Tuesday, 5 February 2008

John Twisleton Final Reply

Resurrection debate - John Twisleton’s final contribution 23.4.08

You can bring a horse to water but you cannot make him drink!

I’ve enjoyed our two months debate and apologise for any occasions when I have lacked grace towards my opponent or seem to have ignored his points.

My aim has been to engage Steven with the good news of Christianity which is that “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)

This good news is welcomed by all who ‘repent and are baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’ (cf Acts 1:38)

I have profited from this debate in becoming more aware of St. Paul’s witness to the resurrection, its nuances as well as its enthusiasm.

The resurrection is, in the words of the Easter Liturgy, a ‘taking light from the Light that never fades’. I hope a little light has been shed in the ten lines I presented to all who have followed this debate.

These lines included an applauding of critical biblical scholarship over two centuries alongside conviction that such scholarship has yet to fundamentally undermine the claim that Jesus rose from the dead and among us to this day.

If you ask me why I am quitting this resurrection debate, because to do so appears like a concession of defeat, I would answer that I cannot see how Steven and I can continue profitably given his refusal to allow any widening of debate beyond the Pauline corpus of writings.

All along Steven’s implied dismissal of the historicity of the canonical gospels and Acts has been a frustration to me because they so supplement the historical arguments for the resurrection of Jesus. The inclusion of Paul in the canon of scripture is alongside these, indeed after these documents. If I am guilty of trusting the Spirit guiding church authority before my intellectual pursuit of truth may I be forgiven!

Steven’s dismissal of the canonical gospels is particularly difficult for me. I write as one engaged elsewhere in the arguments that run vis-à-vis Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code. These have made me even more convinced of their historicity compared to the so-called apocryphal gospels. It has been heartening to see the dismissal of Da Vinci Code by non-Christian scholars and their affirmation of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. I might add the BBC Passion series which ran during our debate shows that even an agnostic director felt unable to ignore the canonical gospels in his series which included striking coverage of the resurrection and the empty tomb.

Another frustration for me is how Steven is not as keen as I am to engage with the wider aspects, scientific, philosophical, metaphysical, legal, and experiential of resurrection debating.

For myself I am not so keen to split hairs over Pauline symbols of clothing in the resurrection because I am more interested in the reality Paul speaks of both in this world and the next.

That being said I concede to Steven that though Paul mentions Christ being raised some twenty four times he is nowhere utterly explicit about the empty tomb. I will also concede that Paul’s theology of the body is as complicated as it is vital to Christianity.

I sense in Steven a degree of indignation at the perceived certainty of Christian claims. These claims have caused offence from the earliest days (1 Corinthians 1:23) and no doubt some of the offence has come from the way people have announced them.

To be a Christian is to know one’s own failings whilst holding to God’s faithfulness shown so wonderfully in the death and resurrection of Jesus. God forbid this reasonable faith should come across as arrogant self assurance.

Like Steven I am a truth seeker. Unlike him I am not the world’s best debater. I seek truth knowing this truth quest will not pull me away from Jesus ‘the way, the truth and the life’ (John 14:6).

My truth quest is mirrored by his for me, for Steven and for all.

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