Monday, March 28, 2016
I was tempted to a do an Easter post yesterday but declined. Later I was playing catch-up with some of my blogging friends blogs. Over at Bruce Gerencsers blog he posted an interesting chart about contradictions in the Easter story as contained in the canonical gospels. (I followed the link he provided over to Jericho Brisance's blog, from whence the chart came.)
In common with those two bloggers I am a former Christian. They now identify as Atheists. It's hard for me to define myself religiously speaking now. Labels sometimes aren't very helpful. I suppose I'm a cultural Christian. Christianity certainly is my heritage and the tradition I'm most familiar with. But I tend to want to identify myself as a Unitarian (at least of sorts.) To expand on that, I believe there is one spiritual reality towards which we humans (at least those of us who are spiritually inclined) aspire.
That being said, I have a curiosity about what happened to inspire the theology of the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. I confess to being agnostic about whether Jesus literally rose from the dead in a miraculous fashion. But a chart such as the one I referred to above - while helpful for consolidating in handy fashion all the alleged contradictions in the resurrection story (it really is a first-class, impressive piece of work) - is of little use for me in attempting to decide what may have happened.
I can't fathom such a presentation would change a single mind of those who had sincerely committed to the faith. It might make biblical inerrantists uncomfortable, but would probably only cause them to dig in deeper.
For the already skeptic, it is just preaching to the choir. It will provide some ammo with which to shock and awe your Christian friends, family and acquaintances. But again, I just don't think that approach does much but build ill will.
Faith must first be truly shaken to allow one to seriously entertain truly negative thoughts.
Because I think myths and legends usually have a basis in something substantial, I believe something unique inspired the biblical Easter story. For some time I have been exploring the so-called "Swoon" theory. Well, more accurately, the idea that Jesus did not die on the cross but survived his crucifixion and revived later in the tomb. I think it would explain a lot. (Not being an inerrantist, of course contradictions in the gospels aren't a problem to me.)
Let's be honest. The reason atheists reject the resurrection of Jesus isn't because there are inconsistencies in the accounts. It is because they reject miracles outright.
I don't rule out of hand such miracles as the resurrection. But to be honest, my personal theological outlook doesn't require such things. Therefore I'm free to explore these accounts with a more open mind than either the conservative Christian or the Atheist.
Certainly I think there are plenty of documented cases of people who had been declared dead, given up for dead, presumed dead, etc., who have revived as opposed to people who had been dead for three days coming back
Being preserved through such a harrowing ordeal as Roman crucifixion would be no small matter. Had such a preservation occurred in the Jesus case, it surely would have seemed to those who knew him that he had - if not literally returned from the dead - returned from death's very door. A person of faith would have no problem attributing such to an act of God.
I have studied the works of the mythicists and find their case not only not compelling, but actually weak. Of course that is a matter of opinion, but it is mine.
Christianity has had a big impact on world history for two millennia. That seems to me a lot to account for with a mere mythical figure. (Which is why I think even some mythicists have been willing to admit that it's very possible there was a historical Jesus about whom such legends grew.)
Also, I find the many parallels in the various religions as added evidence for my conviction: there is one spiritual reality common to all but understood in many different ways.
My spirituality is derived from the various myths, legends, fables and so forth that fills every religious tradition. I think we humans crave stories, symbols, icons and such things to satisfy their deepest yearnings.
Even if the resurrection of Jesus is nothing more than myth and legend, it still fills a spiritual need that I think is significant. Therefore, I believe I do take the resurrection story seriously. What I don't do is use this issue as a recruiting tool.