Thursday, April 27, 2006

Being a witness to the resurrection

Much muttering in the blogosphere about believing in the resurrection (see here where I came across it first, and also here.)

I tend to agree with Tom Wright: “I have friends who I am quite sure are Christians who do not believe in the bodily resurrection. But the view I take of them — and they know this — is that they are very, very muddled.... I do think, however, ... that for healthy Christian life individually and corporately, belief in the bodily resurrection is foundational.”

But I >also< agree with Ben when he says this: "I myself believe in “bodily resurrection,” and I think this concept is the most faithful way of following the New Testament witnesses—but I could never tell you exactly what “bodily resurrection” means, and I would never want the term to become anything more than a metaphor."

This is on my mind a lot at the moment because this Sunday sees the launch of a discipleship campaign in the largest parish (to be followed in the other parishes during the year) and the theme I'm going to be discussing is 'what does it mean to be a witness to the resurrection' - the texts being Acts 3.15 and Luke 24.48. I'll probably also mention the Greek for 'witness'...

I don't think it's possible to be a Christian without believing in the resurrection, but it's even more crucial to live out a life "in the light of the resurrection" - and I think that this is possible even if the mental assent is lacking to a particular conceptual framework. Let me unpack that a bit.

I don't believe that what we say matters so much as the orientation of our life ("It's not those who say 'Lord, Lord'" etc, plus a Wittgensteinian account of language). In other words, it is the shape of our lives - their motivations and priorities, and how that works out in actual existence - that is important in the sight of God. There is a way of life that is governed - initiated into existence - by the resurrection, which is characterised by love, joy, peace, gentleness, self-control and so on, but most of all by forgiveness. To forgive, to make forgiveness (and refusal to judge or condemn) a central aspect of life is, for me, what it means to be orthodox, what it means to really believe in the resurrection. That's why I'm convinced that Gandhi was "saved" even though he denied the priority of Christ. He lived out the Sermon on the Mount, and that is what Christ himself says is necessary.

The alternative is precisely an 'honouring with lips' though the heart is far from God. It is the shape of life - our deeds - that matter in the sight of God, not that we can 'achieve' salvation (that argument is such a distraction) but that God cares about the concrete and the everyday, not the abstract and ethereal. It is, to put it slightly differently, to give more authority to the Old Testament than to the intellectual presuppositions of Modern Protestantism.

There is a shape of life which is orthodox, which is holy, which is fruitful; which is brought into being by the incarnation, confirmed by the resurrection, and sustained by the Spirit of forgiveness that descended at Pentecost. The church's vocation is to live out that life. Not to achieve merit, but to sing in thanksgiving (eucharist). It is the only real life - life in abundance.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.