The Resurrection and Literalism (Part 1)

Rev. Dr. Ronald Lloyd RyanRev. Dr. Ronald Ryan, The Resurrection and Literalism seriesLeave a Comment

By Rev. Dr. Ronald Lloyd Ryan.

This morning, as I was trying to read Hans Kung’s attempt to explain his concept of the resurrection of Jesus, I was, of course, engaged in self-examination.

One of the difficulties, of course, for me in trying to read Kung, is “to go beyond the words, to go above the words.” This is particularly important for me when reading Kung because he wrote in German and I am reading what the translator wrestled with in trying to convey Kung’s psychological and theological angst when he was wrestling with the “risen saviour” at least, his risen saviour. I don’t know how closely the translator came to conveying in English what Kung was trying to say in German. (Curiously, I am unable to find any information on the Internet about the translator, Edward Quinn.)

I am curious about Edward Quinn. After all of the theological translations he did of the works of Hans Kung and other theological authors, I wonder how he was changed as a result of trying to understand, in the first instance, what Kung was trying to say, and then, trying to convey the subtle thoughts of Kung and others into equally subtle concepts in English. Surely he had to be “changed,” and certainly much more changed than I have become from reading the work of Hans Kung.

I, too, have wrestled with the notion of the resurrection, having long ago abandoned any such notion as the crucified Jesus having again come back to physical, corporeal life.

In fact, the Bible does not declare that Jesus returned to Physical, corporeal life! Despite the inconsistencies and contradictions in the startling different accounts of the resurrection as proffered by the several books of the Synoptic Gospels, and despite there being no declaration that Jesus returned to a flesh and blood existence, the churches continue to insist that it is there, plainly for all to see. What is there is, in the first instance, “a man” saying “he is risen;” and, in the second instance, two angels saying “… he is risen.” As if to emphasize the point that there was no intent to convey the message that Jesus had returned to a “flesh and blood life” the astute person will notice that the grave clothes was neatly folded and left behind. Wherever the body of Jesus might have been, there was no real live Jesus going around stark naked! … or, don’t you think we might have heard of it?

Hans Kung, along with numerous other theologians, admit that (a) they do not accept the general story that Jesus returned to physical life, and (b) the Bible does not declare that to be the case.

That is a disturbing statement for people who are bound by their extremely limited cognitive, perceptual, and linguistic functionalities. I did not say bound by their incapacities or inabilities because if people took seriously the command “to study”, then almost anyone would also be equally able to rise to the level of understanding that the Bible really requires.

One of the problems is that, in general, people, church-goers and non-church-goers alike, refuse to go beyond a so-called “literal” reading of scripture – when and if they read it!
That is to say, that, as I see it, even those people who have left the church because they cannot accept the literalism, are equally as literal as those who have remained in the church and are drowning in their own literalism. In other words, I am saying that if you have left the church because you could not accept the literalism, and have not gone beyond that, then you are really no different than those who stayed, because you have not attempted to go beyond the literalism. You, also, are drowning in your literalism, as equally as literal as those in the church.

The problem (of course, for you there may be no problem!), as I see it, is that most people, church-goers and non-church-goers, are content to spend their (your) whole life-time ignoring the fundamental questions of life or dealing with the fundamental questions of human existence and relationships with totally unanalyzed personal feelings, whatever prejudices you learned from your families and communities (however defined) and simplistic explanations. That is to say that people inside and outside the church insist on remaining at a childhood stage of “faith.” Those in the church and those who have abandoned the church still think in terms of children’s colouring books, all of those sweet pictures of the Baby Jesus (who neither cried or wet his diaper) and the pathos-dripping scenes of the resurrection where Jesus died for your sins, and the unexamined scenes of Jesus rising to life (but with his clothes on).

Those who are church-goers, that is what you accept; those who do not go to church, that is what you accept! It is infantile. Both church-goers and non-church-goers know that it could not be so, cannot be so, but neither the church-goers nor the non-church-goers are prepared to examine the story that you are reacting to, either by staying in the church or by leaving the church.

Do I believe that Jesus died for my sins?

A resounding NO!

Do I believe that Jesus rose, corporeally, from the death?

Again, a resounding NO!

Both the questions and my answers are from and from a six-year old mentality. I like to think that I have matured beyond the mental-emotional age of a six-year old.But what happens if I decide to respond to the fundamentals of existence from the perspective of an adult? Dare I become an adult?

But what happens if I decide to respond to the fundamentals of existence from the perspective of an adult? Dare I become an adult?Paul became angry with the people at Corinth because they refused to become

Paul became angry with the people at Corinth because they refused to become adult. He swore at them, as best he dared, and shouted at them to get of the teat. What happens if we allow ourselves to be weaned?Part 2 is coming.

Part 2 is coming.