Friday, February 5, 2010

Faith and the Resurrection

The reason the disciples had such a hard time understanding and accepting the resurrection was because they had no frame of reference to envision a physical, spatially-limited God. When Luke 24 describes their reaction to the appearance of the resurrected Jesus, it is explicit that they thought they were viewing a spirit. After all, they had a long history of recorded angelic/spirit visitations. Mary herself had been visited by an angel, and Moses and Elias had appeared at the Mount of Transfiguration in front of Peter, James and John. A spirit God they could understand.

Jesus went out of his way to demonstrate that the resurrection did not result in a spiritual condition. In Luke 24:39, he said explicitly, "Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have." He then ate in front of them to drive the point home completely. THEN, and only then, "opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures." (v.45)

Personally, I don't think it takes much faith at all to accept and believe in the limitless, formless, passionless, vast, spirit God of the Westminster Confession. That's pretty easy, frankly, since ALL religious traditions include that type of belief. It's much harder to understand and accept a physically resurrected, tangible, spatially-limited Being - but that's the message of the unique God of the New Testament. That takes real "substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" - since no other religion teaches it. It's easy to quote other verses to make the counter-argument, but to do so one has to ignore the words that are attributed to Jesus, himself. I'd rather work from the opposite assumption - that Jesus' words represent the best picture and the other verses need to be interpreted based on those words, even if it takes more faith to do so.

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