Sunday, April 20, 2014

Truth and the Resurrection

There are those who say that the Resurrection of Jesus Christ of Nazareth is merely a story. They will claim, falsely, that the Risen Lord is derived from an agricultural myth. They will assert, wrongly, that "Easter is originally the celebration of Ishtar, the Assyrian and Babylonian goddess of fertility and sex." They will declare, contra the historical evidence, that Jesus Christ never lived or was crucified on a cross by the Roman authorities.

It is strange, is it not, that they should tell so many palpable lies in the service of that which they say to be truth?

The Apostle Paul once said that if the story of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ is not true, then we Christians are the saddest and most pathetic of all men. Everything we do, everything we believe, everything for which we hope and strive, is a lie.

It is strange, is it not, that so many observable and long-lived truths should stand so firmly on such a flimsy foundation of falsehood?

From Plato to Zelazny, men of letters have written of the purer things, that in their perfection spawn lesser shadows and imitations that reflect but an aspect of the true essence. From where does truth come, if not the Truth? And did Jesus not say that he was the Way, the Truth, and the Life?

Those who are Aristotelian devotees of reality stand by the Lesser Truth that A is A, and that A is never Not-A. But the Lesser Truth, and all other truths, descends from, and depends upon, the Greater Truth, which is this:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Yesterday the light shone in the darkness. Today the light shines in the darkness. Tomorrow the light will shine in the darkness. And the darkness will never, ever, overcome it.

It is not a story, it is The Story, it is the oldest story, it is the true story from which all other stories flow. Light versus dark. And despite the darkness that surrounds us, that pervades us, that haunts us, the light of all mankind is winning.

That is why, all around the world this morning, there are millions of men and women who will greet each other with three simple words of hope and truth and triumph.

Christ is risen!

30 comments:

Laguna Beach Fogey said...

Happy Easter to Vox and the Alpha Game crew!

D.J. said...

Christ is risen!

He is risen indeed!

Bob Wallace said...

My experience with atheists is that all of them are intellectual second-raters. The same with those who deny Jesus (they never say that about Mohammed, since they are cowards) - the more you talk to them, they dumber they get.

2870b918-77c0-11e3-b9bd-000bcdcb8a73 said...

if the story of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ is not true, then we Christians are the saddest and most pathetic of all men. Everything we do, everything we believe, everything for which we hope and strive, is a lie.

I've seen this statement before, but never understood the why of it, at least as far as the Resurrection is concerned. If Christ had been crucified but not resurrected, wouldn't His sacrifice still redeem the sins of those who believe? Wouldn't the sacrifice be that much greater if His death was forever instead of just 3 days?

jaybeespancakes said...

@2870b918-77c0-11e3-b9bd-000bcdcb8a73

All men die; any pretender would have died and stayed dead. Peter, John, Paul, even down to us, we are called to be witnesses of the resurrected Christ. The Passover Lamb was slain as many Passover lambs were slain; the Passover Lamb descended into Hell; the Passover Lamb emerged victorious having defeated death and taken the sting of the wages of sin away by becoming sin himself.

Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Elisha, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Samuel, David, Solomon - all went to their deaths under the curse. All were called out by God, but none had the power to overcome death itself. The first born of the dead is truly the master of the universe as well as the good shepherd. Hallelujah, he is risen, indeed.

ajw308 said...

Wouldn't the sacrifice be that much greater if His death was forever instead of just 3 days?
A debt paid in full is a debt paid in full, but a victory over the grave? Now that's forever!

2870b918-77c0-11e3-b9bd-000bcdcb8a73 said...

any pretender would have died and stayed dead.

Not necessarily; God can resurrect anyone He chooses. (Why would He resurrect a pretender? I don't know; the ways of God are not to be understood by us.) In any case, hadn't Christ already proven he was the real deal, by resurrecting Lazarus among other things?

jaybeespancakes said...

@2870b918-77c0-11e3-b9bd-000bcdcb8a73

Think about it this way:

Jesus didn't want to settle the accounts and leave the Old Testament economy of sin and covering sacrifice in place. There are two lines that I found to be illuminating for this line of thinking:

1) John calls him the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world.
2) He became sin for us as part of the atonement

These are not the old way of thinking of paying for things done. Note he is not the scapegoat. God did a sin covering of Adam and Eve's sin. Moses spelled out the rules for sacrificing to provide sin covering for things done since the last sacrifice. The wages of sin are still death; sin was not taken out of this world. However, Jesus not only paid the cost, but he broke the door down forever. Think about the parable of the strong man - Jesus charged in while the strong man (death) was still in power, bound death up, then broke down the door leaving.

He paid the debt to satisfy the Father's need for justice and to have a holy and unblemished people and a holy and unblemished offering. He therefore shows his filial subservience to the father. However, he shows that there is none else above him by not leaving a wage of sin, death, waiting to be paid, nor by saying he'd be square with death, but by destroying death's power.

This is why Paul says we are baptized into Christ's death - by breaking the door off death's jail, as it were, the first death has no bite, for Jesus was raised up, and he will raise up his people; there is only the second death to fear - being dismissed from his presence on judgment day - and this is done by denying him, which shows that we have been graciously indulged for sins past or future of the atonement.

cailcorishev said...

If Christ had been crucified but not resurrected, wouldn't His sacrifice still redeem the sins of those who believe?

Yes, but redeeming our sins was only one reason He came. He also came to found a church. Without getting into the details of what kind of church or who constitutes it, He gathered a group of men, instructed them to preach the gospel to the entire world and baptize all nations, and told them at the Last Supper "do this in memory of me." Would these men, who scattered and hid and denied Him when He was dying on the Cross, have come back together as they did and pursued that mission unto martyrdom if He hadn't come back and proved His complete power over death?

The Church traditionally celebrates the Paschal Mystery as three parts: Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension. The Ascension gets less attention these days, but it's important because that's when Jesus, fully God and Man, opens the way for man to enter Heaven. So the Crucifixion is just step one of a multi-step plan: die to redeem mankind, rise again in victory and show the Apostles what he was getting at all along (remember that most of them really didn't "get" it when He was alive) and kick off the church ("Just as the Father sent me, I send you"), and then ascend to show us the way.

It's not just about redemption from sin, or even resurrection and eternal life. It's about spending that eternal life in Heaven in the Divine Presence, which requires all three parts of the Mystery to have happened.

2870b918-77c0-11e3-b9bd-000bcdcb8a73 said...

Thank you to the last two commenters; you have answered my question very well.

tz said...

He also came to found a church. Without getting into the details of what kind of church or who constitutes it, He gathered a group of men, instructed them to preach the gospel to the entire world and baptize all nations, and told them at the Last Supper "do this in memory of me.

But this is also critical. And on-topic for a Game blog. And I will here give one reason I am Catholic.

I almost became Protestant. Perhaps I was. Sola scriptura would be great if it worked. It promised to answer clearly and unequivocally every question of faith and morals. Cool!. But then I tried following it.

As Vox (and Ayn Rand, and Aristotle) notes, A is A. A cannot be Not-A.

Either the anabaptists or paedobaptists are right.
Either it requires immersion or pouring suffices.
Either it is a sacrament, important sign, or irrelevant.

I could make an airtight case for any combination of positions. Like Godel's theorem. Any system of axioms will either contain contradictions, where you can prove A or Not-A, or is incomplete where you can't prove which, A or Not-A is true. Scripture is finite.

Even something like Trinitarian v.s. Monophysite. Arianism is scriptural!

The ilk, who claim and whom I do not doubt are being led by the Holy Spirit, are in a position where some believe A, and others Not-A. But either it is more like Allah - who the Muslims claim is so omnipotent so A and Not-A can both be true simultaneously, or it is the God of Aquinas and Augustine where rationality derives from his omnipotence.

And here Game comes in. A child cannot submit only to Daddy and rebel against Mommy. Daddy says to obey Mommy. The Church is the bride of Christ. Jesus appointed apostles, first Peter as Prime-Minister (Isaiah 22!), and all as overseers, bishops, "episcopus". Vox himself took a stronger position on a wife submitting to her husband, and leaving the husband responsible for the righteousness or SINFULLNESS of the position. My position is strong but draws a line as the obedience is derivative from my obedience to Christ.

I submit to the Catholic Church as a wife submits to her fallen, uncertain, and often sinful husband. She is the bride of Christ and I am part of her. Perhaps they are wrong, though scripture says the Holy Spirit cannot leave them in error for long collectively. It doesn't mean I have to follow apostate priests. Nor am I completely absolved if commanded to do something wrong (the downside of having an intellect is that I'm REQUIRED to use it to watch the watchers). I'm not part of the Catholic Hierarchy (Praise God! Dives in misecordia! Hosanna and Gloria in excelsis Deo!), so I'm held to a lesser standard. But that means on questions like baptism and the trinity and contraception, I'm only required to read the teacher's answer book - the Catechism. And follow that. It says CLEARLY if A or Not-A is the correct answer, and gives references, history, and just enough to show it was the doctrine from the beginning, not just made up.

Even things like Mary, Virgin and Mother, or as during the season of Easter, the Angelus is replaced with the Regina Coeli:

Queen of Heaven, rejoice. Alleluia.
For He, whom thou wast worthy to bear. Alleluia.
Has risen as He said. Alleluia.
Pray for us to God. Alleluia.
V. Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary. Alleluia.
R. Because the Lord is truly risen, Alleluia.

Let us pray
O God, Who by the Resurrection of Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, hast been pleased to give joy to the whole world, grant we beseech Thee, that through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, His Mother, we may attain the joys of eternal life. Through the same Christ, our Lord. Amen.

2870b918-77c0-11e3-b9bd-000bcdcb8a73 said...

It's not just about redemption from sin, or even resurrection and eternal life. It's about spending that eternal life in Heaven in the Divine Presence, which requires all three parts of the Mystery to have happened.

This does raise more questions in my mind: what happened to those who died before all this took place? Did they all go to hell? Did they just die, no afterlife of any kind? Is there anything in the Bible which bears on these questions, or is one person's guess as good as anyone else's? I've read several passages in the Old Testament which say, so-and-so lived for so-many years, and then he died, but nothing about what came after.

jaybeespancakes said...

@2870b918-77c0-11e3-b9bd-000bcdcb8a73

That's an excellent question. I'm currently reading through Irenaeus right now to root out some similar things, but the thing about this that shows you are thinking the right way - these questions were considered by the early church fathers at length.

I have heard that John taught that the patriarchs were redeemed. We should expect that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, having lived lives as pilgrims in faith, would have a correct understanding of the covenant and, by faith in the promise, would therefore be lifted out of slumber to glory not damnation. I'm looking for specific writings to support this.

When Jesus tells us of the rich man talking to Abraham, you know that Abraham is not under the same duress as the rich man, and neither is the beggar (I think his name was Lazarus; sorry - from memory). I've always understood these to be specific examples of those justified by faith in the foreknowledge and faith in the promised seed that would crush the serpent's head.

Take two great examples: Where did Enoch go, and where did Elijah go? We know later that Elijah is with Moses at the Transfiguration. This must mean that Elijah was justified by faith and had a clear understanding of what the prophecies meant, and, thereby, he was justified through faith in the Christ *he saw coming a long ways off*. It adds some serious sting to the rebuke that the teachers of Israel did not know in Jesus's age what the scriptures meant - as this sets up the condition that the poor teachers could not express the notion of faith to their people since they themselves did not understand it.

The backstop to always keep in mind: God is just, and God is merciful. There are some additional hints and references that suggest that a pre-Christ man could be made right with God - I think, for example, of the notion that God maintained a remnant in Israel of I think it was 7,000 consecrated to him in the time of Elijah. It is, however, a wonderful accident of birth to be born in an age where things are written down and the one path is fully revealed.

vashine said...

Amen! Christ lives!

cailcorishev said...

This does raise more questions in my mind: what happened to those who died before all this took place?

First, I'm no expert. I'll see if I can find a couple references tomorrow. But my understanding, at least of Catholic teaching, is that there are multiple places (as many as four) that get referred to in various writings as "Hell". Righteous Old Testament figures went to the one we call the "Limbo of the Fathers." This was an underworld where there was no punishment, but Heaven was still closed to them due to Adam's sin. So a waiting room, basically. This is also where we believe Jesus went when He died -- not to Satan's domain of everlasting fire for the punishment of damned men and demons. When He ascended to Heaven and opened the way, He took the occupants of the Limbo of the Fathers with Him, so it's now empty or non-existent.

This isn't spelled out in those terms in scripture, but there are hints, and theologians worked it out logically: people like Moses had to go somewhere. The Hell of fire is a one-way destination, and they didn't deserve to go there anyway, so there must have been another underworld for them. When they looked at the different words used in scripture, they realized that names like Hades, Gehenna, and others, though they all refer to underworlds, aren't necessarily the same place.

Here's a Catholic Encyclopedia page with some more explanation of that, with scripture references.

2870b918-77c0-11e3-b9bd-000bcdcb8a73 said...

people like Moses had to go somewhere.

Couldn't they just die, go nowhere, no afterlife of any sort? Is it specified somewhere in Scripture that this never happens to anyone?

The Hell of fire is a one-way destination, and they didn't deserve to go there anyway,

How do we know they didn't? As I understand Christian belief, if you have ever in your life committed even one sin, you deserve to go to hell (the hell, the Hell of fire), and only belief in Christ and acceptance of Him as your Savior will rescue you from this fate. The heroes of the Old Testament were surely more righteous than their contemporaries, but were they perfectly righteous?

Matamoros said...

Christ is Risen!

He is risen indeed!

Matamoros said...

cailcoroshev: The Ascension gets less attention these days, but it's important because that's when Jesus, fully God and Man, opens the way for man to enter Heaven.

He ascended into heaven by His own power.

And now there sits a man on the throne of God - the God-Man, Christ Jesus.

Expendable Faceless Minion said...

I sincerely wish you all a happy Easter.

I don't agree with the assertion:
if the story of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ is not true, then we Christians are the saddest and most pathetic of all men. Everything we do, everything we believe, everything for which we hope and strive, is a lie

No. That leads provably to a contradiction:

The Catholics, Protestants and Mormons (CMP's) cannot all be right; none are the saddest and most pathetic of all men, either. All CMP's believe at least one group is flat wrong and doesn't really believe in the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

CMP's are all demonstrably happier as a group than the wretches in North Korea who fervently believe in the personality cult of Kim Il Sung. All are also happier than the Unlookables at the bottom of the Hindu Caste system in India. There are many more examples. Even the Jews getting bombed in Israel are happier.

Devout CMP's are on average happier than the athiests I've met, including myself.

As an atheist, I don't have the warm certainty that there's a great, invisible force of nature on my side. I don't have the comfort that no matter what I do, my conscience can be wiped clean. I have to live with all my sins forever. Hurting other people unnecessarily is a sin. Even the forgiveness of those I've hurt doesn't remove it, because I'm still the one who did it.

Jesus believers, on the other hand, can confess their heinous crimes and forget what they've done, thanks to Jesus's human sacrifice.

Therefore, REJOICE! Everyone has struggles with faith. While you're struggling through faith crises, you don't have to be slowed down by the worry that you'll be wretched and miserable if you're wrong. The majority of the happiest people I've ever met, including very intelligent ones, all believed themselves Christian in many incompatible flavors. And even the most miserable atheists and CMP's are far happier than the Norks and unlookables.

And hell no, this isn't sarcastic! I love holidays, especially Christmas, which is the celebration of Jesus's birth and the Mass of Christ. (Yule is on the Solstice). Easter is great, and it isn't Beltane (solstice again), nor is it May Day. It's a celebration of Jesus resurrecting. And you guys should have at it.

Jesus is a guy I'm certain lived. I'm also pretty sure he got crucified, most likely for telling people to be nice to each other. Keeping his exhortations alive is a pretty good idea. Most of the world is in dire NEED of a civilized religion. Atheism - conscience = the worst brutality in history.

And like most of you good folks, I also don't require anyone to agree with me to be friends. Just don't hurt me or take my stuff, and I'll do the same. And anybody willing to make an effort to try to keep me from being tortured for an eternity can't be all bad.

Happy Easter!

Expendable Faceless Minion said...

@2870b918-77c0-11e3-b9bd-000bcdcb8a73: "The heroes of the Old Testament were surely more righteous than their contemporaries, but were they perfectly righteous?"

If you can say that again after reading Genesis 18 on, I'll be astounded. Lot was a holy man. Presumably he went to heaven even after all that the bible records he did. Lot deserved hanging.

If Lot can get into heaven, you have no worries.

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cailcorishev said...

Couldn't they just die, go nowhere, no afterlife of any sort?

No, because we have immortal souls. We'll always be somewhere for all eternity.

How do we know they didn't? As I understand Christian belief, if you have ever in your life committed even one sin, you deserve to go to hell (the hell, the Hell of fire)

Again, I'll give the Catholic position, which I don't know if other churches accept: God is not bound by time, so Christ's Incarnation and Sacrifice on the Cross make salvation available to all men, past and future. (This is how we believe Mary could be conceived sinless to provide a pure vessel for Jesus: His Sacrifice cleansed her before He was born.) I'm a little hazy on how they get by without being baptized to remove Original Sin; I guess since that wasn't available then, that's wiped away by His Sacrifice as well. Now that baptism is available, and Jesus was very adamant about its importance (John 3:5), we believe that while it may be possible for a sinless person (a stillborn baby, for instance) to get into Heaven without baptism, it's best not to take your chances.

Denton said...

He is risen indeed!

I always like the Isthar one, especially it only works if you are a German or English speaker. Who knew the Church fathers and Constantine spoke English?

Brad Andrews said...

Jesus told a parable that said there was a rich man and Lazarus. Lazarus went to the "good side" which has been labelled Abraham's Bosom after the Lazarus laying in Abraham's bosom in the story. Those departed with Jesus when He was resurrected. No need for time travel for that, but we don't have any real clue exactly how God exists outside time since we are all inside time.

Jesus never named anyone specific in any other parables, so it makes sense that these were specific individuals. I will let others argue the mechanics.

tx, the RCC has had its own internal struggles, with Popes and anti-Popes among many other things. Humans are humans and deciding what to believe based on something other than the Scriptures is more dangerous than anything else. Logic does not imply the RCC. Other things may or may not, but it is not the case you seem to claim.

=====

I do believe elements of Easter are based on Ishtar (eggs, bunnies, etc.). The KJV does use Easter, but that is because that was the thought at the time.

I have wondered why the Church (pre/early RCC at the time) decided that Easter had to be separate from Passover and persecuted those who tried to find the Biblical day for Passover. Different blog for that topic though. (As is much of my reply here for that matter.)

SirHamster said...

The heroes of the Old Testament were surely more righteous than their contemporaries, but were they perfectly righteous?

Hebrews claims that those men were justified by their faith; they did not know Jesus by name, but they trusted in God for their salvation. The entire Bible testifies that those who put their faith in God will not be put to shame. Are you willing to believe a ressurected man's claims of God's plan for man's salvation?


The Catholics, Protestants and Mormons (CMP's) cannot all be right; none are the saddest and most pathetic of all men, either.

I think you neglect that a pathetic man can be happy for wrong reasons. A deluded man can happily believe his wife loves him even as she despises him and secretly sleeps with other men. That happiness is not a good indicator of the underlying reality.

If the foundation is false, the happiness is temporary and will ultimately fade. False hope in an eternal life will be disappointed, and the men who held it will then be shown to be pitiable fools. That even false hope looks better than atheism is because of atheism's emptiness and its belief there is no afterlife. Anything with a promise of a positive afterlife looks better in comparison. (Pascal's Wager)

e.p. said...

He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Markku said...

I don't think you can apply the "we" to all Christians in such a blanket way. The "we" in the letter is primarily Paul and his Christian contemporaries. I mean, that is what Paul would mean, if he writes the word "we". And they were under a constant threat of death and torture. There are places in the world where the same logic applies to Christians today, but I don't think we can apply it wholesale to ourselves just yet.

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