Thursday, April 25, 2013

Belief in Resurrection

As I was looking through the various quotes of mine that have been presented to prove that I am a bad apple, I noticed that some of them were pretty darn good.   Here is some text from a post on my old blog, What I Don't Believe.   

The post had to do with the resurrection of Jesus.  Did it happen or not?   I don't think it did because I don't think people rise from the dead.  I was accused of being trapped in Enlightenment thinking.  This is my response:
Belief in Resurrection is a matter of faith. Right? Only through the gift of faith can we affirm it, right? So by definition, you can't get there (or not get there) through reason (Enlightenment or otherwise). You have faith that Jesus rose from the grave or you don't.

No matter how much Enlightenment philosophy I am tainted with or not, I cannot prove or disprove what is taken on faith. I am really not out to disprove anyone's faith. I don't care. I am out to say what I think about things.

The more I look back and read whatever it is I have ever written, I find that I am probably a naturalist. At least a pragmatic one. Most of us are. We work from assumptions that events and so forth are explained by natural causes. Otherwise, we would be constantly taken in by anyone's claims to the supernatural.

When I hear a story of someone rising from the dead, I think that is a bit unusual. It sounds made up to me. It would sound made up to you as well and it does, unless it is the story of Jesus rising from the dead. That one many Christians take on faith as being true. Other miraculous stories from other religious traditions, not so much.

As I understand the Christian claim that some folks on this thread call orthodox, it isn't miracles in general that are being defended, but this particular one (and others more or less associated with Christianity).

The beef with me isn't about the Enlightenment and whether or not it allows for the supernatural, it is about whether some certain supernatural events occurred or not. Their occurrence is a matter of faith.

The issue with me is whether or not I have faith in these supernatural events occurring.

I don't.

Further, my "heretical" strand of Christianity doesn't require these supernatural events to have happened. I read them as stories (perhaps thought to be true at the time, perhaps not, hard to know) but stories that are interesting.

Now I still claim that I have faith in the Resurrection. But I don't mean it in the way many folks on this thread want me to mean it. It is not (for me) belief/faith/hope/trust in a miracle--a supernatural event--Jesus literally coming back to life, as the first fruits of the general resurrection of the saints in the new creation.

Again, for folks who believe that, great. Go for it.

For me, faith in the resurrection has to do with more mundane, life in the present, kinds of things. I argue that that is not such a bad philosophy.

Some don't like my view. What really bugs them is that I have this view while I am a Christian minister. I should give up the title Christian (and certainly minister) if I don't believe in the resurrection the way I am "supposed" to believe it. They think I am not a Christian.

I have no argument, except here I am anyway. And...I am not alone. Christianity always changes, reforms, splits, combines, finds new allies, makes new enemies and on and on we go...
The heart of the matter is interesting.   If we could step back without getting panicky, we could ask about language regarding God (including the resurrection of Jesus).

Is this language about God from us or is it to us?   Did religion invent God or did God invent religion?   Ultimately, I can't say for sure.  I tend to think that human beings because of the evolution of language created all the stories about God.  Religion is a natural product.  One could say, "We made it up," although that sounds dismissive.   I consider it a great feat of humanity to have created religion.  I like religion.  I find value in it.   I cannot prove my view.  I think that is the way it works but I could be wrong.

A lot is at stake for some people.  Some tend to think that a view such as mine shows a lack of faith.  That is true if faith is defined as belief in the actual existence of the things to which our language point like the literal resurrection of Jesus.   I suggest that faith, for me at least, is not about that at all.  Faith is a matter of living with a sense of trust and openness to surprise, especially the surprise of goodness. 

Faith for me is not about belief in what happened to Jesus' body or in anything objectively real or not real.  Faith is a matter of inward subjectivity.  I trust that resurrection happens.  I especially trust it when I allow it to happen to me.  Resurrection is thus true whether or not the Universe came into existence spontaneously and without ultimate purpose or objective meaning, and without a Creator.

I used to despair about this situation.  I used to think it was sad that there was no meaning intrinsic to the Universe.  I used to think that meant I couldn't be religious.  I tried really hard to believe in religion as objectively true.  I used to be afraid of what science would do to my meaning.  I don't despair anymore.   For me, there is no contest any longer between religion and science.  By moving religious language to the subjective, I can enjoy it and make meaning from it while at the same time allow science to give me whatever it has to give.  

I am reading Val Webb's, Stepping Out With the Sacred:  Human Attempts to Engage the Divine.  She writes:
Throughout this book, the question of whether there is Anything to engage necessarily remains open.  some have declared with certainty that religion has simply created GOD, while others live with a comfortable agnosticism, opting, with the Buddha, for a way of life rather than a basketful of speculation.  Religion scholar Karen Armstrong, who spent her young adult life as a nun in a convent and now writes about the religions of the world, says:

"The experience of an indefinable transcendence, holiness and sacredness has been a fact of human life...I don't think it matters what you believe in--and most of the great sages of religion would agree with me.  If conventional beliefs make you compassionate, kind and respectful of the sacred rights of others, this is good religion.  If your beliefs make you intolerant, unkind and belligerent, this is bad religion, no matter how orthodox it is."   p. 44-5. 

It doesn't matter, really, if we are to use Don Cupitt's terms, "realist" or "non-realist."  What matters most I suppose is how we behave toward our neighbor.

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