Why the Resurrection?
I have been pushing on the question of resurrection, including its physicality, in a number of recent posts, including a guest post last week by Bruce Epperly. I realize that this is a question that troubles many in the church and outside the church. Many progressive or liberal Christians find the resurrection a distraction, or as a commenter put on a previous post, akin to arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. But, is it simply an outdated and distracting doctrine that we are better off leaving behind? Is Easter, for that matter, a quaint holiday, better served by highlighting Easter Egg hunts and chocolate bunnies? Is it simply just the sign that spring is at hand? Or, is it, as it always has been through Christian history, the center piece of the Christian faith? As theologian Jurgen Moltmann puts it:
The Christian faith stands or falls with Christ's resurrection, because it was by raising him from the dead that God made Jesus the Christ and revealed himself as the "Father of Jesus Christ." At this point belief in God and the acknowledgment of Christ coincide; and ever since, for Christian faith the two have been inseparable. (Moltmann, Jesus Christ for Today's World, p. 71).
As I ask these questions, I want to throw into the discussion another lengthy quotation from N.T. Wright's Surprised By Hope. Wright is likely more conservative than some of my conversation partners, and as has been stated in comments, he may seem to some stuck in the first century. Be that as it may, I think that the Resurrection merits careful consideration, because I do believe it has important implications about the way we live in the here and now. So consider this:
The point of the resurrection, as Paul has been arguing throughout [1 Corinthians], is that the present bodily life is not valueless just because it will die. God will raise it to new life. What you do with your body in the present matters because God has a great future in store for it. And if this applies to ethics, as in 1 Corinthians 6, it certainly also applies to the various vocations to which Gods' people are called. What you do in the present -- by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself -- will last into God's future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether (as the hymn so mistakenly puts it, "Until that day when all the blest to endless rest are called away"). They are part of what we may call building for God's kingdom. (Surprised by Hope, p. 193).
If we think of God's judgment as a sorting out, a refining fire, then what will be the lasting legacy of our lives here in this world? Is that not the question that resurrection raises? Resurrection isn't about escaping this life for a better life, it's about engaging in the work of God here in anticipation of an embodied life after life after death. Can progressive Christians, who willingly bring science into the conversation, embrace the idea of an embodied resurrection? Again, I invite your thoughts.