Saturday, March 30, 2013

Alleluia! He is Risen!

A joyful Easter to my readers. He is risen! Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

[Digression: Someday, I'd love to go to a funeral that included a rousing sermon all about Jesus' resurrection and about how our resurrection as Christians is assured by the historical fact of Jesus' resurrection. Wouldn't that be great? When I'm old I should try to convince some preacher to give such a sermon at my funeral, despite the fact that I wouldn't, strictly speaking, be there to hear it. End of digression.]

Herewith, some music. This is the same music that I linked here, but some of the youtube versions have disappeared from where they were three years ago, so these are current links.

"Worthy is the Lamb" and "Amen" by Georg Frederic Handel:

"Christus Dominus Hodie Resurrexit" by Glad. (If you aren't familiar with the Christian a capella group Glad and if you like classy men's a capella music, you have much edifying enjoyment ahead. Look up more of their music.)

A musical Easter post here wouldn't be complete without some Southern Gospel. "Because He Lives" sung by the Gaither Vocal Band:

As readers know, it is my position that Jesus' resurrection is the evidential center, the heartbeat of Christianity. When God the Father raised Our Lord Jesus from the dead with great power, this was a sign. This was not a mystical event that can be seen and believed only by the eyes of faith. It was a miracle. It spoke to the world. When people ask, "Why can't God be more obvious?" it behooves us to remind them: God has been obvious. He raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Jesus showed himself to his disciples by many infallible proofs. They recorded it for us. That's pretty darned obvious.

Jesus' resurrection is thus an indispensable point where metaphysics and epistemology come together in Christianity. We can be saved because Christ arose in both senses of "because." Metaphysically and theologically, Jesus' resurrection was the necessary completion of his saving work. It is because Jesus lives that we shall live also. He had to destroy the work of the Devil by destroying death.

Epistemologically as well, we can be saved because Jesus rose from the dead, for it is by his glorious resurrection that we know that his death was not just another death, not just another act of injustice, not just an emblem of man's cruelty to man, but rather that it was the means of our redemption. Let there be no mistake: Had Jesus remained dead, his death would have redeemed no one. And had he remained dead, we would have no reason to believe that his death redeemed anyone. We would be, as St. Paul says, of "all men most miserable."

Here are some past posts on this subject:

What Not to Tell a Young Enquirer about the Evidences of the Christian Faith

Evidential Ammo for the Christian Soldier

Is "Jesus Rose from the Dead" a Self-Committing Proposition

The Ascension and the "Objective Vision" Theory of the Resurrection

And here is Tim's and my 2008 article, a preprint copy posted by permission of the publisher, on the evidences for the resurrection.

Holy Saturday--Recycling

I've been looking over some of my older posts, searching for the word "Pilate." This occurred to me to do after I listened last evening to my husband reading the Passion of Our Lord according to St. John, with its strangely vivid portrait of that first-century Roman procurator. I'd like to draw new readers' attention to some of these posts, because they may be useful Passiontide meditations here just before the glorious day of Our Lord's resurrection. So I'm taking the risk of seeming egotistical by self-quoting. Please do read the whole posts if you think they could be of spiritual value. 

On Pontius Pilate and historicity:
For this very reason, some have feared that they believe Christianity only because they want it to be true, only because it would be so wonderful if it were true. For this very reason, too many Christians have played along, fearful that the prose might cancel the poetry, separating the "Christ of history" from the "Christ of faith" and assuring the faithful that they can have the latter on which to rest their hearts and feed their imaginations even if the former is...a bit lacking.
This is to separate the prose and the passion with a vengeance.
But this is not Christianity. For Christianity affirms, "He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried, He descended into hell, and the third day He rose again from the dead." There is no separation between the great truths of the Gospel and the prosaic truths of history, between the massive miracle of Jesus risen and the all-too-human, bureaucratic hand-washing of a harassed Roman official two thousand years ago.
On "transgressive" art, the cross, and mankind's rejection of Jesus:
Via Dawn Eden, I learned this week of an "artist" (I use the term with some hesitation) in Australia named Adam Cullen who was at least short-listed for (and it appears may have won) an award known as the Blake Prize for his deliberately mocking and cartoonish painting of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. 
 As Dawn Eden says, the real kicker is in the final line of the Telegraph story, when Cullen gives us his response to the brouhaha: "How can he be so offended? It's just a Jew on the cross."
Um, yeah. Huh. And that's supposed to mean what, exactly?
The more you think about that line, the more unintentional resonances it has. It reminds me of what St. John tells us about Caiaphas--that when he said it was expedient that one man should die for the people, he prophesied though he did not know it. And when Jesus died he said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." "It's just a Jew on the cross." Pontius Pilate himself couldn't have said it better. Shaking it off. Telling himself it doesn't matter. How could it matter? How could this obscure Jewish teacher, crucified by the Romans in the first century A.D., matter? Just another of the victims of the cruelty of man in history. Lots of Jews were crucified by the Romans. It's just a Jew on the cross. "All they that see me laugh me to scorn. They shoot out the lip, saying, 'He trusted in God that he would deliver him. Let him deliver him, if he delighteth in him.'" "Come down from the cross, if thou art the son of God."
Cullen is in a long line of the mockers of Jesus on the cross. And all their mockery God Incarnate, the Jew on the cross, took upon himself, and by it they did the will of God against their own will.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Thy rebuke hath broken his heart

The tabernacle is empty, the door standing open. The altar is stripped and bare.

On Good Friday, we remember the Passion of Our Lord, the Messiah.

The genius of Handel was to choose the words of Scripture, and the words of Scripture only, and to set them musically in such a fashion that they come alive.

The two verses used here are Psalm 69:20 and Lamentations 1:12.

And this, from Isaiah 53.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Palm Sunday and Witness

It is Palm Sunday, and I have nothing much new to say. Years ago I poured myself into quite a few liturgical posts, and they still seem good today. The Anglican liturgy is a gift. The Sacrament is a gift, and therefore we cry, "Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord!" The gift that makes all other gifts possible is the Sacrifice of the Cross, the death of Our Lord. One's ability to speak about those gifts sometimes decreases with age rather than otherwise. Here is an old Palm Sunday post, also brief, with a hymn text. Here is a post on the epistle lesson for Palm Sunday on the Holy Name of Jesus. Here is a post on the Passion.

This Lent I have been reading Whittaker Chambers's Witness. Chambers says of himself, "I was a witness." If you have not read the book, read it. This time, I'm going to read it all the way through. To whet your appetite for Witness, please do read Bill Luse's excellent choice of selections.

I also began reading I John through with my younger daughters for the second time recently. St. John, very much like Chambers, thought of himself primarily as a witness: "And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." "That which was from the beginning, which we have seen with our eyes, which our hands have handled of the Word of life." "That which we have heard and seen declare we unto you." "And he who saw it bare record, and his record is true...that ye might believe."

John must have been quite young, in all probability only a teenager, when he lived with Our Lord through His ministry and was the only one of the twelve to witness the crucifixion. It was all burned into his mind in those early years, and then in old age he writes his epistle to "My little children" (a phrase he uses again and again), telling them, as the last living eyewitness, of what he has heard and seen. John was a witness.

This is what Chambers says about the cross, as a witness to his children:
My children, when you were little, we used sometimes to go for walks in our pine woods. In the open fields, you would run along by yourselves. But you used instinctively to give me your hands as we entered those woods, where it was darker, lonelier, and in the stillness our voices sounded loud and frightening. In this book I am again giving you my hands. I am leading you, not through cool pine woods, but up and up a narrow defile between the bare and steep rocks from which in shadow things uncoil and slither away. It will be dark. But, in the end, if I have led you aright, you will make out three crosses, from two of which hang thieves. I will have brought you to Golgotha – the place of skulls. This is the meaning of the journey. Before you understand, I may not be there, my hands may have slipped from yours. It will not matter. For when you understand what you see, you will no longer be children.
I wish all of my readers a blessed Holy Week.
Assist us mercifully with thy help, O Lord God of our salvation; that we may enter with joy upon the meditation of those mighty acts, whereby thou hast given unto us life and immortality; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Immanent teleology and holism

I've been thinking a bit about thinkers who recognize teleology in nature but don't want to attribute this to a superpowerful and intelligent being. Here I have Thomas Nagel in mind, but it may be that Stephen L. Talbott also fits the description. Talbott is particularly interested in organismal holism, and this thought came to me:

If it appears that the parts of an organism do not work without the whole organism and that the whole organism does not work without its parts, or even that "parts" is an overly crude word for the dynamic relationship between, say, enzymes, proteins, or cells and an organism as a whole, this apparent holism argues not for some kind of immanent teleology which (in some unspecified manner) makes gradualist Darwinian explanations more plausible by making Darwinism itself (in some unspecified sense) teleological. Rather, it is evidence for a more radical degree of intervention (that bogey of the theistic evolutionists) even than some Intelligent Design theorists want to hold out for--namely, that an intelligent being made the whole organism at once.

In other words, recognition of the importance of organs as wholes and of the nearly insoluble chicken-and-the-egg problem of an issue like body plan development in the newly conceived embryo constitutes, whether people realize it or not, an argument for special creation of species.

Notice that by itself this says nothing about the age of the earth. Progressive creationism could also involve special creation at widely spaced intervals.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Some Gospel music to make you happy

I linked this a few years ago, but it deserves to be posted again. And who knows, maybe I've picked up a reader or two in the meanwhile who hasn't seen it before. Here are the Cathedrals (again) singing a joyful medley. (Don't knock the misspelling of "medley" in the Youtube video. It's probably part of what has kept this one hidden from the takers-down.)

The March weather around here is a bit gloomy for my taste, so here is something else to brighten it up. The Akins doing "I'll Fly Away." The complete song is on Grooveshark. Some great pickin'.

I'll Fly Away by The Akins on Grooveshark

If you'd like to see a generous clip of it that you can watch, here it is. (Dig the curls on the right!)