This column originally appeared in the Fairmont Sentinel on Good Friday 2015.
It was the most pagan statement I think I’ve ever heard a self-proclaimed Christian say. I’m talking about the sort of statement that would give a Christian an ulcer, the sort of statement that someone is accustomed to hearing from the likes of Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens.
Definitely not from someone claiming to be a well-schooled, thoroughly-taught Christian.
What was the statement? “Even if we were to find the bones of Jesus tomorrow, I could still be a Christian. I could still believe in the resurrection, even if we were to find the body of Jesus in a tomb.” (This statement was written by a professor at the ELCA Seminary in Chicago, and found on an official ELCA website. It's definitely mainstream ELCA belief...)
There was only one problem: I didn’t actually hear the statement firsthand, which left me with two options. A) Stick my head in the sand and tell myself that every self-proclaimed Christian believes what Christians have always believed; B) Turn to Dr. Google for further investigation.
I chose option B. And quite frankly, I was shocked.
Perhaps it was the solid Christian parents and church family I had as a youngster, where each Easter morning began with the response: “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!” Maybe it’s because everything I write is intended to demonstrate how Christ’s death and resurrection change everything we know about life – today & forever.
Or maybe I’ve buried my nose in Scripture, rather than sniffing the poisonous myths of modern thought. (Personally, I don’t feel the need to keep up with every bit of falsehood, as every modern heresy is a rehash of an older false teaching.)
The words, the accusations against the resurrection didn’t surprise me. But those very words, coming from people who call themselves Christian…that did surprise me.
I found an unending stream of confutations, half-truths, and blatant Earth Mother worship – all clothed in Christian garb and claiming a spot under the umbrella of “Christianity.” The average reader would probably get the impression that Easter is God’s promise to fix manmade pollution, rather than the historical reality of sins forgiven through the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.
If Easter is reduced to some nebulous promise of new life or new birth or a new creation – and Christ’s resurrection is minimized or left out – then our preaching, our worship, our work is worthless. Useless. Heartless. Hopeless.
Every proclamation of God’s love, apart from the innocent Jesus dying on the Good Friday cross to pay for the sins of all people, is mere fantasy.
Every word about a new creation or new life, apart from the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, is empty and meaningless.
And every page torn out of the Bible, or explained away as pious fantasy, robs Christ of his glory and Christians of their comfort.
Especially today, as the Christian world observes Good Friday, the question of Easter morning looms large in our vision – because if Easter isn’t a real resurrection, then this Friday is not Good in any sense of the term.
That’s exactly what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15 – a death without a real resurrection is worthless, empty, futile belief. As happy and uplifting as an Easter celebration may be, garbed in the pastel colors of a sunny springtime celebration…if that celebration does not celebrate Christ’s bodily resurrection, it’s pointless.
Every letter of Christian belief hinges on who this Jesus Christ is. Every hope of eternal life rests upon the resurrection truth that the Bible proclaims.
If Jesus Christ isn’t true God and true Man in one person (from the moment of his incarnation within the Virgin Mary through the end of time), then Friday is not Good - because his death would not win our forgiveness.
And if Jesus Christ didn’t literally, physically, come back to life on Easter Sunday – then the Bible is a book of lies that deserves to be lost and forgotten. If the resurrection is not true as the Bible describes, then our belief is useless.
But Christ indeed has been raised from the dead – and his resurrection declares that all sin has been forgiven. Yours, mine, the whole world. That is the truth we believe and celebrate at Easter: Christ is risen - he is risen indeed!