A good question: Do you have to believe in the resurrection to be a Christian?
One question, four answers
‘Christianity is not an exam’
The straight answer to the question is ‘No!’ Being a Christian isn’t about passing some divinely-set theological exam, it’s about being recognisably like Jesus – seeing him more clearly, loving him more dearly and following him more nearly, day by day. And being church is about Jesus-shaped communities of Jesus-shaped people, making a Jesus-shaped difference to their own contexts. Churches are recognisably like Jesus to the extent that they look and behave like a world where God is in charge. That’s what Jesus called ‘the kingdom of God’. It’s Good News – and people experience those sorts of churches and people as Good News.
Resurrection is the guarantee of all God’s promises that this world will be transformed into the kingdom of God, and we will all share in it. That, after all, was why they killed Jesus: he announced that God, not Rome, will have the last word on what the world looks like. He preached that God’s kingdom, not Caesar’s, will extend over the whole earth and last forever. And, shockingly, Jesus announced that the poor and the outcasts – the ‘sinners’ – would be the first to benefit in God’s new creation, while the rich, the powerful and the religious people would be sent to the back of the queue…
Lawrence Moore is a mission and discipleship consultant in Salford, Greater Manchester
‘The empty tomb is an important metaphor’
Along with ecumenical colleagues, I have recently delivered one of the York Courses, ‘On the Third Day’. The ministers in my Churches Together group used this programme as a guide because it comes as a package with CD and notes. The promotion of the course relies heavily on the good reputation of the contributors and less so on what they say. The first session gives focus to the empty tomb as evidence or proof of our faith.
A few years ago, I read Bishop Spong’s book, Resurrection: Myth or reality? Does our faith depend on a tomb that was empty? Clearly the tomb is an important metaphor but what is the reality? And who moved the stone anyway? Spong suggests that Jesus was thrown without any ceremony into a public grave for criminals and that the Church had to come up with stories about a wealthy man providing a tomb as a way of easing the guilt of the early disciples who had fled. There is some evidence that the bodies of those convicted for sedition were not handed over to family and friends. This makes the Joseph of Arimathea story look fanciful. If Spong is right, this is clearly not something we should base our faith on. It would make us look like people clutching straws for worldly proofs.
If we could find solid proof for our faith, I wonder if it would still be faith. Clearly this is a semantic and philosophical point. For many people, faith is seen as a journey or pilgrimage. I have, over the years, enjoyed engaging with theological and biblical scholars who want to question things. …
David Isiorho is a minister serving churches in Charlestown, Par and Tywardreath, Cornwall
‘I do not believe death has the last word’
Possibly not, but surely it’ll help! A new church member recently shared a picture they ha d of dark, overcast gloom. A voice spoke saying: ‘Let there be light,’ and he saw a small flickering light, but it did not overcome the darkness.
Many of us cherish the opening of John’s Gospel: ‘The light shines in the darkness but the darkness has not overcome it.’ How often we feel that the darkness seems to overcome, even for us who do not live among the hills and valleys of Syria, on the coastline of Yemen, or on the Korean peninsula. Our darkness still feels very powerful.
The execution of Jesus, however you view him, whether as God or as a great human teacher, is surely a picture of the greatest of darkness that stalks our world. As we wantonly destroy the world God called ‘good’, the crucifixion of innocence is a pivotal moment: death and evil have done their worst. If, as I believe, Christ was God, the creator is rejected and crucified by its own creation, a moment as shocking and disturbing as parenticide. No wonder ‘darkness came over all the land,’ the women wept and all creation kept silence. Yet bizarrely we call this day ‘Good’ Friday. It cannot possibly be good, unless there is a sequel…
Stephen Newell is Minister of Zion United Church, near Bristol
‘Yes: Christians worship a Saviour who is alive’
The one thing that distinguishes Christianity from other religions is that Christians believe they worship a Saviour who is alive. According to Gospel writings, Jesus Christ – the founder of the Christian faith – was killed by the Roman authorities. But unlike any other person in history, apart from Lazarus, Jesus rose from the dead, three days after his death by crucifixion. It’s a historical moment called the resurrection.
Such was the momentous impact of Jesus Christ’s birth, death and resurrection, history is divided into two main epochs – Before Christ (BC) and After Christ (Anno Domini). Lives, communities and nations have been transformed by this major occurrence.
The whole of the Christian faith is built on serving the risen Christ – the man who came to life in his physical body and spent time on earth teaching the disciples, before ascending into heaven. While there are people from other religions who believe in the historical Jesus, I’ve yet to meet any who believe in Jesus’ resurrection. If they did, I – as a bona fide Pentecostal who believes wholeheartedly in the resurrection and the power of the Gospel to change lives – would have to ask them why that belief has not inspired them to accept God’s gift of salvation through Christ. Although there are historical accounts of Christ’s resurrection in Scripture, most Christians come to believe in Christ, the risen Lord, after being convinced by the Holy Spirit that Jesus died for humanity’s sins so that he could reconcile the world to his father. …
Marcia Dixon is a religious columnist for The Voice
These are extracts from an article that was published in the April 2018 edition of Reform