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LECTURE 6 NOTE C.—P. 233.
THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST AND THE REALITY OF HIS DIVINE CLAIM.
If the premisses of the Christian view are correct as to Christ’s claim to be the Son of God, and as to the connection of sin with death, it was impossible that He, the Holy One, should be holden of death. The Prince of Life must overcome death. His resurrection is the pledge that death shall yet be swallowed up in victory.
On the other hand, the denial of Christ’s resurrection leads to a subversion of His whole claim as unfounded.907907On the same principle that in a hypothetical syllogism the denial of the consequent leads to the denial of the antecedent. If Christ was the Divine Son, He could not be holden of death. If He was holden of death, His claim to be the Divine Son is refuted. If historically real, the resurrection of Christ is a confirmation of Christ’s entire claim; if it did not happen, this alone negates it. The resurrection is thus an integral part of the Christian view. In this respect also—as well as in its bearings on our justification—we may say: “If Christ bath not been raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins” (1 Cor. xv. 17).908908The resurrection has a constitutive place in the Christian view in connection with Redemption; but into this I do not enter here. It is only what might have been anticipated, therefore, when we find the advocates of the modern view—those who refuse Christ’s claim—emphatic in their denial of the resurrection, and unceasing in their efforts to demolish the evidence of it. It is more surprising to find writers who claim to be upholders of the true Christianity playing fast and loose with this fact of the Gospel, and doing their best to belittle the importance of it for Christian faith. I refer particularly to the attitude of certain writers of the Ritschlian school. It is extremely doubtful if leading representatives of this school, as Harnack and Wendt, accept the resurrection of Christ in the literal sense at all. Harnack expressly avers that there is no satisfactory historical evidence of the resurrection of Christ. He goes further, and pours contempt on the attempt to find such evidence. He not merely argues—what all will admit—that a faith in Christ based on mere historic evidence is no true faith; but he scouts the idea of being dependent on historic evidence at all. Such evidence, if we had it, would give us, he thinks, no help. Faith must be perfectly independent of evidence coming to us through the testimony of others.” To believe on the ground of appearances which others have had, is a levity which will always revenge itself through uprising doubt.” This is professedly an, exaltation of faith . hut it directly becomes apparent that faith is not intended to give us any guarantee of the physical resurrection—that, in truth, this part of Christianity is to be given up. The Christian “has nothing to do with a knowledge of the form in which Christ lives, 454but only with the conviction that He is the living Lord.” ‘The determination of the form was dependent on the widely differing general representations about a future life, resurrection, restoration, and glorification of the body, which prevailed at that particular time (see the whole note, Dogmengeschichte, i. pp. 75, 76).’ Wendt speaks in quite similar terms. Christ’s sayings on His own resurrection are interpreted as conveying only the idea that “Jesus would after the briefest delay be awakened from death to the heavenly life with God”; and the Church misinterpreted them in applying them on the ground of “appearances which were held by them as certain facts of experience to a literal bodily resurrection” (Die Lehre Jesu, ii. p. 543). One would like to know how much objective reality Wendt is disposed to attribute to these “appearances.” To Herrmann also the exaltation of Christ is “a thought of faith,” indemonstrable through historical evidence. It is an ill service to name the resurrection to us living to-day as a fact likely to convince unbelievers. “For it is related to us by others” (Verkehr, 2nd edition, p. 239).909909Bornemann seems to hold a literal resurrection, but regards it as insoluble whether Christ really appeared in the body to His disciples, “or whether those appearances rested on a miraculous working of the Person of Jesus on the souls of the disciples,” i.e. were subjective impressions; and treats the question as indifferent to faith.—Unterricht, p. 85.
This minimising of the importance of the historical resurrection on the part of Ritschlian writers accords only too well with the general subjectivity of the school. A theory which resolves religion wholly into judgments of value,” or, as Herrmann prefers to call them, “thoughts of faith,” has clearly no room for an objective fact like the resurrection. A view which lays the whole stress on the impression (Eindruck) produced by Christ’s earthly life, has no means of incorporating the resurrection into itself as a constitutive part of its Christianity. It remains at most a deduction of faith without inner relation to salvation. It is apt to be felt to be a superfluous appendage. It might almost be said to be a test of the adequacy of the view of Christ and His work taken by any school, whether it is able to take in the resurrection of Christ as a constitutive part of it. I cannot therefore but regard the Ritschlian position as virtually a surrender of faith in Christ’s resurrection. The attempt to set faith and historical evidence in opposition to each other is one that must fail. Since it is implied in Christ’s whole claim that death cannot hold Him, not merely, as with the Ritschlians, that He has a spiritual life with God, faith would be involved in insoluble contradictions if it could be shown that Christ has not risen; or, what comes to the same thing, that there is no historical evidence that He has risen. It may be, and is, involved in our faith that He is risen from the dead; but this faith would not of itself be a sufficient ground for asserting that He had risen, if all historical evidence for the statement were wanting. Faith cherishes the just expectation that, if Christ has risen, there will be historical evidence of the fact; and were such evidence not forthcoming, it would be driven back 455upon itself in questioning whether its confidence was not self-delusion. In harmony with this view is the place which the resurrection of Christ holds in Scripture, and the stress there laid upon its historical attestation (1 Cor. xv. 1-19). I cannot enter here into detailed discussion of the historical evidence. The empty grave on the third day is a fact securely attested by the earliest traditions. The undoubting faith of the first disciples in the resurrection of their Lord, and in His repeated appearances to themselves, is also beyond question. Baur and most candid writers acknowledge that something extraordinary must have happened on that third day to hay a basis for this faith, and to change their despair into joyful and triumphant confidence (see Baur’s Church History, i. p. 42, Eng. trans.). The hypothesis of imposture has now no respectable advocates. The idea of a “swoon” finds little support. The “vision hypothesis,” which would reduce the apostles to the level of hysterical women, is inexplicable out of psychological conditions, and has been refuted almost to weariness (see good remarks on it in Beyschlag’s Leben Jesu, in his chapter on the Resurrection, i. pp. 406–450). The attempt to make it appear as if Paul believed only in a visionary appearance of Christ, can hardly convince anybody. In all these discussions the alternative invariably comes back to be—conscious imposture, or the reality of the fact. This is the simplest explanation of all of the narratives of the resurrection—that it really took place. As Beyschlag says: “The faith of the disciples in the resurrection of Jesus, which no one denies, cannot have originated, and cannot be explained otherwise than through the fact of the resurrection, through the fact in its full, objective, supernatural sense, as hitherto understood” (p. 440). So long as this is contested, the resurrection remains a problem which the failure of rival attempts at explanation only leaves in deeper darkness.
For a good statement and criticism of the various hypotheses, see Schaff’s Hist. of the Church, i. pp. 172–186; Godet’s Defence of the Christian Faith (Eng. trans.), chaps. i. and ii. (against Reville); and Christlieb’s Moderne Zweifel, Lect. VII. (Eng. trans.).
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