The idea of the resurrection of has been criticized and mocked from the very earliest days of christianity. Jesus debated with the Sadducees – a group of Jewish scholars who generally dismissed the possibly of the miraculous or supernatural. When Paul spoke with the Greeks in Athens, they listened to his argument, up until he got to the fact that Jesus had been raised from the dead. Then they just mocked and dismissed him.
There seems to be an element of appeal in this dismissal of such fantastical notions. A reasonable rootedness in reality. There is indeed a goodness and virtue in such a gesture. It’s so much easier to believe in magical stories that explain away some of the big questions of life. The modern mind needs reason and foundation. There is no room for blind faith here. We have grown out of that.
It is with this good motive that we dispense with the resurrection and move on to more serious questions. How can we have a depth of meaning in life? What must we do to have a sense of true fulfillment? Where do we turn to have genuine hope in our toughest times? Lets apply serious reasoning and analysis to these real questions. Lets hear what the latest experts have to say. Lets weigh the options and consider the answers.
What is striking about this whole endeavor is that these basic questions come to nothing unless we are willing to look up from the here and now, and consider that which is to come. Is death merely the end of it all, or is there something beyond? Do we merely come to a day when the intricate processes of cellular respiration within us wind to a halt, burn off the last of our ATP and cease to exist?
We cannot truly define life unless we truly define death. And we cannot truly define death without facing the question of the resurrection. The problem is that we have dispensed with the resurrection earlier in the game.
What then are we to do? How do we find real meaning in life? Most people I know will readily agree to their robust spirituality. They do not believe that they are mere biological machines, nor do those who do claim to believe it live in light of that admission. Where then does our meaning and optimism come from?
The answer is one that I find quite surprising.
Of course the universe is not a meaningless machine. There is magic in life. There is wonder. There is mystery that spans and takes us beyond death and time itself. We all cling to a spirituality that works for us. We find meaning in the things we desire and we let it drive our hearts. Our spirituality does not arise out of scientific findings but out of the preferences and desires that fill our souls.
This begs the question, what has become of reason?
And here we meet the great modern irony – we abandon the resurrection for the sake of reason, and yet our reasonable question for meaning in life causes us to abandon reason itself so that we may live as spiritual individuals. We admit that reason drives many of the foundational aspects of life and yet when it comes to questions of spirituality – we let the wind of our soul take us to places where reason never would. In our flight from blind faith we have embraced it more than ever. And yet on the basis of reason we still criticize the fantastical beliefs of those who affirm such things as the resurrection.
The Apostle Paul, in a letter to answer the skeptics of his time, retraces this clear line of reasoning. He states that the very notion of hope is extinguished when one denies the possibility of any sort of resurrection. Our identity beyond the grave defines our identity before it. To dispense with the question of resurrection, and yet to embrace hope, meaning and restoration in this life is to commit intellectual suicide.
So we are back to where we started. If we must have resurrection to have meaning, why then do we dismiss possibility to the resurrection of Jesus? Could it be, that we don’t want him to be who he said he was?