Monday, March 21, 2005

Sidestepping the Resurrection?

In The Significance of the Resurrection, Cynthia Rigby warns her students to avoid "litmus test" theology.
"If you find yourself getting backed into a corner on a doctrinal issue, with someone pressing you merely to ‘check "yes"’ or ‘check "no,"’do your best to redirect the conversation."

I find Dr. Rigby’s advice more than a little disingenuous. If the issue was about God’s goodness or the loving quality of God, I don’t seriously believe she would advise students "to redirect the conversation."

"Is God loving? I want a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer."
"uh...hmm...How ‘bout them Red Sox?"
However, Rigby is not dealing with those questions. Instead, she encourages her students to avoid questions concerning the nature of Christ’s resurrection.

When discussing the doctrine of the resurrection, we tend to fall into the trap of "litmus testing" one another. "Do you believe that Jesus Christ bodily arose?" "Do you believe in the resurrection, I mean, literally?"
Dr. Rigby suggests that no matter what we truly believe about the resurrection, we should avoid answering the question. Despite protests to the contrary, Dr. Rigby is not speaking to someone who believes the traditional teachings of the church. Those who believe that Christ arose bodily, literally, and historically have little trouble with questions about the resurrection. Dr. Rigby’s inclusivity is merely a rhetorical device to make those who must answer "no" or at best "maybe" feel better about their answer.

I understand the desire to make Christianity more attractive to the "cultured despisers." Still, what is so wrong with holding the orthodox position that the tomb was empty? To be fair, Dr. Rigby is right that we should look beyond the confession that "He is risen" for the significance of the resurrection. In fact, I would argue that all Christian theology ultimately answers, "So what?" to the reality of the resurrection.

In the article, Dr. Rigby suggests three important conclusions drawn from the resurrection. Her observations are intelligent and cogent. However, as helpful as her observations are, they are meaningless, if the resurrection isn’t reality. She seems to suggest that we can ignore this messy resurrection by focusing on the significance of it. She reminds me of cranky conservatives who boil the Scriptures down to "biblical principles" and then are no longer able to be surprised by the actual text.

Something happened that first Easter morning. The meaning of that morning is derived from the actual events of that morning. The question is essential. It should not be sidestepped.

No comments: