Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Jesus rose . . . ripping a hole in history!

I am sneaking in a few more bits on the Resurrection of our Lord before Ascension Day tomorrow. (My apologies to regular readers for the inactivity of the blog during the past week; I've been busy packing in readiness to move house - always a terrible task!)

The historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is very strong. John Austin Baker, Bishop of Salisbury, has a first class mind. Recently he wrote about the resurrection of Jesus from the dead in the following way:-

"But it is still very important, in a sceptical and often hostile culture, that the Easter story should stand up to attack - no easy matter at a distance of almost 2,000 years."

He went on:- "But stand up it does."

I have studied the evidence over many years, and I am convinced he is right. There is strong evidence - from history and from personal experience. Part of the evidence is the very existence of the Christian movement. It is very difficult to account for the fact that this great movement was founded by a man who lived such a short and obscure life. He never travelled far from home (except as a child), and he died in disgrace. At his death his followers were reduced to a handful, and they were demoralised and shattered.

Yet the movement re-emerged with great vigour. It is extremely difficult to find a suitable explanation for the fact that the largest movement ever was launched in such unlikely circumstances. In my view, the only adequate explanation is that given by his surprised disciples:- "It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared..." (Luke 24:34). This also explains another startling fact: The first Christians, all of whom were Jewish monotheists, called Jesus, "Lord" (God). This extraordinary, and highly significant fact will be discussed further in the programme.

This, then, is the heart of the Christian claim, and it is unique among world religions. Because God raised him from the dead, Jesus continues to be alive and active in our world . Not by his writings: not only in the memories of his followers: but through the Sacraments (the outward signs of his love celebrated by the Church) and by his Holy Spirit - living in his disciples.

In Surprised by Joy, C.S.Lewis, famous for "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe", among many other books, looks back at his days as a young atheist in Cambridge. He records a conversation with another, older, University teacher, a man who shared his atheistic creed. Quite out of the blue, the older man commented on the "surprisingly good" evidence for the historicity of the gospels. He went on: "Rum thing. All that stuff of Frazer's about the Dying God. Rum thing. It almost looks as if it had really happened once."

He never returned to the subject, but Lewis's atheism was shaken - for the main point about a Dying God is that he RISES FROM DEATH. And the difference between Jesus and the Dying God myths is that Jesus was a REAL HISTORICAL person. If the evidence could begin to convince even this man, it must be very strong.

Professor Pinchas Lapide is an orthodox Jew. Recently, he wrote, The Resurrection of Jesus, in which he says, "I accept the resurrection of Jesus not as an invention of the disciples, but as an historical event." This conclusion, by a man with no Christian axe to grind, has to make you think.

Many followers of other religions are just as anxious to point out the differences between Jesus and the great founders of other world Faiths, as Christians are. For example, the English Buddhist, Maurice Walsh, pointed out the Buddhist view of Buddha is very different from the Christian view of Christ. He stressed that the Buddha is thought of as a Teacher, not as a Saviour.

The same approach applies within Islam. Dr. E.G. Parrinder made the point, Muslims "do not like the title Muhammadan", because "they do not worship Muhammad but they believe that he was the last and greatest Apostle of God". How different is Christianity! Christians glory that their name identifies them closely with Christ, whom they reverence as Teacher, Saviour and God.

After surveying the evidence for Jesus' resurrection, Professor C.F.D. Moule of Cambridge posed this question: "If the coming into existence of the Nazarenes (i.e. the Christian Church) ... rips a great hole in history, a hole of the size and shape of resurrection, what does the secular historian propose to stop it up with ?"

Some of the greatest minds of our day have become convinced, on the basis of historical evidence alone, that the resurrection of Jesus actually happened; that he is alive today as the King of Glory, the conqueror of sin and death, the God who loves us.

The only proper response to this conviction is the total commitment of our lives to Jesus, in worship and service

- Fr. John Young (from a talk given on the BBC in 1989)

Easter reminds us that the Good News is Jesus and the Resurrection. We are not concerned with some vague belief in the immortality of the soul, but with the startling fact of the Resurrection of the body, that is, the whole person. We believe in a new creation of which the Risen Christ is the first instalment. Our God is the one who gives us a share and a promise of this new creation through sacramental signs which use matter - water, bread and wine and the touch of a human hand.

There is no room in our Easter faith for a false spirituality which despises the material world. We who worship the Word made Flesh, the Son of Mary, must be concerned for the whole of life and human society in its God-given environment.

- Fr. Roy Fellows, Administrator of the Shrine of Our Lady, Walsingham, U.K., from 1987 to 1993

Enthroned at your Father's right hand,
yet truly present in this Sacrament,
I pray you, risen Lord,
whose power sustains all things,
whose beauty makes all things fair,
and whose triumph
seals all things with the hope of renewal,
come to me
in my receiving of your Body and Blood,
and in your coming
raise me up
to seek the things which are above -
and above all,
your love
which is above all understanding.

- Fr Brian Moore


Alice C. Linsley said...

Professor C.F.D. Moule of Cambridge posed this question: "If the coming into existence of the Nazarenes (i.e. the Christian Church) ... rips a great hole in history, a hole of the size and shape of resurrection, what does the secular historian propose to stop it up with?"

That is a great question! I think the answer is obfuscation. That's what I encounter when reading secular historians and anthropologists who address the question of who Jesus is. Most ignore the question entirely. The Resurrection makes sense when we resolve the question of who Jesus is, for death is not able to hold Life.

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