Sunday, 16 April 2006

Uneasy Easter

My friend Kim Fabricius posted this recently at Connexions, and I thought it deserved to be posted again here today:

Simone Weil once said that “if the gospel omitted all mention of Christ’s resurrection, faith would be easier for me.” What could this brilliant, saintly, mystical French philosopher have possibly meant by such a provocative statement?

I think that Weil was challenging the common but shallow assumption that the resurrection makes life easier for those who believe. It doesn’t.

After all, the disciples were completely wrong-footed by the events of Easter, and their reactions to the news that “He is risen!” suggest disturbance and disorientation, not confirmation and relief. They were like the walking wounded after an explosion, and their subsequent witness was as overwhelmed as it was overwhelming.

That’s why those courtroom-inspired “proofs” of the resurrection are so misconceived and insipid. They not only fail to resolve the insurmountable literary and historical problems of the gospel texts, they turn the irreducibly mysterious into the demonstrable and manageable, as if the resurrection were under our control and for our consolation.

Of course the Easter message is about life, but only insofar as it is not a denial of death but a defiant “nevertheless!” in the face of the inexorable fact of death. There is power in this “nevertheless!”, but as Nicholas Lash observes, “it is not, however, explanatory power. The Christian is as baffled and as heartbroken by the darkness of the world as anybody else.”

In short, Easter does not eliminate Good Friday, Easter illuminates Good Friday; the resurrection is not the reversal of the crucifixion but the disclosure of its eternal significance.

Finally, the resurrection begins an insurrection led by the Crucified, who in a world of vengeance does not settle old scores but speaks words of forgiveness and peace; who in a world of suffering does not hide his wounds but exposes them to human touch; and who in a world of escapism does not protect his followers but sends them out as agents of liberation.

4 Comments:

Timbo said...

But if you don't know for sure that it happened, how can you interpret its meaning?

I have benefitted from the 'courtroom' approach, especially in Morris' (?) 'Who moved the Stone'. The fact of the resurrection takes you part of the way in understanding Jesus, but full disclosure only comes from Jesus himself.

Still, part way is a start!

Love your blog,

Tim

kim fabricius said...

The resurrection is an object of faith, not demonstration; and God remains hidden even in his revelation.

Perhaps a little Rowan Williams may be helpful (from his diamond Resurrection [1982]):

"It is the stranger . . . whom we meet on Easter morning. . . If we come in search of the 'God of our condition' at Easter, we shall not find him. . . Holy Week may invite us to a certain identification with the crucified, Easter firmly takes away the familiar 'fellow-sufferer'."

kim fabricius said...

Answering a few posts over at Connexions suggests the supplementary thought that the church's "demonstration" of the veractity of the resurrection is -simply(!) - its witness, particularly the witness of the praxis of Christ's peace, with all its inherent vulnerability. The resurrection does not suddenly invert the theologia crucis with a theologia gloriae!

Rowan Williams again:

"A theology of the risen Jesus will always be, to a greater or lesser extent, a negative theology, obliged to confess its conceprual and imaginative poverty - as is any theology which takes seriously the truth that God is not a determinate object in the world."

Andrew Richardson said...

I've been studying Luke this Easter, and yes - the disciples do begin their encounter with the resurrection in confusion. However this should not be. Jesus rebukes them for their lack of understanding and goes on to show how resurrection is central to the divine plan of salvation. The 'we had hoped' of the disciples on the road to Emmaus turns to worship of the Risen Lord as he is taken up to heaven. I think Luke would want to say that the resurrection does have explanatory power - even if it is only a partial explanation (a la 1 Corinthians 15) on this side of the parousia.

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