This post is part of the April Synchroblog – What If The Resurrection Was A Hoax? Examining faith in light of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Do you ever think about life (or some part of it) without basic assumptions in place? What would life be like if …. ? I do that with some regularity. It’s a long held habit. I remember my mother saying to me, “I’m not playing the ‘What if’ game with you anymore,” in sheer frustration over the questions I was peppering her with. So this month’s synchroblog seemed a natural for me … what if the Resurrection was a hoax?
When I was young in the faith, I heard a number of men in various formats and venues arguing the reality of the Resurrection. They made arguments such a Chuck Colson’s; a man will not die for a lie and 12 men will not die for that lie. He based his argument on the response of the co-conspirators in Nixon’s Watergate crisis. It’s a valid argument and has some basis in human nature. But I always wondered why these impassioned arguments mattered. They were fun to listen to because I love a good, well-reasoned argument, but from my very limited perspective it always seemed that the Resurrection of Jesus was a matter of faith – “1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.” (Hebrews 11:1-2)
Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance of what we do not see.
I’ve held on to that definition for a long time. And when I read another recent article about faith some things clicked into place.
Thomas Jefferson is held as an icon of American spirit. He had a firm hand in writing many of our founding documents. He was an early ambassador and third president. He is at the front of many lists about our nation’s founding. Among his things was eventually found a Bible with the New Testament heavily edited with a razor. He cut out all of the stuff that did not come straight from Jesus. A modern wordsmith, using a razor in place of our cut and paste system, he wanted to know if the teachings of Jesus could stand on their own without the miracles and other “distractions.” His conclusion was that it could. That Jesus’ teachings were in and of themselves a divine miracle. And that following them would take divine inspiration for giving up the trappings of this world (power, wealth, fame) in hopes of the next.
Andrew Sullivan, writing for The Daily Beast, describes it:
Jefferson feared that the alternative to a Christianity founded on “internal persuasion” was a revival of the brutal, bloody wars of religion that America was founded to escape. And what he grasped in his sacrilegious mutilation of a sacred text was the core simplicity of Jesus’ message of renunciation. He believed that stripped of the doctrines of the Incarnation, Resurrection, and the various miracles, the message of Jesus was the deepest miracle. And that it was radically simple. It was explained in stories, parables, and metaphors—not theological doctrines of immense complexity. It was proven by his willingness to submit himself to an unjustified execution. The cross itself was not the point; nor was the intense physical suffering he endured. The point was how he conducted himself through it all—calm, loving, accepting, radically surrendering even the basic control of his own body and telling us that this was what it means to truly transcend our world and be with God. Jesus, like Francis, was a homeless person, as were his closest followers. He possessed nothing—and thereby everything.
So when I come down to the bottom of everything, I come to this. Jesus embodied love to the point of death. His Resurrection (and Incarnation) are necessary to the holistic theology of Jesus. But these miracles do not inform how we should live. They are celebrated as part and parcel of our theology, but how we live our daily lives in a reflection of the Love Divine becomes the path through which we realize God’s Kingdom come and His will be done … here on earth (as it is in heaven).
This is a Synchroblog post … the following people also made outstanding contributions to thinking about Christian life without the Resurrection.