Dear Steven, John
Thank you for your thoughts and deliberations so far.
I like the opening gambit that things are not always as they seem. I’ve just heard a science lecture in which I’m told that Strong theory (was it?) proposes at least 11 dimensions and possibly 13 so far. I’m not sure what that means but certainly Newtonian Physics is now relegated to the level of Helpful Primer.
I’m not sure that Richard Dawkins would thank you for putting his name in the same sentence as Dan Brown! Though I have never understood the whole ‘Resurrection as political invention later’ argument. For me more useful thoughts are to be found in the embarrassments of the empty tomb being found initially by women (something that would not be persuasive to early jews or gentiles and you might think that a more astute author would edit that bit out as unhelpful and not the main message here) likewise that silly phrase at the end of Matthews gospel ‘but some doubted’ clearly this author has not been to the same Team Building Meetings that I go. He’d clearly not had a text from New Labour on how to stay On Message. I don’t quite see the Contradictions that Steven sees but this is for two reasons I think. Firstly because a different angle is not the same as a contradiction. When I’m trying to work out from my children who did spill the milk I will get quite different tales but they often agree on the essentials (John knocked over the glass) whilst interpreting it differently (Janet nudged me at the time). So perhaps we’re using this word Contradiction in a slightly different sense. Secondly, I did have trouble following Steven’s arguments about the corpse and this might be because I’m not so familiar with his paraphrasing of the bible. On the one hand it seems that a lack of Paul banging on about a living corpse seems to prove that Paul didn’t think there had been a resurrection. On the other hand, Steven seems to argue, that the People hearing this would have been fine with it anyway (Zeus returning to a swan) or the People thought it absurd / irrelevant. This obviously makes it hard for St Paul to please both Steven and all of Paul’s initial readers! Perhaps it would be helpful to bear in mind that the Church has never believed in a resuscitated corpse but only a resurrected one and we’re not quite sure what that means except that whereas Lazarus was brought back to life and eventually died (interesting interpretation of this in the film Last Temptation of Christ where Lazarus is murdered to hush it all up), Jesus seems to have gone through death – so Jesus travels from Emmaus to Jerusalem quicker than most and appears inside locked rooms and yet eats fish (I’ll bet that fish was wishing to be the moon now).
I do admire Steven’s obviously correct tautological definition of a convert – they believe what they are converted to – or at least the core beliefs – if only this were true. I’ve never been to a church where people just believe what they are supposed to believe! (whatever that might mean!)
In my church you’ll find folk who don’t believe they just like a good song and to be with people (community based), some believe in a creator God, in a God who answers prayers, in a God who meets with them in worship, in a God who gives them meaning and purpose and makes sense out of life’s question, some will believe in a God who gives hope even beyond death and others in a God who cleans their slate and helps them to live now. I could keep going.
This doesn’t quite relegate the Resurrection to the level of So What? Because it feeds into their beliefs about God’s power and love and purpose. But it does mean that most Sundays I talk about God’s love etc more than banging on about a living corpse. If you were to read my sermons you could perhaps accuse me of the same inadequacies as St Paul – it would seem that I have not heard the stories of the resurrection, perhaps someone should write them!