On this morning after Easter Sunday, I hope you are energized by the celebration of new life at this auspicious time of the year and by the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the pivotal point of the Christian faith.
My new book, The Limits of Liberalism: A Historical, Theological, and Personal Appraisal of Christian Liberalism, should be released next month. In it, one of my criticisms of liberalism is related to its understanding of the resurrection of Jesus. Here is an excerpt about that:
John Shelby Spong [a retired Episcopal bishop and widely-known contemporary liberal Christian] writes about the resurrection of Jesus as occurring in Galilee, rather than in Jerusalem. That is because there was nothing “objective” that happened in Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified and buried. The “resurrection” was only something subjective that happened in the hearts and minds of the apostles who had fled to Galilee. Spong and other liberals talk about resurrection, to be sure, but it is a watered-down resurrection, one devoid of any factuality or any “taint” of the miraculous—expect in the sense that the Apostles “miraculously” experienced the spiritual presence and ongoing influence of the crucified Christ in their hearts as they were imbued with new faith and courage to carry on the teachings of the Jesus movement.
On the other hand, I also reject the over-literalness of some fundamentalist views of the resurrection. There is a tendency on the theological right to emphasize the historicity of the literal bodily resurrection of Jesus so much that its significance for our daily lives today is largely lost.
More than once I have preached an Easter sermon titled “The Resurrection Principle,” emphasizing the practical difference the resurrection makes (or could or should make) in our lives today, if we live by the resurrection principle. That principle emphasizes that life overcomes death, love overcomes hate and indifference, hope overcomes despair, and joy overcomes sorrow. These affirmations are all grounded in a firm belief in the actuality of Jesus’ resurrection, and they make a huge difference in the living of our daily lives.
Regardless of what happened on the third day after Jesus’ crucifixion, the effects of the resurrection principle in our lives today are of great importance. But if nothing factual or objective happened on that first Easter morning, aren't the effects of the resurrection principle little more than wish-fulfillment? Are our affirmations of life, love, hope, and joy based on an actual event, or are they only fanciful fabrications? I firmly believe they are rooted in a real occurrence and not merely in subjective experiences.
On this day after Easter, it is my prayer that on the basis of the good news about Jesus Christ all of us can affirm the resurrection principle and will, accordingly, truly rejoice and enthusiastically celebrate life, love, hope, and joy.