Thursday, May 26, 2005

Resurrection 20/20

Not unlike the recent PBS documentary on Freud and C.S. Lewis, ABC's 20/20 "documentary" on the resurrection (or at least on what people think about it today) turned out to be, in my opinion, a balanced presentation of both sides of an issue. Ten points for ABC. Except after the cheap shot ending to Alias last night, they're back to zero.

But in order to summarize some recent thought on the resurrection that showed up on the program, I'd like to offer a one question quiz. Don't forget to study!
1. The resurrection of Jesus Christ was...

A. not historical
B. historical
C. more than historical
D. both B. and C.
Now, the answers: (I would have posted them upside-down but most computers are stationary.)

If you answered A, chances are you're not a Christian. It might then surprise you that many have tried to answer A while maintaining their profession of Christian faith. This is a hard thing to do. Nevertheless, such persons enjoyed much influence in centuries past, were very intelligent, and there were very many of them. In fact, some of them are even still alive! But if they didn't succeed in reinventing Christianity, it is quite likely that their remaining representatives today won't either. Especially since John Updike did them in with one of his better poems. Be assured then that those who answered A need not fear being saddled with the label "Christian." Should you wish to engage those who have been, please keep reading.

If you answered B, you most likely consider yourself a Christian, likely one who has forged his or her position in opposition to those who answered A but still wanted to be designated "Christian." Well, there aren't not too many of them around anymore, so your battle is for the mostpart over. However, you are (perhaps unwittingly) the subject of recent critiques. Some think that you're "old fashioned" because your faith is tied to a conspicuously "modern" conception of the "demonstrable historical event." Your critics however really do have a point, so please don't make the mistake of thinking they're the A people that you're used to. I hope if you'll keep reading you'll be convinced to change your answer.

If you answered C, you're theologically fashionable enough to realize that an utterly unique event such as the resurrection of God incarnate can't be quantified in a neatly "historical" way just as can, say, the death of George Washington. Because of this, perhaps you find those who answered B old fashioned, but still, those people do have a point. Perhaps if you keep reading, you'll be convinced to change your answer.

If you answered D, well done. You're aware of the important critique of "modern" apologetics which can be unnecessarily tied to "Enlightenment epistemologies." Yet you realize that just because the resurrection is not merely historical, this doesn't mean it's not historical. It's both/and. It happened at a certain time in a certain place, but at the same time transcended time and place. You've understood that in the desire to correct "old-school Evangelicals" by answering C, one can too easily fall back into A, or at least be perceived to be doing so by those who don't have the time to sort through the issue. You know that Christianity properly understood does the job of fulfilling the natural order and only then surpassinig it. The resurrection is not ahistorical, it's not merely historical, nor is it superhistorical - instead it's transhistorical as evidenced by the resurrected Christ who could do both this and this. Therefore defenses of the resurrection are of course insufficient to establish Christian faith, but nor are they a complete waste of time. Congratulations, you passed the test - welcome to the mystery. For extra credit please go convince those who answered A, B or C.

Good luck -you'll need it. You're liable to be labelled "irrational" by both A and B, or too rational by C. But keep trying. Carravagio may help.