Believing in the Bodily Resurrection of Christ in an Age of Skepticism

Today, we Christians remember the most joyous day to happen in Creation so far: the day Christ bodily rose from the dead. There is so much that could be said about this, but in our culture that believes that humanity has “outgrown” the need for belief in the supernatural, perhaps most importantly is to address how can we, who grew up in this skeptic culture, believe “such utter nonsense.” People don’t come back from the dead. It’s scientifically impossible. To believe in anything more is a fantasy.

Is it?

Let’s take a look at both those claims – first, the latter, because it’s actually the most straightforward. Is it fantasy to believe in life after death? Absolutely. In the quite literal, historical sense.

The word “fantasy” is simply the modern word for the Greek word “phantasia” which literally means, “to make visible” [that which was invisible]. So, it actually makes a lot of sense to say that believing in Christ rising from the dead is to believe in a fantasy. That which could only be imagined and was invisible was made visible, and we believe it, and, as Hebrews 11 says, faith is the substance, or reality, of things not seen, for the only ones to actually see Christ rise from the dead, died themselves long ago. So, we quite literally believe in a fantasy… the ultimate Fantasy one might say. And our faith is evidence of the sticking point to so many – just because it is Fantasy does not mean it’s not real. As the motto of my writing has always been “In Fantasy, Reality.”

How can we believe in such a Fantasy? For those of us who are saved because we have already experienced and are living in one of at least equal splendor. We were dead in our sins and have been rejuvenated and changed already. To use another turn of phrase, but take it quite literally, I would have sooner died than change who I was. And yet, who I was, was indeed changed before I died. I was self-righteous, hateful, resentful… you name it, that was me. Even though I grew up in the Church. Because, though ritually I professed Christ, and even believed as much as I was capable, I hadn’t really encountered God’s Grace. I still hadn’t met God in a way that left me face down in worship and love. In fact, when I encountered a trial that was beyond me, I turned against God and hated him for allowing me to go through it. But once my anger cooled, I repented, not in faith of salvation, but in desperation from damnation. And God met me. He found me. The Fantasy. The Invisible made Himself Visible to me. And it changed me forever. A change in my evil nature that before only death itself could have changed happened when I experienced Christ pitying me and loving me when I was unlovable, and refusing to let me forget and go back to who I was. So, to me, he has already proven a power greater than death had over me. It takes far less faith to believe what was once a wasteland will become a forest after you’ve seen the first sapling come up through the soil.

But what about the second idea? That it’s unscientific to believe a dead man could live again? Well, again, let’s look at the history of the word. “Science” means “to know.” In that case, it too is actually open and shut. That God’s resurrection is unknowable is laughable, as many have indeed known it. But what about what they actually mean? That it is impossible. What people mean by this is we know the mechanics of how this world works, and we know such a thing cannot happen. But so did our ancestors 2000 years ago. Shoot, go back as far as you want, people have known that we don’t come back from the dead.

Quite literally the only thing that has changed is a dramatic increase in both our arrogance and, ironically, our ignorance. As our understanding of mechanics, the how things happen, grew and we became obsessed with it, we became less interested in the Purpose, the why things happen, and eventually we stopped asking, and then became convinced that the question was itself pointless and just a trick of the human psyche – to see purpose where none existed. What is odd about that is the very people who proclaim that the loudest also proclaim “nature” curtails vain and pointless traits so that only those beneficial for survival remain through natural selection, so it is odd that this “problem” ever became endemic among the human race and it lived to the present day with it. Not only lived, but dominates all other species who’s minds cannot even recognize or question such things. But that would be a long digression, so back to the point at hand. As our understanding of how things work increased, our interest and knowledge of why things happen decreased.

Why does life end? Before you answer – I’m not asking how. There are millions of answers to that. Cancer. Heart disease. Injury. And yet, even when we know the how, when those we love die, or other tragedies that we understand very well exactly how they came to pass, our souls scream “BUT WHY?!” Why the genocide? Why the corruption in governments? Why do I personally do things that I know are wrong and will ultimate come back to hurt me and those I care about? Well, the Christian teaching is very clear: sin. Not that every bad thing you’ve experienced is a result of your personal sin (though we all have personally sinned), but rather God cursed his own creation, altered it, because of sin. So, originally, death itself was not real. It was not natural. The natural world was altered mechanically to allow its existence.

This is where Christ’s words become so important. Christ is the only human to have lived sinless. Jesus from the very beginning said the crucifixion would be how he would die, but his own life could not be forcefully taken from him and had the ability to take back again (John 10:18). And in the crucifixion, it specifically states that he gave up his spirit/ghost (Matthew 27:50). He prays, he decides when to let his life leave his body. Even Pilate was surprised at how quickly Christ died (Mark 15:44) – Jesus died first before the others, who likely were in far worse health having been in prison for a while, and had to have their legs broke to speed up the process (John 19:32).  The crucifixion was how Jesus died. But why Jesus died was because he let himself, so that he could experience death in our place. Otherwise, they could have mutilated his body as much as they wanted to, and he would still live through it. Of course, we don’t understand the mechanics of how that would work, we can’t observe it through anyone else. No other human can choose to hold onto their life through as much trauma as they will, nor release their life without first disabling their body. But, remember, death itself is not part of the original created order. It itself is a supernatural thing that we experience constantly in this world. We have simply deceived ourselves into thinking it is the original way because we understand how it happens and have stopped asking why it happens. It actually makes more sense to ask it the other way around – why can our spirits no longer abide in a body that is broken? Not that we would necessarily want to, but the idea of life being forcibly removed is itself the supernatural circumstance we find ourselves in.

But that answers the question of why it was possible, but it still begs the question – “how is it possible?” Ah, well, there’s the rub. That we probably won’t get an answer to that one – because it is not really necessary for us to know and experience the reality of the Truth. When the ancient Chinese first discovered gun powder, the certainly didn’t understand how all the molecules react to cause the explosion. You don’t need to understand how something is real and possible to understand that it still is, in fact, real and possible. But that really bugs us. In our advancements we’ve made in how the world works, we refuse to believe anything beyond our understanding of how is possible. As I said, we’ve increased in arrogance and ignorance. There almost certainly is an answer, though we probably won’t get it, and even if we were told, probably wouldn’t understand. You see, my understanding of how the mechanics of this world works compared to someone like Neil deGrasse Tyson is like 5-year old’s picture book compared to mine. And yet, my understanding compared to Mr. Tyson’s is far closer than Mr. Tyson’s compared to the Creator’s.

There is plenty of evidence that Christ really raised himself from the dead. And just because some (well, many, to be fair) people’s faith is a façade, empty, or self-serving, over the last 2000 years does not mean that there is no genuine evidence. But in the end, you must be open to Fantasy. If you refuse to believe God is even a possibility, you will simply take all the evidence that is really there and attribute it to something else. You will become Uncle Andrew from the Magician’s Nephew:

When the Lion had first begun singing, long ago when it was still quite dark, he had realized that the noise was a song. And he disliked the song very much. It made him think and feel things he did not want to think and feel. Then, when the sun rose and he saw that the singer was a lion he tried his hardest to make believe that it wasn’t singing and never had been singing – only roaring as any lion might in a zoo in our own world…And the longer and more beautiful the Lion sang, the harder Uncle Andrew tried to make himself believe that he could hear nothing but roaring…He soon did hear nothing but roaring in Aslan’s song. Soon he couldn’t have heard anything else even if he had wanted to. And when at last the Lion spoke and said, “Narnia awake,” he didn’t hear any words: he heard only a snarl.

But as for me, asking me whether or not I believe Jesus raised from the dead… you might as well ask Edmund what he thinks about Aslan. I’ve experienced and seen things, and I will be an honest witness to the End, if a horribly imperfect one. Hallelujah, Jesus Christ is risen!

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