Now I’m Outraged!

Just kidding.  But Time‘s blogger Tim McGirk thinks I am, or should be.

Ever the showman, (Why does this remind me of the impresario in another movie,”King Kong”, whose hubris blinds him to the dangers of an angry and very large ape?) Cameron is holding a New York press conference on Monday at which he will reveal three coffins, supposedly those of Jesus of Nazareth, his mother Mary and Mary Magdalene. News about the film, which will be shown soon on Discovery Channel, Britain’s Channel 4, Canada’s Vision, and Israel’s Channel 8, has been a hot blog topic in the Middle East (check out a personal favorite: Israelity Bites) Here in the Holy Land, Biblical Archeology is a dangerous profession. This 90-minute documentary is bound to outrage Christians and stir up a titanic debate between believers and skeptics. Stay tuned. 

I’m beginning to think these colossal fights happen only in the airspace of television, radio, and newspapers.  Is anyone out there really mad about this?  It’s all so darn coincidental: hey you guys, it’s the middle of Lent (which the newspeople insist on calling a “holiday”), the DaVinci Code furor is beginning to die down, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris have best-sellers, and more whiny atheist screeds are coming down the pipes–what better time could there be for this documentary?  Sorry, it just doesn’t get me that worked up. 

On the other hand–and this I am upset about–some people seem to think Christians shouldn’t be mad because “aren’t all religions just based on faith, anyway?”  We don’t actually believe in stuff that “really happened.”  That’s for the pathetic backwoods fundamentalists!  That’s for some Flannery O’Connor character who thinks it will actually do some good to baptize someone with water.  That’s for those who haven’t yet figured out that it’s the spirit that matters, not the flesh.  I’m a spiritual being having an in-body experience, and all that.

Well, you can have your object-less faith.  You can have your body-less spirits.  You can have your sacrament-less churches.  I want a resurrection of my body.  I want my soul and body reunited, like God intended them.  I want a flesh-and-bone savior who made things out of wood with his hands.  I want a savior who works with pieces of bread and drops of wine; who calls them–get this, you Gnostics–his body and his blood, and means it

So it shouldn’t make you angry when claims such as these are advanced–at least with some physical evidence, contra Dan Brown.  But it should make you nervous, and rightfully so.  It should make you reexamine your faith to see if it bleeds real blood.  It should make you reexamine your savior to see if he really has flesh and bones, to see if he really was pierced by nails, to see if he really did rise from the dead with a real body, and one unlike any this earth has ever seen.  It should make you reexamine your hope to see if you have a hope that includes your body rising, to see if it includes a real earth, as well as a real heavens. 

This will turn out to be false, or trumped up, or fabricated–just like the Gospel of Judas and every other straw at which modern rationalism so hopefully grasps–but not because faith sustains us in spite of the evidence.  It will turn out to be false because faith hopes in an objective Man whom we believe has not lied to us, and about whom we believe the testimony of men like Paul, who testified to His multiple appearances and an empty tomb (whether under the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, or not).  But make no mistake: Christians believe in a God made flesh, not a God made spirit, and the critics are right to suspect that Christianity really does hang on an empty tomb.



So I’m Dropping Out of the Seminary…

They found Jesus’ bones.  And those of his wife–Mary Magdalene, just like Dan Brown said!  And his son’s. 

Now I can give up all this religious nonsense and get a job where I’ll actually make some money.

Well, not really.  Do you realize that these boxes of bones have been lying in storage for twenty-seven years?  And that no one in that time thought it significant enough to bring to public light?  No one thought to tag James Cameron to direct the documentary before this?  You’re right; I’m a little skeptical at the timing. 

William Dever, an expert on near eastern archaeology and anthropology, who has worked with Israeli archeologists for five decades, said specialists have known about the ossuaries for years.

“The fact that it’s been ignored tells you something,” said Dever, professor emeritus at the University of Arizona. “It would be amusing if it didn’t mislead so many people.”

I think I’ll stick with the benighted Saint Paul over the enlightened Saint Filmmaker:

3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. [1 Corinthians 15:3-8, ESV]

The intro to the story has it: “…several scholars derided the claims made in a new documentary as unfounded and contradictory to basic Christian beliefs.”  Well, that’s an interesting way to put it.  But it makes Christians sound like Mormons or neo-Darwinians: “We don’t care what you say!  We believe it anyway!  We can’t hear you!  Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah!”  Me, if it’s all true (I’m wondering how they’re going to prove it’s the Jesus of Christianity.  Where are they going to get God’s DNA?  Or did they find St. Mary, too?), then I really am quitting the seminary.  I don’t want mere comfort.  I don’t want nice platitudes.  I want truth.  If this isn’t it, then I’ll go looking elsewhere.  But that’s just me echoing Paul again.

12Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. [1 Corinthians 15:12-19, ESV]

Paul has no patience for any vague kerygma to quell existential angst.  He’s only concerned with an historical fact that envelopes all of history in its real facticity.  You try preaching a Bultmannian “reality” from the pulpit.  See if you end up with anything but a self-help group or a social services organization.  (I guarantee that AA or the Salvation Army can do it better than you anyway.)  No, I won’t have any mealy-mouthed, liberal cant in my religion.  If it’s not true, I don’t want it.

But I won’t be dropping out of the seminary.  I’ll keep Paul’s words for my own.

20But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26The last enemy to be destroyed is death. [1 Corinthians 15:20-26, ESV]

Will waiting until the final enemy is conquered at the resurrection of all the dead satisfy those who pity us poor Christians?  No, but neither did (does) Jesus’ resurrection.  Vindication will come.  Repent and believe the good news.

[For further reading, see Prof. Jeffrey Kloha’s article here.]