‘Living as we do in an age of reductionism, when many theologians think that the Christian faith must be secularised and made as inoffensive as possible, we may think that Paul has been somewhat reckless in making everything depend on the reality of Christ’s resurrection. Is not that one of the weakest and most vulnerable articles in the creed? In this enlightened modern age, surely everyone knows that dead men do not rise. To say that Christian faith stands or falls with the resurrection of our Lord is to offer an unbearable offence to the modern mind. Incidentally, it seems to have been an offence to the ancient mind too, for when Paul preached on the resurrection at Athens, the sophisticated people there laughed at him. They knew as well as people today that dead men do not rise.
Would it not then have been much safer and simpler if Paul had said that Christianity stands or falls by the beauty of Christ’s moral teaching or the integrity of his character or something else acceptable to the liberal secularised mind? Yes, it would have been safer, but it would not have been very exciting and it would not have made many converts to the new faith… Where everything is explained and made acceptable so that Christianity is no more than what reasonable people have always believed from the beginning of civilisation, then it is deprived of interest and is no longer something to get excited or passionate about. Resurrection may be something very difficult to believe and an offence to the rationalist, but at least one can say that it is a really stupendous idea. If Christ has risen, then something has happened that is of first-class significance for every human being, something that should stir us to the very depths’.
John Macquarrie, 1919-2007
Fr Lee Kenyon