Saturday, May 14, 2011

Resurrection Controversy in the Burg

In the last couple of weeks, the letters to the editor pages of the Lynchburg News and Advance have featured a controversy over the bodily resurrection of Jesus. On May 1, a retired United Methodist minister, William F. Quillian, Jr. tells us there is no evidence for the resurrection of Christ.

Of course the letter brought various rebuttals: from the United Methodist district superintendent and another UMC pastor, among others, and support: from a retired mainline Presbyterian minister. The most intelligent and carefully reasoned response came from a Liberty University philosophy professor.
Dr. Foreman pointed out that no claim of a historical nature is subject to the evidence afforded by “scientific” investigation, so by the proofs of science, there is no proof of the resurrection. But of course this is the case with any matter of ancient history. Did Caesar cross the Rubicon in 49BC? Well the historical evidence seems pretty conclusive, and historians accept this as a fact of history. But is there scientific evidence for this? Can it be proven, Mr. Quillian may ask? Well, no.

On May 10 Mr. Quillian responded
in what is titled (by the paper?) “The last word on the resurrection.” Quillian writes, “No letter writer has pointed to any “evidence” of Jesus’ bodily resurrection.” I am wondering, did Quillian not read Dr. Foreman’s letter, or is the distinction between scientific and historical evidence too subtle for him to understand? Or perhaps this is just a case of “what my net don’t catch ain’t fish.” If someone offers evidence that points to a conclusion he doesn’t like, Quillian just says, “that’s not evidence.”

Quillian then admonishes his readers to hear Jesus’ "final" message to his disciples and he quotes the passage from Matthew 25 concerning ministry to the poor and needy. But I wonder why Quillian thinks this is really the word of Jesus, since the same Gospel of Matthew that records this also records a detailed account of the bodily resurrection of Christ. Could the gospel writer accurately report the lengthy discourses of Jesus, but totally botch the matter of the resurrection? If the "resurrection" was only a dream, or a delusion, or a matter of Jesus being "alive in the disciples consciousness," or something like that, then maybe the idea of mission in Matthew 25 is likewise just as unreal.

I also wonder why Quillian says this is Jesus’ “final message.” Matthew records these as the Lord’s final words: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations…” And Luke records this: “Thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name to all nations. And you are witnesses of these things.” Among the final words of Jesus in the gospel of John are these: “”reach your finger here, and look at my hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into my side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing. …Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Now what is a fair evaluation of the testimony of these three writers of the first century? Is it reasonable to conclude that they believed in the bodily resurrection of Jesus? Apparently they did. The same gospel writers who tell of the wonderful words of Jesus, also tell of his wonderful works. Is it reasonable to accept one and not the other?

So, Mr. Quillan, if you give no credence to what the gospel writers affirm was seen, why should you believe what they claim was spoken?

Unfortunately such “experts” as Bishop Jack Spong, and those enamored by his writings, such as William Quillian, apparently demand scientific proof. But the bodily resurrection, if it happened, is a matter of history, not science, and it is therefore not subject to scientific proof. It is a matter of faith. But while it is a matter of faith, it is not unsupported by reasonable conclusions from the historical data. But nevertheless, it is a matter of reasonable faith that all Christian churches have demanded of those who are ordained to teach the faith.

(I am amazed at how often writers reference Bishop Spong as competent scholar or guide in matters of religion. In my opinion he is anything but a competent scholar of a reliable guide in matters of faith. See my next two postings for my impressions of the bishop from 10 years ago.)

No comments:

Post a Comment