Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Michael Ramsey on the Resurrection

The one hundredth Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, often preached on the resurrection of Jesus. These paragraphs are from his book, The Resurrection of Christ. A Study of the Event and its meaning for the Christian Faith (London: Collins, 1965 [1961], 2nd edition). Go HERE to buy the book. 

The Christian Gospel was not first addressed to people who had no belief in the future stale . . . But nowhere, either for Greek or for Jew, was belief in the future life vivid, immediate, central and triumphant. Nowhere did the belief combine a conscious nearness of the world to come with a moral exalting of life in this present world. This was what Christianity brought. Its doctrine was not a light to another world that left this world behind, nor was it a longing for another world that would come when this world was ended. It was the very near certainty of another world, with which the Christians were already linked and into which the life of the world would he raised up.

For the Christian belief about the future state centred in Jesus Christ. He had been seen and loved in this life; and he had been seen and loved also as one who had conquered death. He had become vividly known as the Lord both of the living and the dead; and the conviction of his people concerning the future life rested upon their conviction about him in whose life they shared. It was an intense and triumphant conviction that where he was there also would his people be . . . 

While there was the glorifying of his body to which the narratives testify, there was also the continuity of the whole manhood, body and spirit, raised from death. The Son of God took upon him the whole of human nature (often in the New Testament the word ‘flesh’ is so used) in order that the whole might be raised in glory . . .

It is insufficient and misleading to present the Old Testament as the story of the growth of man’s ideas about God, without the primacy of the greater theme of God’s own acts and God’s own utterances in the events of Israel’s history that makes the Old Testament what it is. It is equally misleading to present the Gospel as the conception of God taught by Jesus, without due reference to the mighty act of God himself in the Passion and Resurrection. Read in its own light, the Bible has the Resurrection as its key. Its God is the God who raised up Jesus Christ from the dead, and in so doing vindicated his word in the Old Testament and in the Cross of Christ. It is only in virtue of the Resurrection that the Bible is one, and that the message of the Bible is coherent and true.

But though the revelation in the Bible is unique and breaks into the world from above, it is not ‘wholly other’. For the God who there reveals himself is also the God who created the world. Therefore the theme of the Gospel, Life-through Death, does not come as wholly strange to the world. Rather is it like a pattern already woven into nature and into the life of man. Though it is blurred by human sinfulness the pattern is not obliterated; and throughout all life there runs, however faintly perceived, a law of living through dying, a law whose presence testifies that man is made in the image of God. The Gospel of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ is both strange to mankind and yet nearer to mankind than the breath which they breathe. For the truth in him is also the truth in them.


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