later, I would consider this to be evidence of its veracity. Instead you have horrible stories of death and prohibitions against eating shellfish and pigs. Have a look at how it could have gone down: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zOfjkl-3SNE

    Which of these is more likely?
    1) That an invisible omnipotent being impregnated a girl to create a copy of himself which is not himself and also there’s that spirit thing, but this only happened once in recorded history, only to have himself killed, and then not, to show people how bad they were even though that is how he created them, but really just to save them from their own desires which he put in them in the first place, on one planet out of trillions in a time period where there were no recording devices save word of mouth and the occasional literate observer, or maybe a guy who lived over 100 years later and wrote down what he heard?
    or:
    2) An unmarried young jewish girl got knocked up and lied about it, as has happened many times before and since.

  • delusion

    Rob:
    1) Ah, great I’m glad we’ve come to this, so I can clear things up a bit. Speciation is not the breeding of two different animals causing them to mate (although tigons, ligers and mules are all good examples of how this is possible.) What darwin saw in the galapagos islands was that there were finches on different islands which were extremely similar, but different, particularly in their beaks. What he figured out was that in some islands, birds with stronger beaks got more food by having long beaks, and others who had shorter beaks had less success, and therefore became less common. On another island, short strong beaks allowed them to crack open other types of food which existed there, and gave them an advantage. In this, there was a random mutation, similar to the way humans have blue eyes or brown, or are short or tall, which at first didn’t give an advantage at all. In time though, those small differences became advantages.

    We can see this in human genetics even in recent history with an example being sickle cell anemia, which although has its own negative factors, significantly increases survival rates of malaria. It is no surprise then that sickle cell was an advantage and became a more common trait in areas where malaria was prevalent. If babies with normal cells were more likely to die, this would be the obvious result.

    The important thing to understand is that these mutations aren’t created for a particular purpose. There’s no REASON someone has red hair vs. brown, but if some virus comes out that only kills redheads, you can be sure that there will be fewer redheads when it has run its course. Similarly, if the redhead gene happens to correspond with an immunity and most everyone else dies, in a few decades or millennia nearly everyone will be redhead.

    Now, let’s look at apes. No one is saying that an ape magically turned into a human one day, and I think this is a big point of confusion. What happened is that before there were humans, there were beings which were precursors to both people and modern apes, and those beings branched out geographically in the same way that the finches of the Galapagos did. Over time, natural selection caused certain traits (namely bipedalism, intelligence, versatile vocal cords) to predominate in one population while another did not. Many people assume that apes and monkeys are closely related, but while we share 98% of our DNA with chimps, both we and they share much less of our code with monkeys of any type.

    One of the neat things that we can do now that we can sequence DNA is that we can look at the rate of random mutation (caused by errors in transcription, the same process which leads to some cancers) and we can use mathematics to see how long it would have taken for two individuals to diverge to the degree they have. You can compare your DNA to mine and we can determine roughly how many generations ago we had a common ancestor, or you can do the same with a chimp. It turns out that for chimps, the answer is 25 million years. This is quite a long time in human terms, and leads to another big misunderstanding about things like “transitional forms” since every being that has ever lived is a transitional form between its parents and its offspring and is really somewhere in between the two. The trouble is that people have difficulty understanding how being an inch taller than your dad can translate into giraffes being 12 feet taller than their distant ancestors.

    2) regarding beginnings, first, the two can be untangled, just as baking a cake can be untangled from growing wheat and sugar and raising cows. Second, bacteria have been created in a lab by Craig Vinter’s team, and though I can assure you he was not alive billions of years ago, it stands to reason that if he can do it by choice, a random assemblage of chemicals can align in a similar way over a billion years. I have more to say on this, but I’d like to keep this discussion separate if possible

    3) evidence of speciation, etc.
    It is a hypothesis, but with evidence, and as I’ve discussed with the other gentleman, perhaps “belief” is a word with multiple definitions. Please see what I posted to him

    4) how is faith an observation? observations are bodily sensations caused by outside influences, e.g. vision.

    5) re: society
    I’m sorry I did miss the reference. Choosing a random phrase from one book (particularly one so vague and obvious regarding human nature) and then claiming that it makes the whole book true is a fallacy. “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you just might find you get what you need” does not prove that Mick Jagger is the messiah.

    6) re: evil in the name of christ
    I hate the actions of evildoers, regardless of their affiliation. When they claim their affiliation is the source of their action, I similarly hate their affiliation, whether it be christianity or MS-13 (a brutal mexican street gang, to save you the trouble)

  • jonw

    this made me lol.

    my religion is not awe-inspiring enough, unless X happened. having a religion that is awe-inspiring is important to me. therefore, I believe that X happened.

  • http://aneverydaytheology.blogspot.com/ Bo Sanders

    jonw, where have you been hiding? we needed you like 30 hours ago ! ;) jk

    but I love your point. My favorite of these formulations comes up when trying to combat a modern (convenient) reading of a Bible passage by putting it in it’s historical context ( Matthew 7, the parable of the talents, or any passage having to do with ‘end times’) which is dismissed with: “I like my eisogesis reading better – it is more exciting… so I’m just gunna stick with that.”

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  • Nick v

    The reality is being a Christian, you will have had to accept many things that quite simply can not be explained. I understand that Jesus needs to physically transcend death to validate your belief…maybe its time to consider that you are working way to hard to believe in something. I think there are many brilliant comments in here . The fact that generations of intelligence like this still can’t explain this is one really arrow pointing to an obvious answer. Think about it, science and religion really can’t coexist in perfect harmony, science can only explain things that happened. If you think about it worshipping the sun would make more sense any ways.

  • Brian

    The comments are actually as fascinating as your writings, Tony. Both betray however a view of reality that is deeply rooted in a conservative and dare I say, fundamentalist understanding of Jesus’ death and resurrection. (maybe you are really channelling a Jewish view!) I dare not debate what YOU believe (you seem to have made that abundantly clear); I can only offer my thoughts. But, to use your defense of the bodily resurrection: “What I’m saying is that Jesus (God) really, materially healed people – if he hadn’t, then the miracle stories are without worth. Jesus (God) really, materially died. And Jesus (God) really, materially rose from death. It’s only in his resurrection, his victory, that his death has any meaning at all.” So Jesus bodily rose from the dead. Good for Jesus! So what does that mean for me? I have to wait some undetermined time for this “new body?” (you know better than I the Bible is painfully unclear on life after death) So I will be stuck once again with a receding hairline? (I joke) Frankly, I don’t want a bodily resurrection. I want to move across the universe at the speed of thought. I want to watch galaxies come and go, to transcend the limits of time. And if Jesus truly is our “brother,” I want to sit with God, to “be all around us and with us, present everywhere.” Sorry Tony, I think you are wrong on this one. The stories found in Scripture make it painfully clear that Jesus was a mystical (yeah, really poor word to use here but will suffice as a place to hang other words on) reality that doesn’t make sense. A corporeal resurrection, complete with body odor and a bad hair day? Now that really doesn’t make sense.

  • Josh T.

    “Moreover, what would it mean to say that the risen Jesus is a physical/bodily reality? That he continues to be a molecular, protoplasmic, corpuscular being existing somewhere? Does that make any sense? How can the risen and living Jesus be all around us and with us, present everywhere, if he is bodily and physical?”

    I would probably answer that I think that’s part of the point of why Jesus needed to ascend to the right hand of the Father. The presence of Jesus (given that he has not lost his humanness) is only possible from that heavenly “position.” Is that not one of the ideas behind sending the Holy Spirit?

    Of course, we cannot comprehend the concept of a glorified human body that cannot die, as such, but I don’t think that should prevent us from being able to affirm it (mystery and paradox–sure). You could even go so far to say that the body is physical AND spiritual, given the new possibilities. But I think one of the points of the physicality of it is that the body of Jesus still has relevance for us and connection to us (somehow or other) in this cosmos we live in, not just in some disembodied heavenly reality.

  • Charles

    This whole discussion is fascinating! The challenge for those of us who embraced some form of a religious belief system (theology) is that we are stuck trying to describe something that is transcendent. By definition that’s extremely difficult; our finite selves fail to comprehend the infinite to the extent we can describe such. In the discussion with our friend, delusion, it is quite apparent s/he is not bound by this challenge. Thus, in my opinion, it’s apples vs oranges.

  • http://jewalters.wordpress.com James

    Critiquing Borg for his view on the resurrection is all well and good if you feel the need to; however, to accuse him of being “beholden to a paradigm of modern rationality” is a deliberate misreading and misrepresentation of Borg’s thought. If you have read Borg extensively, you know that he is beholden to no such paradigm. It seems like it’s just a convenient way to depict him as the stodgy old rationalist and yourself as the cool postmodernist. Some people might buy that; others see through it.

  • nick b

    Just to echo James from above – one of Borg’s replies to Tony might be that Tony, by stating that “Thus, since the resurrection of Jesus is his defeat of death, evil, and grief, it’s important to me that it really happened.” he in fact is being a “fact fundamentalist” (one of Borg’s favorite phrases) – only moderns ask if something “really” happened.
    To accuse the liberal church as being impotent is funny given the energy you’ve spent blogging against Borg (and it is against, it seems to me, more than ‘in dialogue with’). If Borg’s church is impotent – you seem to have been aroused.

  • http://mattstone.blogs.com Matt Stone

    Great post Tony

  • John Mc

    I know I am late to this, but I have to comment.

    It is a mistake to interpret a symbol as the truth for which it stands. As God is transcendent, we have to acknowledge that anything done by God on earth and in our realm of being is a mere representation of the transcendent truth of God and is not the truth in itself.  When his world is long gone, God will continue to exist.

    Not that the earth is unimportant, it is a creation of God and it is a gift to us. The fact that God became incarnate is likewise a sacred gift.  But the conclusions humans reach about what such representations say about God is not the essential and core truth of the matter.  Not only are we limited in what we can imagine about God and the message God intends, but the actuality of the incarnation is itself limited in its capacity to reveal the transcendent truths of God. 

    The resurrection did not transform our human reality, instead it transformed our relationship with our creator.  The transformation was not effected by the occurrence of the resurrection, bodily or otherwise, but by the irresistible will of God.  The resurrection, bodily or otherwise, was merely the manner in which God communicated that act of divine will to humanity in the First Century.     And likewise, the will of God does not hinge on how humans choose to understand the factuality of the resurrection.

    My faith does not hinge on the veracity of specific facts that another person claims to have witnessed; it depends on my relationship with God – what the other person witnessed or how accurately it was seen or relayed to future generations, cannot be the basis of my faith, ultimately my faith is based on my experiences. Faith contingent on the truth of asserted facts is not genuine faith but more like reason – waiting to be disproved.

  • FaithPoisonsReason

    @delusion You sir, hit a homerun with every post. Your perspicuity of reason is a breath of fresh air.

    The general problem here is the willingness of otherwise rational thinkers to throw out their intellects when it comes to their religion. They are the moderate enablers about whom Sam Harris writes in The End Of Faith. But in the end, there is no defense against reason. Science will, eventually, win the day– that is if the religious don’t end the day for everyone first.

  • http://bibleshockers.blogspot.com WoundedEgo

    As you say, reasoning about religion is pointless. With religion, all bets are off.

    However, just reasoning from the scripture one sees that the idea of the resurrection of Jesus’ body is not in line with Paul’s teaching. (The gospels may be a different story). For Paul, there is no mention of an empty tomb. He says that the body of the residents of the kingdom are not the same ones that came from the dirt:

    1Co 15:36 Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die:
    1Co 15:37 And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain:
    1Co 15:38 But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.

    In other words, Paul’s view of anastasus is not resurrection but rather reincarnation. Not the Hindu variety, per se, but still, not the same, fleshly body. Paul loathed his flesh. Flesh was the home of that evil alien, Mr. Sin. He longed, not to be naked, but stripped of “the body of this death” and clothed upon by a new body from the sky.

  • http://missourimule.blogspot.com Larry

    Paul may have loathed his “flesh”, but for Paul “flesh” is not the same as body, or physicality, he was always careful (more careful than a lot of translators) to distinguish between “sarx” and “soma”, flesh an body. Flesh was where sin made its home, so naturally Paul had nothing good to say about it, but it was, and is, not synonymous with body. That Paul never mentions an empty tomb means little, since all of his letters were to Christians who already knew the basic gospel. If you’re really interested in what anastasis means, see the opening section of N.T. Wrights “The Resurrection of the Son of God”, where he treats the subject at length.

  • http://bibleshockers.blogspot.com WoundedEgo

    >>>…but for Paul “flesh” is not the same as body…

    Indeed, there are different kinds of flesh, and it is only the flesh that originates from this dirt that he loathes. But he does loathe his current body and not just the material it is made of:

    Rom 7:24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

    He wants out! Badly!

    And to be clothed upon with a new body from the sky. I’m increasingly inclined to suspect that we are to understand Jesus to have been given a new body and that he went into the tomb, grabbed his old body and hid it in the woods to decompose. It was a mortal body. A fleshly body. An earthly body.

    At any rate, Paul is clear and explicit what he expected to happen to the seed that was his own body. It would die off and God would give him a new body that was immortal, incorruptible and not made of that daggum flesh and blood stuff!

  • James

    John Mc’s view here is certainly worth responding to.

    “It is a mistake to interpret a symbol as the truth for which it stands.” – very, very true.

    “As God is transcendent, we have to acknowledge that anything done by God on earth and in our realm of being is a mere representation of the transcendent truth of God and is not the truth in itself.” – no. The categories of transcendent and immanent are important for us westerners in understanding God, but also shouldn’t themselves be used as “absolute” keys of understanding. If I mow the lawn, it is then true that I mowed the lawn; whether or not it grows back again, or the earth is destroyed.

    The event of the resurrection is also not merely a symbol. Christ’s body is not merely a symbol that points us to some higher, transcendent truth.

    We sometimes have a tendency to “idealize” truth, value, and issues pertaining to our faith in ways which do not reflect God Himself. God clearly invested Himself in this very concrete, created order when His son took on flesh. “And the WORD became flesh, and dwelt amongst us …”

    Denying the event of the bodily resurrection is not merely having a different “understanding” of the same thing – it is to deny one thing, and to posit another. The two should not be referred to with the same term, “resurrection.” Those wishing to refer to an event, a metaphor, or a truth which is not intimately bound up with the bodily resurrection of Christ should find another word – such as “the transcendent sublation” or “the metaphor of continuing and persistent life.” We only get into terrible confusions and arguments when we refer to essentially different things with the same words. Any philosopher or sociologist can explain why. An event involving a raised body is an event; a metaphor for life is in no way an event, it is what Husserl would have called an “ideal object” and has an entirely different sort of being and reality from that of an event; and an ecstatic experience of something powerfully imagined, in absence of perception of something in the shared, concrete world is utterly different from the event of a body being raised, the raising itself which is seen by no one.

  • John Mc

    James,

    Thanks for responding.

    I am not necessarily denying the factuality of the event of the resurrection.

    I am drawing a distinction between the event of the resurrection and the meaning we (and by inference, God) attach to it. Let us assume an event happens, the sun rises, a man dies, a tree falls in our yard. Something happened. We perceive it and respond to it depending on how it affects our lives. We rise from our sleep, we make allowances for a lost relationship, we dispose of the remains of a dead tree. We cannot conclude necessarily that the event is intended by God to communicate a whole new set of ethical, soterialogical, and eschatological consequences for humanity.

    An unexplainable event happens. A woman is cured of a disease previously thought incurable. A man previously thought to be dead is seen walking and talking with his friends. We cannot conclude necessarily that the event is intended by God to communicate a whole new set of ethical, soterialogical, and eschatological consequences for humanity. I t may be so, it may not.

    On the other side of the stage, let us say that God elects to communicate the message that a whole new set of ethical, soterialogical, and eschatological consequences for humanity. The message is complicated, and its full ramifications admittedly are and always will be beyond the capacity of humans to grasp. But for our purposes, suffice it to say simply: ‘new rules apply’.

    How could God communicate that message? One way is for God to cause a series of unexplainable events to happen. A woman could be cured of a disease previously though incurable. A man previously thought to be dead could be seen walking and talking with his friends. Some humans might comprehend the message intended to be sent by God.

    Regardless of whether all humans comprehend the intended purpose and message of the unexplainable events, the message intended by God (i.e., ‘new rules apply’) is separate from the events by which God attempted to communicate it. The events intended to communicate the message are mere symbols or signs of a message which itself is beyond full human comprehension. The events chosen to communicate the message were not in themselves that important, God could have chosen other ways to communicate the message. God’s chosen method of communication was not the message itself, and could not itself embody or manifest the totality of the message. The events were merely a this-worldly reflection of divine intention – a symbol, a sign.

    With this understanding, for me it is not important whether I embrace the factuality of the events, and the factuality of each of the details recorded two thousand years ago. What is important is that I embrace the truth of the message itself, to the limited extent my human capacity will allow.

    To repeat, I don’t reject the factuality of the event, but I don’t need to witness the event or even to hear or believe the witness who experienced it, to believe the message God intended to communicate with it.

    “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” Here I interpret Scripture to be communicating that it is belief in the message which is important, not witnessing the event which was intended to communicate the message.

    The resurrection event is intended to point to the truth of the salvific intention and work of God in the world, but it is not itself the salvation of humanity.

  • Charles

    John Mc,
    Outstanding post! You have put into words what I’ve been trying to sort through and express for years. Thanks! I’m going share your thinking with my religious friends with whom it I discuss these matters regularly. I’ll credit you as John Mac as that’s all I can do.

  • Josh Mueller

    John Mc,

    I fully agree with your distinction. An event and a particular interpretation of its meaning have no necessary self-evident connection. And yes, God could possibly have communicated the same message in a multitude of ways, and I believe He has. And it’s also possible for a sceptic to reject the notion that this event would have to have this meaning even if it happened the way it was reported.

    But I believe the original question whether it MATTERS that Jesus rose bodily goes further than just asking the question: is this event (or belief in the factuality of the event) necessary for someone to have faith in God’s salvific intentions? If we reduce faith to mere existentialism, sooner or later we are left with no real reason WHY we should believe that God’s restorative purposes include a physical redemption (both now and post-mortem) and not just an inspiring idea.

    I agree that faith doesn’t need proof (and such proof would be impossible to provide anyway) but somewhere along the way faith also needs reference points (even an Abraham eventually needs an Isaac), it cannot exist in thin air based on words alone. After all, the Christian faith is based on trust in a person who walked with human flesh and blood in the physicality of this world, was killed in this body and yet we understand Him to be both Messiah, Savior from all sin, and Lord of all creation. Such belief makes little sense if the body of Jesus decayed somewhere and contradicted his repeated prediction that within 3 days the destroyed temple of his body would be rebuilt. It’s the message itself that becomes inconsistent if it’s not based on actual events.

    And I believe Tom Wright is correct in his evaluation that a mere message or a transformed belief without these events could have never led a first century Jew to believe that the crucified one was also Messiah. Leave Jesus in the tomb and we have no basis to ever speak the Apostolic Creed again or to believe what it claims.

  • John Mc

    Josh,

    I am not so sure I want spend eternity in this body. It’s nice and all, but I don’t think it’s designed for long haul trips. So in that sense I have no difficulty distancing myself from a belief in my personal physical ‘redemption’, as you term it. Does it matter that Jesus rose from the dead? Well, it mattered to Jesus,…and to Thomas,… and doubtless to many others. And that is exactly what it was supposed to accomplish, I guess. That was the sign they needed.

    Does it matter to me? Not really. A lot of what God does will not really affect me. Those things were not supposed to affect me and thus I can focus on what does affect me. Think of galaxies light years away and what has happened in those galaxies for the last million or so years. God has as much to do with those events as with the resurrection of Jesus. Whether the human body of Jesus decayed or not has nothing to do with my faith.

    I agree, faith needs reference points (I like this term). For me the reference points are Scripture, and the times I perceive that God is intentionally impacting my life in specific ways. I am like Abraham, I do need my Isaacs. but something that happened two thousand years ago just does not serve as my Isaac. The Isaacs in my life are the special blessings and challenges which I feel are from God, sent to remind, and to affirm, and disaffirm.

    Frankly, as far as the Gospel message goes, I am more taken by Jesus teaching, and his death on the cross, than I am by his resurrection. His life and his death were clearly human events in a human context, and thus communicate to me a human message which I can cherish, and which I can put into practice as I live my life. His resurrection, while dramatic, is not all that instructive to me, except perhaps in some less well publicized ways. For example, that he reappeared with his wounds, leaves me to believe that if I am resurrected, I too will carry the scars of this life, scars which molded me and gave character and meaning to my life – and thus I can expect to exist in my resurrected state with certain idiosyncratic parts of me intact and I will not just be swallowed up into the Cosmic wholeness of God.

    Abraham did not require an empty tomb to have faith. Most of us who have faith have never witnessed the Risen Lord nor have we seen the empty tomb. Would we still believe if these signs were not given? I don’t know.

    Tom Wright was a little too quick with his dismissal. The Gospels are filled with stories of First Century Jews and non-Jews who believed that Jesus was the Messiah even before he died, let alone after he abandoned his tomb.

    In the end, the empty tomb is a sign, and, as you said, there many signs. For me, the fact that there many signs tells me that God did not hinge salvation on the belief in just one of those signs (the resurrection), otherwise there would be no reason for additional signs.

  • James

    John Mc,

    “Regardless of whether all humans comprehend the intended purpose and message of the unexplainable events, the message intended by God (i.e., ‘new rules apply’) is separate from the events by which God attempted to communicate it.”

    Here I would disagree, in that: the resurrection is not, in the first place, a “message.” There are many “messages” which we might attach to it … or which should “tell” us things about Christ, God, and who Christ is for us.

    But we must not reduce the resurrection to being “a message” or a symbol.

    Next … it is impossible for us to determine what this “meaning” is in its completeness, of the various things that we come to understand as we live out our days in cognizance of Christ’s resurrection. It always “means” more than we are aware of.

    And finally … this would take some philosophical explanation that I won’t get into … there are speech acts whose actual meaning changes, depending if they are actually said, or not said. A speech act is always dependent on its context, and sometimes that context may include whether or not it was actually uttered. Speech acts, and acts of signification, are not merely static; they don’t only simply “mean” something in a way that would be identical, no matter what the time, place, or context. They are always dynamic and do something, they have an effect, and that effect is always contextual. Some speech acts have more dramatic changes of total meaning dependent on context; with others, the change is more subtle. But meaning is always contextual.

    With the resurrection, the actual occurrence of this event is a part of the context in which this message is found … and the context of the message always conditions the “meaning” of the message. So even if this were purely a message, the “meaning” of the message – when considered in its entirety and its contextuality – in the case that the event did not occur, differs from the “meaning” in the case that the event did occur.

    And all that … being the case if the event is able to be reduced to being simply a message, which it is not.

    This makes me think of Derrida’s deconstruction of Husserl’s distinction between Sinn and Bedeutung. We sometimes try to isolate meanings from larger contexts. We do succeed to some degree, but only in a preliminary way, and never finally and absolutely.

  • James

    The resurrection itself can perhaps help us to think about the nature of signification. We often tend to think of signification as something like this … “I,” the subject … am somehow struck by a sign … it enters my ear or my eye … this stimulates ole braino to go a thinkey think think, hmmm, what’s the meaning of this sign? How shall I interpret it? Oh, we have this and this as context, put them together … blammo, it means “some meaning.”

    The resurrection is quite different from this. It is a part of the very fabric of the reality in which we live … moreso to the degree that we are able to acknowledge the incredible glory of who Christ is … I do not wish to reduce it here, but simply point out a few of the things which are bound up in the resurrection … Christ’s kenosis (emptying) in becoming a servant of man, prior to the resurrection … His atonement of our sins in His death … His rising in glory after doing whatever it was He did in the abyss of hell. And so much more, much more than I know to tell, and much more than I will ever know in this mortal coil. It is a thing that we can not look at straight-on without its picking us up by some body part and shaking us around. If we are not so shaken, we have not even been looking upon it askance. As a signifier (which is only a fraction of its being), it breaks our paridigms of signification by transforming the subject in the act of the reception of the signification.

    There are other ways that Christ Himself breaks the logic of signification. With most things, there is a res essendi and a res cognoscendi – a thing as we perceive it, as it is “for us” – but then also that thing itself, not considering its relation to us or how we perceive it. A noumenon, and a thing as it is phenomenalized. And as we know, though we can imagine the noumenon, we never “really” get to it, it remains uncognizable and unknowable by us.

    Not so with Christ. In a certain sense, with Christ, we “have” both noumenon and phenomenon. It is Christ Himself who acts upon us … He is our way to the Father (as the phenomenon is our way to the noumenon); and He is of one being with the Father. It is entirely possible that it is only by virtue of Christ’s natural grace that we are able to perceive anything at all, or have any consciousness. Christ Himself and His grace may be the key to this terrible gap in consciousness … that we observe and know, but know not how … as well as other gaps … such as that between will and consciousness, and will and the concrete body. There are so many things which philosophically make very little sense, including signification and consciousness. Perhaps the only adequate reason is: “by the grace of Christ alone, He who Himself unites in Himself phenomenon and noumenon, in His natural grace … whether we acknowledge Him or not.”

    In the beginning was the WORD, and the WORD was with God, and the WORD was God …

  • James

    This also gets me to thinking about being. We’ve had signification, epistemology. But how about being?

    One of the best responses to the cosmological argument has been, “You can’t imagine God, and then simply ‘add’ being to that imagining as another quality to make it more perfect. Being is not a simple predicate or quality.”

    Now think about that for a while.

    The same is true of the resurrection. Being itself is not a simple quality; being is something wholly other than the mass of abstractions, concepts, characteristics etc. we employ in our attempts at understanding being.

    For something as momentous as the resurrection … think about what it means to try to say “ok, we have it here on this one side where it is real … has being … exists … (whatever term is most appropriate – these are all linguistically impoverished in some way or another, reflecting our own petty abstractions in search for meaning – e.g., we can not really ask the question, ‘does being exist?’) – and on the other side, we’ve got exactly the same thing – only, without being.”

    I grant you: in some way we can imagine it … or at least imagine ourselves imagining it (like our imagining ourselves imagining a noumenon). But I would suggest that our imagination is rather impoverished or unjust if we are truly convinced that what we have here is really like the one thing on the one side, in any understandable equivalence to that on the other side.

    As I mentioned above about linguistic problems in properly referring to being … being itself being not only too “big” to be conceptualized this way, its rather being something like a precondition of our very imagination of the concept … one can read Heidegger on the “forgetting of being” on this topic … philosophers have wrestled with the problem of being and God. Jean-Luc Marion, for example, experimenting with thinking of “God without being” – not that God is not real, but that being itself is predicated upon God … thus in referring to God, we might do best not speaking of being as we usually do. God reveals Himself as “I AM that I AM” … this sort of throws a big monkey wrench into our ordinary sense of being, or truth as correspondence with being or reality. God is perhaps telling us to be careful here in simply trying to use predicates and correspondence, and that He is other than any of the ways that we have of conceiving or measuring … that He reveals Himself to us, and that we do not climb up to Him with inductions, nor derive Him with deductions. That God is real as beyond our very ability to cognize or relate to the real. The word “cosmic” might be a beginning for one who is only beginning to imagine. But after a few thoughts, we realize also how utterly impoverished the word “cosmic” is for describing God. Have a look at http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=cosmos for further reflection on the utter inappropriateness of using the word “cosmic” to describe God (I’ve made this mistake myself before, I am afraid, so I don’t blame anyone here who uses “cosmic” to describe God).

    Jesus is God for us. And Jesus is God. And we are somehow related to that which is so completely beyond our imagination it defies our very means of articulating and experiencing truth (as correspondence) through Jesus.

    With the resurrection, there is an amazing interconnectedness – of life and death (in life’s triumph over it), and that which we falteringly call being … Christ’s body itself being a part of that being, and not the whole of it. Scripture refers to life, in a manner different from how it refers to being and existence. It is as if life is its own category – perhaps being only makes sense with life – there certainly would be no observer or sense of being without life. Life may in some sense be a mystery which itself grounds being in a profound way – with being as we know it, created only with life as its intention and final cause or telos. At the very least, it would be dishonest for us to pretend that we can imagine being without life; because our life is so thoroughly imbued in our consciousness and our imagination. Yes, we can imagine an earth ball without flora and fauna; but this is merely the visual representation which a living being has of such a thing. It reflects ourselves more than it reflects being without life. We are right there in it, even though we aren’t imagining ourselves there smiling at the camera of our imagination.

    With sin, our notion of life was conditioned also by death – meaning that we may likely live with a very improper idea of life. That death is a flaw of life, just as sin is a flaw of life. That we tend to think of life atop being and conditioned by being may be a part of this skewed notion of life – the actual relation of the two may be quite different, with the crazy, unfathomable order in life imbuing being in a way that we don’t understand – giving meaning to the pathetic fallacy and our sense of the sublime.

    So to try to pull reality out of the resurrection is primarily a task for those unable to imagine the resurrection. I do not accuse those speculating here about the resurrection as symbol of the inability to imagine the resurrection; I simply mean to say that if you are honest, you will probably see that your imaginings here, contributing to this speculation, have failed to grasp much of what the resurrection is. And that it may actually make more sense to imagine the resurrection sans being, than being sans resurrection.

    Now all of this sounds very, very speculative and is not where our minds belong. Shouting, “He is risen!” is much, much more meaningful than all the mental perambulations going on above. But as our conceptual thinking and philosophizing (like that above) tends to dull our imaginations and means of cognizing that which is truly momentous, it is possible that the above is yet positive in unleashing our imaginations from prior, stifling paradigms of thought. This is largely the task of philosophy: to move aside artificial impediments of thought and imagination in making straight the path for God’s grace.

  • James

    sorry, in above with “cosmological” I meant “ontological”

  • James

    My postings here have gotten very speculative and are moving into rather uncharted territory; it’s likely that comments could derail this thread in addressing my own postings, so I’ve made an article out of these comments posted at http://videruntomnes.blogspot.com/2011/05/late-night-meditations-on-resurrection.html – where you can comment on specific issues I’ve raised. This has been an inspiring subject.

  • mark rogers

    The earliest context of the resurrection is within Jewish culture. In Jesus’ time the belief was after you died you were dead, dead, dead. Then at sometime in the future God would raise you (physically) from the grave, there would be a judgement at which you would either go to live for ever in heaven or in hell. Jesus’ resurrection was interpreted in this context – the first fruits of the resurrection. This was because as a righteous person he was raised in advance as a foretaste of what wil happen to all the righteous. This was connected with Jesus’ status as God’s Messiah – his being raised was a sign of this status even though his death had appeared to undermine any Messianic status. The problem is modern Christianity does not share this view about what happens when we die. Rather we are immersed in a Greco-Roman world view of souls going off to heaven upon death.
    The other problem with Jesus’ resurrection is the high speculation that Christianity has conferred on it as regards salvation. Huge claims are made – Jesus’ resurrection has conquered death, saved us from our sins, created a new order & so forth. There is no reason to hang any of this on the resurrection of Jesus. At the most we can say that somerthing amazing has happened to this man. But even if Jesus did ‘rise’ it would not prove any other this incredible ideas. Similarly the idea of Jesus ascension – even if it happened the most we could say is he is no longer here – anything else (he is in heaven/sitting beside God/waiting to return in glory etc) is pure religious speculation.

  • John Upshaw

    I enjoyed your counter to Borg, whose self satisfaction has an unplesant aroma …… I am not sure what paradox you are referring to, however. About the 2 millennia since the resurrection. I’m sure God knew what he was doing; the appropriateness of the when Christ’s death on the cross and His ressurection seems to fit very well. I wonder what our world would be at this moment if Christ, the most important figure in human history, had showed up in this day and age. I marvel that His truth transcends time as we live out the history He seeded by His physical manifestation in flesh and blood. Christ reconciles all paradoxes.


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