Sunday, April 8, 2012

RESURRECTION: A POST MODERN LOOK AT AN OLD STORY... note to Edward Fudge..February, 2009

Edward, some of your words, in my mind , allow for an interpretation  of 'resurrection of Jesus' as not being a physical bodily resurrection  nor even one experienced necessarily by the physical senses.(Most all that Paul says can be so interpreted. And his are the oldest words we have describing the meaning of Christ's resurrection to the first believers). We can speak of a resurrection that is a deep living metaphor which promises that the nature of our human lives is 'to be continually resurrected' --not only from physical death but from all the ways death captures our spirit eg. covetousness, jealousy, wrath, judging others, overstepping our power and seeking to control and possess others and life.  Is this not the 'kind of resurrection' that humanity so needs to experience in our spiritually and morally torn world? If Jesus' resurrection is the 'only one' needed it has obviously not healed our world. More 'resurrection' , continuous 'resurrection is needed today.  We need to be able to 'see' resurrection as not primarily a 'one time for all time' event but a God/Human power that is fully active in our post-modern world.

 'Death and resurrection'  seen in this spiritual  way can become not a one time historical/physical  happening to Jesus or any other selected human  but the potential for a model  that reflects  the 'meaning of human life.' This brings it into being nothing less than potentially a  'living myth' by which one can consciously live and die. With such a mythical understanding the most genuine, powerful, creative, un-self centered and non aggressive purpose of religion is being  served- to nurture  and  develop Human/Sacred life.

The 'Empty Tomb' Speaks Of  Some Meaning Of  'Resurrection'?

 Notice what I am seeing ....these mythological, thus always happening,  spiritually true themes of  the Christ story can only be  fully realized and made conscious in real human life when they are seen as not primarily one time historical/physical events.  They were originally real natural  life experiences that were later , in the gospels, put in historical-like story form.  Just as 'resurrection' implies- these stories too have to be released from the tomb of the physical/historical in order to be alive for their grander, truer  and more  living purpose.  Similarly, I am confident Bev (my deceased wife of 35 years)has now been released from her confining  historical/literal setting to live in that world that includes but is  beyond such...... call it ' heaven 'or the fullness of the 'Kingdom of God'. These mythical descriptions speak about that which is always, now and eternally, including  and moving beyond the physical, and  are also  beyond  any defining words.
The Mystery Of Life Is 'No Less' Than That Of 'Resurrection.'

So when I express my trust of Bev's resurrection I'm no more impressed with her resurrection, in ways I will not even try to imagine--certainly not physical/historical, from  physical death than I have  been of her 'continuous resurrection as a pattern and model of human life.' I witnessed her  continuous 'resurrection'  happening while she was  physically living  in history.  I seek also to consciously live in harmony with 'resurrected life'  now just as much, if not more, than after I depart this 'mortal coil'.   The 'age to come' now is. It always has been. The word swelling up from the human Collective Unconscious, the Word of God(including  much scripture), is always about the reality of living now, not about a postponement  of life to some other world future. 'Now is always the time of salvation' and of 'resurrection' and of  'eternal life'. 

All of this is 'religious' and  I , a former strong believer in Jesus' physically resurrected body, see it can only fully  live and be real when accepted as  'mythical  and symbolic', the only adequate language of living religious experience.  

Edward,  I've given  N.T. Wright, the evangelical European scholar and gentleman,   a very serious read regarding  these areas and others and have concluded that he is not in search of any new perceptions or truth  but is completely devoted to ending up where he starts-- with all of the conclusions  of ancient Historic Christianity that could have been stated by anyone 350 years ago. His speaking of 'gnostic perversions'  indicates that he, and I suppose you,  believe that all the work and interpretations of Gnostics were only evil and wrong.  But history is just never that simple.  The truth is Historic Christianity was greatly influenced by gnosticism and sometimes not by its better insights.  Keep in mind that the early institutional church dealt with the Gnostics, many of whom were Christians and in high positions in the church,  by burning their books and sometimes them. That should make one wonder about the  'truth seeking'  motives of those that won that battle for what orthodoxy then declared as the Only Word Of God. Wright  talks a lot about  modern scholarship but he shows little respect for it when it supports any significant changes in assumptions about the origin and nature of scripture  from that accepted before the Enlightenment. I think something was lost in the Age of Reason  but it was not increased knowledge of the physical facts about the Bible and its authors, as those facts have continued to be learned, especially during the past 200 years. I see wright consistently ignoring much of this new knowledge.

If I felt  Jesus taught that defending any time-honored status quo was the nature of faithfulness then  I could appreciate Wright more. But Jesus showed that the spiritual path is very different  from defending orthodoxy and necessarily involves, especially  during  changing epochs,  challenging  and growing beyond the present conventional  orthodoxy. We have arrived world-wide at a time when ancient Christian orthodoxy, nor the fundamentalism of the 20th century,  is able to support the deep spiritual need or our day. (I should add that what fundamentalists generally call orthodoxy is not  well in line with ancient Christian orthodoxy but more in line with a 1930s tract from a Princeton  group that declared 'five litmus tests for true Christianity'  which include the physical bodily resurrection of Jesus, an inerant Bible and a literal virgin birth. I'm sure you are aware of that history and how it remains the heart of present evangelicalism.)

I can highly recommend the book by Wright and Marcus Borg Two Visions Of Jesus. It is an excellent way to compare these two views.  Apparently Wright and Borg are good friends.  And their views  likely well represent your and my views respectively. I guess I was wishfully thinking that your statement, from death to life of the Age  to Come, in an immortal, glorified body suited to that new dimension was implying that Jesus' resurrected reality was  something different, and even more than, speaking of his physical body. If not why do we find this rather  filmy  twilight zone description of it( walking through walls, ghost like at times) given in earliest New Testament scripture? Paul nowhere gives an Easter morning  story of an empty tomb which would be astonishingly neglectful if this is how the first believers generally spoke of resurrection. Nor does Mark, the first written of the gospels, offer any witnesses to a physical body resurrection. These scriptural realities are often overlooked or explained away.  Likewise, similarly in all his writings Paul  never gives any birth story implying a literal  'virgin  birth' which later became a litmus test for faith and remains so today for ones welded to  literalized 12th century  creedal orthodoxy.     Take care and best wishes,  Jim

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