Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Expressing My Faith

About 20 years ago I read an article in the Manhattan (Kansas) Mercury written by a Jewish theologian. This article was one of several that appeared Easter weekend and while I do not remember the name of this theologian, I remember quite clearly his thesis. He wrote about the Resurrection in a way that filled in my ability to clearly say what I believe and why.

He described the Friday and Saturday of a group of 11 frightened men in hiding. These men had followed, shared bread, endured hardships and formed a close personal relationship with a man they believed was the Son of God and the Annointed One of Israel. Several days earlier he and they entered Jerusalem in what they thought would be the beginning of the end of Roman rule. By Friday all this had crashed around them, and they were despondent over the loss of the close friend. In addition, they were in fear of their lives and were hiding, some in one place, and others beginning to scatter.

A day later they were overjoyed, and beginning to tell an incredible story of resurrection. They appeared openly telling their news to all who would listen. What was earlier a group of frightened men and women -- and there were more than just 11 men who had felt the loss -- was now empowered to preach what Jesus had taught them

This Jewish theologian could not explain this in any other way than that something extraordinary had happened on the first day of the week. He conceded that resurrection made sense – otherwise why would these people appear openly telling a story that could get them killed in such a hideous way as crucifixion? Why would so many of them ultimately suffer execution for something that they did not see with their own eyes?

This theologian’s take on this was that Jesus did, in fact, come back to life and is the savior of the gentiles – but not the Messiah the Jews still seek. Here is where I must respectfully disagree, but what he wrote before became a major turning point in the way I have been able to articulate my faith.

At that time, I had been an elder for11 years. I had answered the ordination questions with “yes”, but I didn’t think much about the ramifications of my answers. By the mid 1980’s I had grown in faith, and I was ready for this change in the way I understood my own faith.

Paul, in First Corinthians, lays out what I call the “Smoking Gun” of Christianity. If he were called before Congress someone would ask “What did you know and when did you know it?” Paul’s answer might look like this:

1Co 15:12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.

The Holy Bible, New International Version. Pradis CD-ROM:1Co 15:12.

The Resurrection is clearly a defining event in all our faiths, and when I started thinking through the ramifications of the Resurrection it became obvious to me that there were other things that were starting to fall into place. If God can raise Jesus from the dead, then what is God incapable of? The Incarnation becomes plausible. The miracles become believable. I still resist getting into arguments about specific miracles, but the Resurrection is where my articulation of my faith must begin.

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