Monday, April 9, 2012

The Myth of Resurrection

Another Easter has come and gone. We joined in our local fellowship in praise and thanksgiving for the life we have through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As often happens, this haggard mind got to wandering during the sermon. The pastor said something that set off a trigger in my brain, which set thoughts off onto tangents all their own.

I got to thinking about this event we remember and celebrate every spring. Well... remember isn't quite the right word. I don't remember it. Do you? Didn't think so. We weren't around then. So we celebrate that Jesus was dead, then he came back to life.

Have you ever seen anything like that happen? Me neither. Closest I ever came involved a racoon that had been killed by a car. It came back to life at a most opportune moment. Like when I was close to it. And man was that 'coon ticked off!

Anyway, that kind of stuff just doesn't happen. None of us have ever seen somebody come back to life after having been dead for three days. But we believe Jesus did it, and we stake our hope on it.

Flash back to 1980. I was in Systematic Theology class in seminary, and my haggard heart was stirring inside. The professor was expounding on how Jesus didn't really have to come out of his grave. How the resurrection "story" was simply a "myth" that explained "the experience of the risen Christ in our hearts."

Now, a myth, according to Webster's, is "a usually traditional story of ostensibly historical events that serves to unfold part of the world view of a people or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon." In other words, an untrue story that gets passed down over the years in order to justify some irrational belief that people have. So, according to what I was hearing, Jesus did not really come back from the dead. It's just a story that has been told that explains the good feeling we have inside as believers.

Well, I couldn't sit still on that. The professor made the mistake of answering my raised hand, and I proceeded to mess up his lesson plan for the next forty minutes. My basic stance, mixed into lots of great theological arguments, was simple. If Jesus did not come bodily out of that grave, if it's just a mythical story, then I have nothing to believe in. I might as well go back to being a mechanic, and live a good heathen lifestyle.

There are some basic things that I know for a fact about this story. Like how twelve... no, forty... no, hundreds of people suffered horrible tortures and deaths because they insisted they saw and talked to and touched Jesus after he had been killed and buried. There's a simple principal of law that holds to today, "One witness is not enough to convict anyone accused of any crime or offense they may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses." (Deuteronomy 19.15) So in my haggard mind, if a matter is established by hundreds, it must be true.

And that brings me to my point. Our faith is not groundless. My definition of faith: "Faith is when you choose to believe and follow something that your brain says can't be true." In all appearances and experience, people don't come back from the dead.  My brain says it can't be true. But the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ was established by hundreds of eye witnesses. So my brain also says that it MUST be true. So I choose to believe it, and stake my life and hopes and dreams on it.

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