I began blogging my exploration of this book last week. I didn’t originally intend a blogging-through-the-book series, but that looks like where it’s going.
Following on from that previous post, the next two chapters comprise the remainder of the first section of the book. In these Wright offers a defence of belief in the actual, bodily resurrection of Jesus. In doing so he places the events of the first Easter in context alongside Jewish understanding of resurrection — that it will be the experience of all believers on the ‘last day’ — and identifies how he sees that early Christian belief expresses, to use his terminology, ‘modifications’ or ‘mutations’ of that understanding. These changes, of course, came about as a result of the resurrection of Jesus, an event that Wright argues must affect completely how we view the world around us — he talks in terms of paradigm shiftNT Wright, Surprised By Hope, 2007, SPCK, pp75-87.. I agree.
While, in these chapters, Wright addresses in varying detail many of the arguments against belief in the resurrection of Jesus as it is recorded in Gospel, he is careful to not hang too much on historical and scientific enquiry.
Surprised By Hope (2007), SPCK, p75:
But this is where I want to heed carefully the warnings of those theologians who have cautioned against any attempt to stand on the ground of rationalism and to attempt to 'prove', in some 'mathematical' fashion, something which, if it happened, ought itself to be regarded as the centre not only of history but also of epistemology, not only of what we know but of how we know it. I do not claim, in other words, that I have hereby 'proved' the resurrection in terms of some neutral standpoint. I am offering, rather, a historical challenge to other explanations, and to the worldviews within which they gain their meaning. Precisely because at this point we are faced with worldview-level issues, there is no neutral ground, no island in the middle of the epistemological ocean as yet uncolonized by any of the warring continents. Historical argument alone cannot force anyone to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead; but historical argument is remarkably good at clearing away the undergrowth behind which scepticisms of various sorts have long been hiding. The proposal that Jesus was bodily raised from the dead possesses unrivalled power to explain the historical data at the heart of early Christianity. The obvious fact that this remains hugely challenging at the personal and corporate level ought not to put us off from taking it seriously. Or were we only playing when we entertained the question in the first place?
(The question to be entertained being simply, “did it happen?”)
I found it encouraging and refreshing that a serious, contemporary theologian is happy to state his belief that Jesus was actually, bodily raised from the dead.
The discussion in these two chapters is compelling, but often a little quick and shallow. The author recognises this, and rightly points out that to go into full detail just isn’t possible in this book, but he regularly left me wanting more detail. As the end notes frequently point towards his earlier work (frequently The Resurrection of the Son of God, all 817 pages of it), I suspect that I am about to start a long journey through the writings of Wright.