10/11/08

I Believe In Jesus' Bodily Resurrection

Call it nonsensical, call it conservative, call it evangelical, call it stupid or whatever...but I believe it! It was not group think, not a group vision, not multiple group dreams or visions, not an ecstatic experience that Paul or the first Christians spoke of when they talked about a resurrected Jesus (I mean, come on, when they talked about dreams and visions and whatnot, they were clear about them! In fact, when they considered such things to have happened, great spiritual events, they were sure to call them that. Even Paul himself is clear as to when he's speaking of visions and non-vision events pertaining to the risen Christ! This is such a lame argument that people try to use.).

Anyway... I agree with J. Moltmann, who, when speaking of the women that also believed in a bodily resurrected Christ after seeing the empty tomb, says: "Jesus’ empty tomb is not a proof of his resurrection, for it could, after all, have been empty for a different reason; but this return of the disciples and their proclamation in Jerusalem of Christ’s resurrection is proof of the empty tomb, for they could not have said a word about his resurrection if people had been able to point them to Jesus’ body, still in the tomb...To perceive the miracle of Christ’s resurrection does not mean taking note of a historical fact about something that happened 2000 years ago and saying, ‘Is that so?’ or ‘OK!’ It means being seized by the power of the resurrection and entering into a life with Christ. So it is not correct to call Christ’s resurrection just ‘a historical fact’, if that means viewing history as something past and gone. It is a historical event that has a confronting impact on the present, opening up the eschatological history of eternal life in the midst of this world of death and inviting every human being to this divine future."

-J├╝rgen Moltmann, "The Blessing of Hope: The Theology of Hope and the Full Gospel of Life" in the Journal of Pentecostal Theology 13.2 (2005), 152.

8 comments:

  1. Hay Michael
    I couldn't agree with you more on the subject. I to believe in the bodily Resurrection of Christ. I dare to say that if you have experienced the Holy Spirit today that it is the testimony of our risen Savior. For I believe that the Holy Spirit would not have come upon the disciples and to His people if Christ did not himself defet death. That's just my two cents on the subject.

    David Foster

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  2. I actually differ in this regard. Though I do not dispute the power behind a resurrection of sorts. That is to say that after a movement was seemingly dead it came back in such a way that can only be described as a resurrection. Unfortunately most Biblical scholarship contends that the Gospels were not only not written by our attributed to authors, but they were written in such a way that factualness was thrown out the window. It was not important to the authors. What was important was the character sketch displayed of those in the stories, and ALL had in mind a particular view point to get across. Fortunately for me this does not mean I despair. I feel that the image and force behind the stories is powerful enough that I need not be hampered by the desire to prove to myself or anyone that there was a Jesus, that died, and who was at the same time an entity referred to as God, who died and part of his "God-ness" rose him from the dead because a Hebrew text from the 5th cent said that is what needed to happen.

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  3. Tommy,
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Do you live in MI?

    Anyway, I'd like to respond to a few of your remarks.

    First of all, the notion that it was the movement that resurrected and not Jesus Himself, is not a new one (as you are probably aware). This view, however, has many holes in it. What in the world was the movement about and resurrected for if not the resurrection itself? I mean, it couldn't have been a movement based solely on good stories and teachings and whatnot. People would not become social outcasts and risk their lives to follow such things! I could list many more problems with this theory.

    Secondly, the statement "most biblcal scholarship contends that..." is simply untrue. Too many people rely on such remarks. Really, it depends on which scholars you are reading. Perhaps "most" of the scholarship on your shelves are saying this but that may not be the case with others. Either way, this "group consensus" argument holds no water. And as we all know, even if it were the case that "most" thought this way, we know that biblical scholars have been wrong before! Moot point, I believe. BTW, that comment always is a "red flag" type of remark to me.

    Also, the notion that the authors jsut wanted to portray a good character sketch seems far fetched. Jesus is painted as anything but a "good" character by ancient social norms. He hangs with the lowest of the low, the least, He hangs with the rich and wealthy and He challenges everyone. To ancient readers, this story would not have been a good one by your standards.

    Finally, if it's simply the image of force behind the story or stories that compel you, why not just use the script for Will Smith's "Happyness" as your story. That's a powerful story about a guy who gets down on his luck, gets down and out but then rises from the gutters to make it big again. That's the kind of resurrection you're talking about. Unfortunately, that's nothing even close to the kinds of things we find NT writers speaking about and dying for.

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  4. First off I would like to thank you for the criticism, and for calling me out on my ignorant comments, an broad swathing statements about "most scholars" and the like.I clearly revealed my great ignorance in Biblical and New Testament Scholarship aside from the bits of books and podcast I have listened to. For that I am sorry. I will be more careful in the future. In fact I am a bit embarrassed. Regardless life moves on. I would though like to respond to primarily your paragraph in your response to me. Hopefully I will be more clear about my reasons for not being convinced that the resurrection be anything more than a meaningful story.

    The core of my argument is less academic and more personal though I feel it has very real, serious, and honest reasoning behind it. It seem to me that it does not or at least should not, matter as to whether or not there is objective proof behind the gospel stories of a Jesus dying and being resurrected three days later (to the Roman's chagrin). I do not want to leave, as I believe Kierkegaard called my, "eternal happiness" to the fates of whether or not a piece of paper from the first century CE can be dated correctly. Now I know this is being a bit reductive in regards to the scholarship we are talking about, but my point is that I don't think it a good idea to base one's entire belief structure around whether a man did or did not exist, die and then miraculously re-exist. You said it yourself. People are sometimes wrong. Very learned and educated people are sometimes wrong. Far from the historicized events being true or not, I fear that focusing in so much on the objective historical side of this story, we can easily lose the forest while investigating the trees. Do the stories mean anything more to anyone since Claudius heard it from James, who was told my John that Jesus said that this is how that works? And does it put one in a position where, if for some reason who had all this factual evidence taken from them their faith would be in utter shambles? I personally do not want to be put in such a position.

    Boiling my opinion down to the plot of "Happiness" I find a bit presumptuous, or perhaps you felt you understood me to feel comfortable with such a leap? I must admit haven't seen that movie, but if it communicates a message of redemption, love, and acceptance it is just as much apart of the Jesus story as is that very story which is pronounced in the Gospels. If I see truth and love somewhere I affirm it regardless of the origin. I don't scrutinize it. In the end if I don't see or preform the gospel as a verb. Unless I see it in flesh and blood the gospels are just stories. But if those stories inspire real change, reconciliation, love, and hope, than those stories and the real meaning behind them, are as advertised. This is not because they were preformed by real people in time and space, but because they are preformed by people in time and space.

    I hope this made more sense. I apologize for any presumptions or off base statements I may have made (I'm not trying being snarky, I apologize if I come off that way at all)

    P.S. I don't live in Michigan. I live in Washington state between Seattle and Vancouver B.C.

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  5. Hey Michael,

    I agree with everything that you have said. I too believe that the bodily resurrection is necessary for the Christian faith. I am even one of Moltmann's biggest fans. However, I have come across other scholars who say that Moltmann does not advocate the bodily resurrection as a historical event; that he just argues that the disciples had visions of the future risen Christ. Do you think this is true? Have you heard of this criticism?
    Thanks.

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  6. Tommy,
    I don't have time for as succinct of a reply as I'd like right now, so, I will respond soon.

    Rod,
    I think many people have mistaken Moltmann. Perhaps because he is so in-depth and often hard to understand. But lest we throw him under the bus out of ignorance, perhaps we should let him speak for himself. So, I quote him once more: "Christianity stands or falls with the reality of the raising of Jesus from the dead by God" (165).

    Some have suggested that Moltmann "re"mythologizes the resurrection (as opposed to "de"mythologizing, so Bultmann, et. al.). This may also contribute to the fuzziness of it all. But it is clear to me that Moltmann roots the resurrection in both a supernatural and natural realm. For him, the resurrection also has grave socio-political consequences; it should inform how we think and live in this world.

    For Moltmann (and Pannenburg), the resurrection cannot be historically true if time is not progressing towards the eschaton. So, for both of them, if there is no movement toward the eschaton (or an eschaton itself), then there is no need for the resurrection. One would posit, then, that if they believe so strongly in a historical eschaton, they surely believe in a historical resurrection. I fear that many have shunned Moltmann out of inability to read/understand him and because he brings a strong communal/social aspect to his theology of the resurrection.

    Hope that helps. You might want to check out his "Christology in Messianic Dimensions" where he really goes into this. There he even notes that the resurrection is "more than historical", which I think scares people off at first but which most Christians believe anyway! Certainly, it affected both the natural and supernatural realms! Let me know if this clarifies things or not.

    -tmwh

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  7. Thanks Michael,

    Of all the Moltmann books, that I have read, your response is actually one of the best summaries of his views on the Resurrection. I am trying to read up on Pannenberg because I came across his works through Stanley Grenz. So, I will going through his work after I finish my Moltmann obsession.

    Thanks again for your response.

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  8. Rod,
    Grenz is one of my favorite theologians of all time! In fact, his book "The Social God and the Relational Self" is my favorite book of all time.

    Certainly, you're doing some good Trinitarian reading if you're into Moltmann, Pannenburg and Grenz. Colin Gunton also has some great stuff!!! Gunton and Pannenburg, as well as Grenz from time-to-time, seem to have an affinity for connecting creation to Trinity.

    Anyway, glad the explanation of "M" was helpful. Its good to see that people are still being what I like to call "Moltmannized". Encountering him and the other authors I mentioned above marked an important turning point in my theological / intellectual life.

    Glad you're visiting Pisteuomen. Perhaps we can continue discussing things in the future. Blessing.

    -TMWH

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