06 April 2007

The NCR Addresses the Resurrection

In an article over at the National Catholic Register, Tim Drake takes to task those who want to verify the Resurrection with secular, historical methods:

“In the Catholic world, we trust in the authority of the Church,” he [Ray, an Evangelical convert] said. “Evangelicals are always looking for facts. If all you have is the book, you’re constantly trying to prove that the book is true. We believe when the Church told us that Christ rose from the dead, the Church is the voice of Christ in the world today, and we can trust it. It’s a whole different methodology because of what we see as our source of authority.”


“The fundamental conviction in a scientific age with our post-enlightenment views is that these things didn’t happen,” said [professor of theology Michael] Barber. “People have determined that any source that talks about resurrection is unreliable and rule it out. What kind of science is that? You don’t just dispense with evidence that you don’t like.

While Barber is to be commended for his "radical empiricism," science is hardly the tool to use when examining purported resurrections 2,000 years ago. If we want to scientifically examine a claim of resurrection in our own time, then that is a different story.

“In The Resurrection of the Son of God, Wright argues that the bodily resurrection of Jesus is the best historical explanation for what happened, given the evidence,” said [asst. prof. of theology Brant] Pitre. “Whenever others posit alternative scenarios, such as that the body was stolen or that people only saw his spirit, you have to discount all kinds of evidence from the Gospel. Those alternatives lack evidence to back them up.”

But what about the incredibly glaring absence of evidence for an occurrence of bodily resurrection not in the New Testament or Torah? How about from a modern text? Is it so outlandish to consider the possibility that a metaphor became fact? What about all the other supernatural claims in other texts? Do those not count because those aren't in the Bible--the unerring Book of Books which buys its incredible worth with the unbelievable property of being self-authenticating?

The strange thing about the article is that, ironically, in its eagerness to deny the necessity of proof for the "mystery" of the resurrection, it appeals smugly to the Church's authority and claim on tradition. If it is a mystery, why get involved in questions of its historical facticity? Because sacred tradition is contingent, in this case, on the Christ event being a historical fact. If it was merely a metaphor, than tradition would be superfluous in the presence of text.

Father Owen Kearns writes:
Easter is a day we commemorate a historical event — a fact, not a story or a wish. Christ rose from the dead, in Jerusalem, two millennia ago.

If Kearns wants to classify the resurrection as a historical event, he needs to subject the claim to historical methods. Faith in tradition and Scripture is not a historical method.

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