Wednesday 26 April 2006

Resurrection controversy

Mike Bird has written a very nice response to my critique of his post on the resurrection. I suppose I’ll have to agree with him now, after all the flattering things he says about me!

In any case, flattery aside, Mike seems to express himself in a more balanced way in this response. He points out that the New Testament does not define the resurrection in any narrow way, but it only offers certain “boundaries” within which differing interpretations are possible. This is exactly how I see it too—there is no occasion for theological relativism, since the New Testament witnesses themselves (without defining resurrection in any narrow way) set the boundaries for how “resurrection” should be understood.

So I suppose Mike and I would simply disagree about where these boundaries lie. Certainly I would want to place people like Bultmann, Schillebeeckx and Borg within the boundaries (regardless of whether I agree with them), since in cases like these the issue is not whether “God raised Jesus from the dead,” but only the precise way in which this event should be interpreted.

For more discussion of this controversial topic, and for some attempts to adjudicate between Mike and me, see also the posts by Sean du Toit, Richard Hall, Denny Burk, Aaron Ghiloni and Ron Short.

And thanks especially to all those who contributed such marvellous comments in response to my earlier post. I found this discussion remarkably helpful, and it has given me a lot to think about. Has any other blog out there ever been graced with such brilliant and amiable readers?


Anonymous said...

Here is some of what the CCC has to say on the subject:

990 The term "flesh" refers to man in his state of weakness and mortality.536 The "resurrection of the flesh" (the literal formulation of the Apostles' Creed) means not only that the immortal soul will live on after death, but that even our "mortal body" will come to life again

996 From the beginning, Christian faith in the resurrection has met with incomprehension and opposition.550 "On no point does the Christian faith encounter more opposition than on the resurrection of the body."551 It is very commonly accepted that the life of the human person continues in a spiritual fashion after death. But how can we believe that this body, so clearly mortal, could rise to everlasting life?

997 What is "rising"? In death, the separation of the soul from the body, the human body decays and the soul goes to meet God, while awaiting its reunion with its glorified body. God, in his almighty power, will definitively grant incorruptible life to our bodies by reuniting them with our souls, through the power of Jesus' Resurrection.

999 How? Christ is raised with his own body: "See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself";553 but he did not return to an earthly life. So, in him, "all of them will rise again with their own bodies which they now bear," but Christ "will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body," into a "spiritual body"

1000 This "how" exceeds our imagination and understanding; it is accessible only to faith.


Anonymous said...

Sorry about that, I forgot these:

645 By means of touch and the sharing of a meal, the risen Jesus establishes direct contact with his disciples. He invites them in this way to recognize that he is not a ghost and above all to verify that the risen body in which he appears to them is the same body that had been tortured and crucified, for it still bears the traces of his Passion.509 Yet at the same time this authentic, real body possesses the new properties of a glorious body: not limited by space and time but able to be present how and when he wills; for Christ's humanity can no longer be confined to earth, and belongs henceforth only to the Father's divine realm.510 For this reason too the risen Jesus enjoys the sovereign freedom of appearing as he wishes: in the guise of a gardener or in other forms familiar to his disciples, precisely to awaken their faith.511

646 Christ's Resurrection was not a return to earthly life, as was the case with the raisings from the dead that he had performed before Easter: Jairus' daughter, the young man of Naim, Lazarus. These actions were miraculous events, but the persons miraculously raised returned by Jesus' power to ordinary earthly life. At some particular moment they would die again. Christ's Resurrection is essentially different. In his risen body he passes from the state of death to another life beyond time and space. At Jesus' Resurrection his body is filled with the power of the Holy Spirit: he shares the divine life in his glorious state, so that St. Paul can say that Christ is "the man of heaven".512

The Resurrection as transcendent event

647 O truly blessed Night, sings the Exultet of the Easter Vigil, which alone deserved to know the time and the hour when Christ rose from the realm of the dead!513 But no one was an eyewitness to Christ's Resurrection and no evangelist describes it. No one can say how it came about physically. Still less was its innermost essence, his passing over to another life, perceptible to the senses. Although the Resurrection was an historical event that could be verified by the sign of the empty tomb and by the reality of the apostles' encounters with the risen Christ, still it remains at the very heart of the mystery of faith as something that transcends and surpasses history...


Derek Brown said...

In light of the ongoing discussion of N.T. Wright’s comments on the bodily resurrection of Jesus, I found the following excerpt from him quite interesting:

“It [the resurrection] was, therefore, the sign of hope for the future, not only for individuals but for the whole world. As Paul saw so clearly in Romans 8, it was the sign that the whole creation would have its exodus, would shake off its corruption and decay, its enslavement to entropy. The New Testament is full of the promise of a world to come in which death itself will be abolished, in which the living God will wipe away all tears from all eyes. The personal hope for resurrection is located within the large hope for the renewal of all creation, for God’s new heavens and new earth. Take away the bodily resurrection, however, and what are you left with? The development of private spirituality, leading to a disembodied life after death: the denial of the goodness of creation, your own body included. If Jesus’ resurrection involved the abandoning of his body, it would make exactly the wrong metaphorical point” (Taken from p. 126 of his book The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions—co-authored with Marcus Borg!).

I've added a couple of thoughts about this quote over on my page.

Michael F. Bird said...

Ben, I can live with that!

Mike L said...

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