I have to believe that Christ literally, physically rose
from the dead in
order to be a Christian?
you should ask. I was bought up Jewish (what we call “non-observant”)
and was baptized at age 26. One day, during the time that I studied and pondered
prior to my baptism, I asked the Episcopal priest who was guiding me, the exact
same question. Only I said, “…in order to be baptized?” which
really was the same question. He replied, “What do you believe?” I
said that I thought Jesus had been a common denominator, helping God to know
us better and helping us to know God better. My priest said, “That will
do for starters.” He okayed my moving ahead toward baptism.
time went on, I came to believe in the physical resurrection
of Jesus from
the dead. I believed that it was the “stamp
of authenticity” on everything that Jesus said, did and taught
during his earthly ministry. I pointed, when asked, to Peter and
others who obviously had experienced a life-changing event that
made them radically different from what they had been before the
resurrection. For me the rising of Jesus from the grave was the
which all else rested.
(forty years later) I would say that I am of two minds. One,
my “worldly, common-sense” way of thinking,
tells me that the resurrection might be metaphorical, but if it
is, that does not make me believe in Jesus any less, nor in him
as the divine model for living and dying, any less.
there is another part of me that continues to believe in the
literally. And I would say that that is the part of
me to which Jesus referred when he said, “The Kingdom of
God is within you.” God has put it into my heart to believe
in things that neither I nor the world can prove with our mind,
but which we believe with our heart, and usually with all our heart.
you have to believe this to “be a Christian?” I
would say not. I would say that what it takes to “be a Christian” is
to want to be a Christian. The more you believe and the more you
practice the things that Jesus taught, the stronger a Christian
you will be.
--The Rev. William A. Kolb
think that human beings have always turned to the use of metaphor
when theyve had an experience that words alone cannot express.
For example, I
was scared to death! or Shes so happy that shes walking
on air or The news truly broke her heart. None of these statements
is literally true, yet each one of them gives expression to a sentiment or
an experience that is nonetheless profoundly true.
believe that there is a similar dynamic of truth in the concept
of Christ being raised from the dead. So, no, I dont think
that to be a Christian we have to believe that Christ literally,
bodily rose from the dead and that he literally, bodily ascended
into heaven. Yet I do believe that these
words are our best attempt to give expression to an experience
which was true to the followers of Jesus in his time, and is
still true to those of us who engage with Jesus in heart, mind
and spirit still today. What Jesus rising
from the dead means to me is this: That life is eternal, and
that we are a part of that eternal life even now, in this life
we are living. That we live in eternal life was true of us before
we were born; it is true while we are living here and now; and
it will be true after we have died. We live always in the embrace
of Gods eternity.
spoke often of such life eternal. And his disciples continued
to try to proclaim this mystery, using the image of his rising
from the dead in order to proclaim a truth too big for human language
Rev. Margaret B. Gunness
The most Christ-like professor I ever had once turned to our seminary class
and asked us a question with an intensity that made us know he was serious: "What
if they proved without a shadow of a doubt that Jesus of Nazareth never
lived! What would that do to your faith?"
stared fiercely at us. There was a long, awkward silence. Then
he said, "I can tell you what it would do to my faith. It
would not change it one bit. I would believe in the myth of Jesus.
It's the best story going!"
are some people who find they can believe in the literal, physical
resurrection of Jesus and that they are comforted by that belief.
I think there is good, strong evidence to support such a belief. Belief
in the physical resurrection is not irrational.
there are others—including me on some days—who find the
physical resurrection just too much to swallow. However, they
do see God's work bringing life out of death all around us. They
are moved by the compelling creativity of the divine Surprise
who turns darkness into light. They know the presence of the
risen and living Christ. And though they may plead agnosticism
about the physicality of the resurrection, they believe in the
deeper truth it symbolizes.
interpretations are present in the New Testament.
Rev. Lowell Grisham
the spring of last year, I went with family members to a performance
of a Passion Play in a nearby resort town. I, along with the
rest of the large audience, was thrilled with the presentation.
At the Resurrection scene, an angel came down and rolled the
stone away from the tomb. Then the actor playing Jesus stepped
may be the only way to perform this scene using human actors,
but it's not the way things happened, at least not according
to the New Testament. If Christ's resurrection had occurred as
it did in the play, Jesus would have looked like a weakling,
imprisoned in the tomb until the big, heavy stone was moved for
Him. Rather, according to the New Testament accounts, when the
stone was rolled away, Jesus was already long gone.
happened in that tomb that we don't quite understand. It was
as if Jesus was reborn into an existence different from the one
He had known. He continued to have a palpable body, but it was
one which could dematerialize and rematerialize at His will.
When the stone was rolled away from the door of the tomb, the
body that had been deposited there on Friday was missing.
sincere persons believe that the dead body of Jesus somehow came
back to life on its own in the darkened tomb (everybody at the
Passion Play applauded!). But I think the idea is altogether
untenable; it contradicts our experience of human bodies, which
do not resuscitate on their own after death. Thus anyone would
be justified in rejecting such an idea. The Resurrection of Jesus
was not some spooky horror-movie resuscitation of a dead body;
it was instead a metamorphosis into an advanced state of existence
that defies our comparison with any known experience.
believe the early Christians seized on this motif to express
their wonderment at the fact that they still felt the power
of Jesus in their lives—even though His body was no longer present to their senses—without casting doubt on the testimony of those who claimed
to have had vivid personal encounters with Him. Members of
the early church held every range of belief about what happened.
In his recounting of the ascension of the risen Christ, St.
Matthew recorded, "When they saw Him, they worshiped Him,
but some doubted" (Matthew 28:17). That statement is given
without discounting the experience of the doubters. And yet
every single person in that group, disparate as their beliefs
and experiences may have been, was a Christian.
believe God will strengthen our faith if we are on a journey
to find Him. If someone disagrees with my belief that Christ
literally rose from the dead, that does not mean they are not
a "real Christian" and I am. I think the only thing
you "have" to do in order to become a Christian is
simply to seek God. He will do the rest, and we will find Him
if we are sincerely looking for Him.
my case, I have no trouble believing Christ literally rose
from the dead. God
is God. He can do anything He wants. If He can create all that
exists, He can certainly raise Christ (and us through Christ)
from the dead. The Bible is explicit in saying that Christ
did, in fact, rise from the dead so I have a hard time rejecting
I spend time in solitude and prayer, I come away from the experience
awed by the mystery of God and faith. We know so little and God
is so great. The really difficult concept for me to accept is
not the idea that Christ rose from the dead, but rather the fact
that God could love me enough to reach out to me through Christ.