The Resurrection

The New Testament writers speak as if Christ’s achievement in rising from the dead was the first event of its kind in the whole history of the universe. He is the ‘first fruits,’ the pioneer of life,’ He has forced open a door that has been locked since the death of the first man. He has met, fought, and beaten the King of Death. Everything is different because He has done so”. (C.S. Lewis, Miracles, ch.16)

This is a startlingly different statement from what one would have heard in a young Lewis, as a university student in the early 20th century.

The story goes something like this. It was just before being admitted to Oxford University in 1916 to study English literature, that C. S. Lewis got into an argument with a friend about Christianity and Lewis’ difficulty believing its supernatural elements. He wrote letters on the topic during this period that revealed his atheist worldview: a strong disposition against religious belief. A stance so many have adopted over the last century.

The argument he engaged in was an argument about the meaning of myth in human experience.  An argument that would come up again years later and result in Lewis coming around to not just accept, but defend, the supernatural aspects of Christianity. On a September day in 1931, in what might rank as one of the most important conversations in literary history, Lewis took his friend and colleague J. R. R. Tolkien on a walk along the River Cherwell near Magdalen College. A professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford, Tolkien had been studying ancient and medieval mythologies for decades; he had begun writing his own epic mythology about Middle-earth while he was a soldier in France during World War I.

As Lewis recounted the conversation in his autobiography, Surprised by Joy, Tolkien said. “Jack (a name Lewis was known by to friends and family), when you meet a god sacrificing himself in a pagan story, you like it very much. You are mysteriously moved by it”. Lewis agreed: Tales of sacrifice and heroism stirred up within him a sense of longing — but not so when he encountered them in the gospels.

The conversation continued with Tolkien saying to his friend, these pagan stories are “splintered fragments” of a much greater story. The account of Christ and his death and resurrection. It works on our imagination in much the same way as a myth, with this difference: It really happened. Perhaps only Tolkien, with his immense intelligence and creativity, could have persuaded Lewis that his reason and imagination might become allies in the faith.

There was more to the conversation, but the outcome was that Lewis’ objections melted away. Lewis wrote after his conversion. “We must not be ashamed of the mythical radiance resting on our theology.

Sadly, Lewis’ early beliefs are alive and well in the modern mind. Beliefs that are fortified by science and psychology, seemingly either ashamed or baffled by this radiance, which in its most brilliant expression was the Resurrection, celebrated by many of us just a few days ago.

Even many church pulpits have given in to doubt the reality of Christ conquering death and have transformed the historic teaching of the Resurrection into metaphor of springtime renewal, rather than the moment when the sins of the world were laid on the shoulders of the only One able to redeem us. In doing so, these churches deny the miraculous, thus giving nod to a materialistic worldview in place of glorifying the God who saves.

The Resurrection is a nonnegotiable claim of the Christian faith. The event that turned a disillusioned band of followers into the most resilient and transformative religious community in history is the story of the God of love on a rescue mission for mankind: Christ has died, Christ is risen. Once introduced into the world, the hope of the Resurrection became the center point upon which the world’s hope turns.

For believers from every corner of the globe, the truth about the story of redemption was revealed in a shattering gleam of light on Easter morning: not myth, but fact.  

One more Lewis quote: ‘What are we to make of Christ?’ There is no question of what we can make of Him, it is entirely a question of what He intends to make of us. You must accept or reject the story. (C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock, ch.19)

Here is my prayer, “Lord, I believe that you see me and that you love me – I know that I am treasured in your sight and that You paid a high price for my freedom. Help any unbelief as you help all who seek You. Help head knowledge become heart knowledge- so that my actions reflect those truths and not the lies the enemy throws at me.” Amen

Credit: Ron Kelley

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