“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,
and with all your MIND”--Matt
Question: Does it really matter if Jesus physically rose from the dead? What if he was simply "resurrected" in the hearts and minds of his disciples, who went on to preach Jesus' message of love and tolerance?
I first heard the above concept in college (it was a Catholic college!) from our campus minister. This viewpoint suggests that the entire point of the Incarnation (God becoming Man) was to preach a message of love and tolerance. This teaching of love and tolerance was what ignited the spirits of his disciples who went on to spread this message to the ancient near east. Sadly, (that is, in the minds of these adherents), Christianity totally misunderstood Jesus' message and turned Jesus into something he never wanted--the focus of our worship. In their paradigm, Christianity is not about Jesus at all but about compassion, equity, tolerance, peace and love.
Initially I thought I was being open-minded and a free, independent thinker and accepted this premise. Sadly, I predict that many of us will have a college student return from a university (unfortunately, it's usually a Catholic one) proposing this--"It really doesn't matter if he actually physically rose from the dead. Maybe the Gospels were simply promoting a myth."
St. Paul put to rest this nonsense 2000 years ago: If Christ is not risen, then our faith is in vain.--1 Cor 15:17
That is, if there truly was no resurrection, then we, believers, are to be pitied for being so hoodwinked. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all.--1 Cor 15:19
Indeed, the point of Christianity is the Incarnation, Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ. He became "the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." (John 1:29). The essence of Christianity is not his message of justice. Every morally sane person already knew it was good and virtuous to feed the hungry and clothe the naked. In fact, as many modern day "spiritual, but not religious" folks like to correctly point out: Jesus' message of "do unto others" can be found in a multitude of other faith traditions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, etc. In fact, it might be true to say that Jesus really preached nothing new (ethically). "Jesus did not come to be a philosopher or a doctor. If he did that, he failed....He healed some people but left most of the world as sick as it was before."--Peter Kreeft.
(Please note that I am not in any way denigrating Christianity's call to love our neighbor through promoting compassion, equity, tolerance, peace and love. This point is, of course, crucial in our walk with Christ.)
The question, then, is, if Jesus did not actually physically rise from the dead, then how and why did this "myth" initiate? Did his disciples lie about his resurrection? For what reason? Peter Kreeft address this here: "the historical fact that no one, weak or strong, saint or sinner, Christian or heretic, ever confessed, freely or under pressure, bribe or even torture, that the whole story of the resurrection was a fake a lie, a deliberate deception. Even when people broke under torture, denied Christ and worshiped Caesar, they never let that cat out of the bag, never revealed that the resurrection was their conspiracy. For that cat was never in that bag. No Christians believed the resurrection was a conspiracy; if they had, they wouldn't have become Christians."
Finally, those who proclaim that Christianity is about the message and not really about Christ are being a little illogical in their assertion. For we would not know what Christ's message was were it not for the Church. It was the Church which preserved, compiled and discerned what Christ's message was and produced it in the book called the Bible. And if this Church got it right about saying Jesus wants love and forgiveness, it would be reasonable to assume the Church got it right when it says that Jesus actually rose from the dead as well.
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"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15