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Posts Tagged ‘Resurrection’

I’ve nearly finished with N. T. Wright‘s Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the ImageMission of the Church (HarperOne, 2008) and have indeed been surprised.  I wasn’t sure what I’d discover in this volume, but Wright has once again offered an accessible, significant and timely book.  This volume should be required reading of pastors in particular as we think through more carefully our theology of “heaven” and the Resurrection.  I discovered (to my pleasant surprise) that he essentially posits (of course in a far more developed and articulated fashion) what I wrote elsewhere about “abandoning heaven.”  The pop-theology notion of “heaven” is utterly deficient as any form of Christian belief or hope.

I believe his message (and the one that has been stirring in me of late) must be taken seriously especially in my own fellowship (the Assemblies of God) wherein we seem to hold to an escapist notion concerning both death and the “rapture of the Church.”  The good news is transformative…it is redemptive.  It is not escapist.  The world (indeed the whole cosmos) belongs to the redemptive plan of God in Christ.

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Jesus resurrected and Mary Magdalene

Image via Wikipedia

I have had several conversations over the last few days with different individuals about the notions of faith and historicity.  In one of those conversations the issue of Bonhoeffer was brought up.  This individual stated that they had heard Bonhoeffer denied the resurrection.  This, of course, took me aback and I quickly rebutted that I had never heard (nor read) such a thing either about or by Bonhoeffer.  So they directed me to his Christology lectures (DBWE12-Berlin: 1932-1933, pp.299-360).  So I looked up the references and discovered where this reading came in.  Bonhoeffer refutes the notion of Christian faith resting in the historicity of the resurrection.  This is considered under the rubric of the “stumbling block” to our believing.  His approach (from my reading) suggests that there can be no naked knowledge of the historicity of the resurrection.  One must still come to confess the Risen Lord because they have in fact encountered the Risen Lord.  An empty tomb is not a matter of historicity leading to salvation…it is a matter of faith that is testified to by the historicity of the events.  At no point does the historicity (one way or the other) actually determine our faith since it is the living and present Risen One who is determinative for faith.

I had come to similar sorts of conclusions as I was preaching on the final chapters of John this last year.  In my reading, there is no way to get behind faith in the living Christ and somehow found our trust on the historicity of the empty tomb.  While I take it as a matter of historical trustworthiness that indeed the tomb was empty, this does not in itself constitute faith in Christ (e.g., the soldiers who were bribed to not speak of it and instead spread lies about the removal of the body).  What really did it for me was recognizing that the there were no witnesses to the resurrection event itself…only witnesses to the resurrected Lord.  The moment of resurrection was hidden (as it were) from historical inquiry and belongs to the work of God incognito.  As such, even the resurrected Jesus belongs to such, but of a different nature than the moment and act of resurrection itself.  There is no verification process by which we may be “certain” of the testimony of the resurrection apart from the experience of the Resurrected One in our midst (and all of this in the testimony of the Spirit through the Scripture).  While I believe that the evidence for the resurrection passes historical testing, my faith does not rest on such at its foundation.  It is simply affirmed as true.

The question I was asked was how does this not devolve into a Bultmannian conception of faith apart from historicity?  An interesting question to say the least.  What are your thoughts?  Have I gone too far towards a form of existentialism akin to Bultmann?  Does the resurrection necessarily need historicity on its side to be believed?  Or does historicity become a false foundation for faith in Christ (even accepting the historical nature of the events recorded)?

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