Q & R: Really, Resurrection?

Here’s the Q (with some of my responses interspersed):

I understand very well that if we accept that the Bible as a library of debates and partial accounts from the perspectives of generations of people struggling to express and understand God, then we don’t read it as a list of facts that are objectively true or false. Such categories are not available to us under this rubric. But one would suppose that there is something essential on the other side of the lens, right?
Okay, the Bible has been misread and misused. Okay, good. So there’s no hell, per se. That’s mostly a misreading of the narrative, and mostly even, a misreading of the intent of the writers themselves. Okay good, God is not predatory or tribal. That’s an old understanding that the Community has outgrown. Great. The book of Romans, it turns out, is more about coalition building than it is about theology. Very helpful. Christians aren’t supposed to convince Muslims to not be Muslims. Great, we can all live in the Kingdom together. Organic Goodness has nothing to do with Sterile Perfection. Got it.

I would quibble with the ways you’ve expressed some of this. For example, I’d agree, yes, that we’ve misread the text in the traditional articulation of a doctrine of hell. But that’s not the same as saying “there’s no hell, per se.” It would be more precise (to me) to say, “Traditional articulations of hell describe something that does not exist as described.” And I would never say Romans isn’t about theology: I would say it’s about a very robust theology in which coalition building is normative. But putting those quibbles aside …

But what is on the other side of the lens? We know now what the Bible suggests is important, but what is objectively true? Okay, so we can’t get that from the Bible. That’s not what the Bible is for, apparently. But it is supposed to work as a lens through which we interact with that Essential Reality, right? So when we read about the Resurrection, what can we infer about that essential reality? Do we infer a Power that turns back even the physical laws of entropy when the Kingdom of God collides with the Kingdom of the World? Or do we read that as figurative, to infer a less complete power, less transcendent victory?

This is a really important question. But again, I need to question the way it’s framed. When you say the Bible is “supposed to work as a lens,” I have to wonder “supposed to” according to whom? And what do you mean by lens? And is figurative always less complete and less transcendent than literal? Might we instead say that figurative is at least sometimes more universal and comprehensive and profound than literal, which would be even more complete and more transcendent? None of this is to criticize or invalidate the importance of your question … I’m just trying to respond as honestly and helpfully as I can, and that includes questioning some of the assumptions that lie behind (or run alongside) your question.

That’s a different question than to ask if it happened or not. I’m asking instead, does it happen? Will it happen? For people who believe in atonement, of course, it’s very important that it DID happen. But I think that’s a red herring, because Jesus clearly redefined atonement. There is no lamb for us. We are the sacrificial lambs. We’re called to take on each other’s sins and redeem them together, in participation with Jesus.

Again – I’m fascinated by what you’re saying about atonement, even though I might not frame it that way myself (at least, not yet – having not yet hear what you’re thinking).

But it does seem to matter if the resurrection could have happened the way we read that it did in the accounts told by those writers. Because it changes what kind of victory I can afford to hope for.

In spite of my previous questions/quibbles, I really like where you end up in asking your question. In the end, I don’t think my response to your question can take the form of a philosophical argument. It has to take the form of a personal testimony. I believe resurrection has happened, does happen, and will happen. I believe there is a reality on the other side of the lens. In fact, I believe that the mysterious, glorious reality on the other side of the lens – the light, life, grace, truth, love, and power of God – is more real/substantial/majestic/huge than the lens itself. That hope is what defines the kind of life I seek to live.
But again, can I play with your framing of things a bit? What if the reality/revelation the gospellers experienced/received determined the form of the accounts? That would put the priority on the reality/revelation instead on of the form of the accounts. It would also allow us to acknowledge the remarkable differences between the four (or three, depending on how you assess the end of Mark) resurrection accounts … and see in their differences varying attempts to adapt the form of their account to a reality that overflows and oversaturates any account that seeks to convey it.
But that may be excessively esoteric to try to explain in a blog post. Let me just say, by way of testimony, that I believe in the resurrection to which the gospels testify, and that I seek to root my life in that faith and hope, and that I am certain that the full meaning and reality of the resurrection are far greater than my comprehension of them. A good line of thought for a Sunday, which is a day for celebrating resurrection.