Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Astounded by the Resurrection - and Newsweek and MSN!

A few minutes ago I logged on to the Internet, and on the MSN homepage, all the featured articles were about Easter, the resurrection, and heaven! I read this one from Newsweek magazine, and despite being written by a self-professed "literal-minded skeptic," the author actually seems to get it right.

Leading into a summary of her book Heaven: Our Enduring Fascination with the Afterlife, Lisa Miller begins thus:

It's Easter—that most pleasant of springtime holidays—when children stuff themselves with marshmallows and stain their fingers with pastel dyes. In reality, of course, Easter is about something darker and more fantastic. It's a celebration of the final act of the Passion, in which Jesus rose from his tomb in his body three days after his execution, to reside in heaven with God. The Gospels insist on the veracity of this supernatural event. The risen Lord "ate barbecued fish [Luke] and walked through doors [John]," is how a friend of mine, an Episcopalian priest, puts it. This rising—the Resurrection—remains at the center of the Christian faith, the narrative climax of every creed. Jesus died and rose again so that all his followers could, eventually, do the same. This story has strained the credulity of even the most devoted believer. For, truly, it's unbelievable.

She goes on to show how easily people find the idea of a physical, bodily resurrection absurd or incredible, preferring options such as metaphor or some sort of vague "spiritual newness." But these just don't cut it (aided by, of course, N.T. Wright). "Resurrection may be unbelievable, but belief in a traditional heaven requires it."

She seems to finish strong with a quote from Harvard Divinity School professor Jon Levenson, himself a Jew: "It's no use to ask, 'If I had a lab at MIT, how would I try to resurrect a body?' The belief in resurrection is more radical. It's a supernatural event. It's a special act of grace or of kindness on God's part."

Sadly, she ends by saying, "For my part, I don't buy it." But what a wonderful testimony that God the truth of God is not far from any of us, so that people "would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him" (Acts 17:27).

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