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Non-physical interpretation of resurrection

12 April 2013


From Mr Antony Alexander
Sir, - As one would expect, Canon Robin Ward's article "Jesus Christ is risen indeed" (Features, 28 March) reiterates the orthodoxy that "Resurrection is emphatically something that happens to a body, the body of Jesus in the tomb."

Such doctrines certainly bear the imprimatur of hoary antiquity, as he amply illustrated, but are they acceptable to a modern generation that has spent years studying science and the laws of nature at school? The fact that churches continue to empty and close might suggest that they are not.

Indeed, even as Jesus was born of woman on earth and "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us," many an ordinary would-be believer has difficulty understanding why Jesus should be exempt from the natural laws that govern humanity - such as would prevent a body confirmed dead by expert witnesses, and then pierced by a spear, from not only coming back to life, but getting up and walking around within two or three days. Within the real world of humanity such an occurrence would be deemed incredible.

An alternative interpretation is that the resurrection was something that took place within the hearts and minds of Jesus's disciples - even as it has enlightened countless Christians since. For two or three days, Jesus's few disciples were bereft and inconsolable. Their beloved Leader had been crucified and was no more. They then began to realise, however, that the reality of Christ was spiritual, and that he was still with them in spirit as much as he had ever been. "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up" predicted this dawning realisation.

Yes, many details in the Gospel accounts seem to suggest that Jesus came back to life in bodily form, but there is every reason to suppose that spiritual experiences were intended: e.g. the two encounters in John 20.19 and 26 describe Jesus appearing to the disciples through closed doors.

Another common Christian response is that God can do anything, and doesn't need to take any notice of the natural laws governing the beings that he created. But why would God create scientific laws, or reveal his purpose or religion through a Mediator, if he was then going to intervene in the world directly, and contrary to his own laws and established means of communication, at the very time when it really mattered? Such an arrangement would give the advantage to the ignorant and atheistic (though not adeistic).

Disagreements between both Christian denominations and the various world faiths invariably centre on material superstitions that detract from the unifying spiritual reality. As Jesus stated: "Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together."

Ballayockey Cottage, Regaby
Isle of Man IM7 3HP

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