Rodney Eivers – 23rd April 2019
1 Corinthians! 5: 13-14 “If there is no resurrection of the dead then Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain”
In responding to his UC Forum posting on 23rd April 2019 I would state my admiration of Rod Bower from what I know of him and congratulate him on his initiatives in bringing a relevant Christian gospel to people of the 21st century.
Nevertheless, I am left confused by his references to the place of the resurrection of Jesus in our contemporary faith.
Rod notes: “Whether the bodily resurrection of Jesus was an historical fact means little to me, while I respect that it is central to the faith of many. That the bodily resurrection is a theological fact is an essential element of my faith because it affirms the incarnation and the material creation as the vehicle through which the Divine Eternal life is expressed.”
So what are we talking about? What does this mean? Just about all liberal/orthodox ministers and theologians over the past century or more seem to want to have it both ways.
Apostle Paul never claims to have met Jesus in the flesh and yet he assures us that he has “seen” him. (As a reminder, Paul’s letters were apparently written before any of the gospels). Clearly then when he talks about resurrection Paul is not talking (in his case anyway) about a visible body which jumps out of the grave and starts walking around the streets of Jerusalem or the villages of Galilee.
So, on the one hand, we 21st century commentators take on board Paul’s vision of a spiritual form of Jesus. But then we turn round and make it a big issue that Jesus’s fleshly body came back to life.
Why do we still do this? It is now two thousand years on, with all the scholarly study and scientific research which has gone on, particularly in the past two hundred years or so.
But I would go even further than this and pose the question. Was Paul wrong? Is our faith in vain if we ignore the resurrection?
In a previous posting, Richard Smith demonstrated that the pre-Easter Jesus made enough of a statement and lived enough of a life to inspire and challenge us to nurture, the Kingdom of God – making this world, here and now, a better place.
Further, I would ask. What is it to us if Jesus’s body did come back to fleshly life for a few months? I presume this is because we can then accept that supernatural life resuscitation is a reality (there could be some Nobel Prize winning research for those who work out how this happens). This means, as the Nicene Creed implies, that all people who die and accept the creed will come back to life. This means that our parents, grandparents, great grandparents and further back may come back to live with us.
Is this what our ministers and theologians believe, in their inner selves? I suspect not. I was told of one instance where a minister had been queried as to whether he really believed that dead bodies come back to life again, The minister’s reply was, “No, but you can’t say that.
May I plead that we take the magnificent and powerful Jesus story and express it in terms which can transform our whole secular world. Let us not only be prepared to think it but also to say it.