Why Christ’s resurrection is not a ghostly, made-up tale | VailDaily.com

Why Christ’s resurrection is not a ghostly, made-up tale

Rev. Jack Van Ens

“You will see ghosts throughout this plantation home where James Madison lived,” our tour guide nonchalantly mentioned. In March 2005, when The Jefferson Library adjacent to Monticello invited me to reside as visiting scholar, my wife and I visited James Madison’s home, Montpelier. Since his death, subsequent owners have renovated this home. They added rooms, dismantled a staircase and moved doorways. When we visited Montpelier, scaffolding shrouded the exterior facade. Inside, craftsmen carefully reconstructed rooms, restoring them to how they were decorated when Madison lived here. Our guide pointed to “ghosts” throughout the home. By “ghosts” he did not mean that spooky spirits swirled around us. Architects use the word “ghosts” to signify outlines on walls of old houses. These outlines show curators at Montpelier where a staircase wound its way to the second floor. An eerie shadow of that staircase was discovered under many layers of wallpaper and paint. “Ghosts” revealed a hidden window long ago sealed or a fireplace removed when a furnace replaced it. “Ghosts” in architectural lingo are wall shadows, secondary traces and faint outlines of what formerly was and now is being restored at Montpelier.Some who hear of Christ’s resurrection on Easter Day do not believe it happened. They dismiss Christ’s rising from the dead as akin to an architect’s ghost, a faint recollection made up by grieving disciples. Devout followers could not let his ghost go, say critics who debunk the resurrection. They point to Mark, the earliest of the Gospel accounts of Christ’s rising from the dead. Women visiting the tomb noticed the stone sealing its entrance rolled away. They saw Christ’s burial spot empty. They met an angelic man dressed in glorious white who announced that Christ had risen from the dead.Instead of bursting with conviction about Christ’s defeat of death, Mark recounts how disconsolate they felt. “They went out and fled from the tomb; for trembling and astonishment had come upon them,” Mark 16:8. Most biblical scholars deduce that Mark ended his gospel at this verse. Christians in the early church considered such an ending too dreary, so they added the rest of Mark’s last chapter, telling of Christ’s resurrection appearances on earth. The Bible’s resurrection stories, declare critics who don’t believe in them, are these grieving disciples’ ghosts. They couldn’t cope with Christ’s death. Consequently, the resurrection tales are nothing more than believers’ haunted remembrances, their cherished memories of Christ.Just as Montpelier shows telltale signs of former staircases, replaced walls and doorways covered up long ago, grieving believers invented “ghosts” of Jesus. Only in their sorrowing minds was Jesus reborn. His teachings reverberated in their minds, as if he were still instructing them. Their resurrection accounts are like Montpelier’s ghosts, not actually real. Yet, like renovators who reconstruct what has been lost, dead and gone in Montpelier for more than a century, believers had imaginary ghosts of a risen Jesus.Granted, no logical proofs for the resurrection exist, but this does not mean that Jesus did not actually rise from the dead. His resurrection is not merely a ghostly reality, in the architectural sense, figments of imagination within Christ’s disciples. It really happened. Why? In college I studied with the world’s premier Christian philosopher, Alvin Platinga, who specializes in positing logical proofs for God’s existence. For several years, Plantinga has distinguished himself in the Philosophy Department at Notre Dame University. In my class in logic, Plantinga convincingly showed that we couldn’t prove a negative. What did he mean?Christ’s resurrection is unique. No one else has ever pulled it off. We often inaccurately use this word “unique.” We say we like a piece of clothing because it is unique, using the word synonymously for “special,” “outstanding” or “our favorite.” But “unique” does not mean “the best among many.” It stands out as one of a kind. Consequently, because Christ’s resurrection is unique, no one can prove it did not happen. We can’t prove this negative. No one can prove that what is unique is impossible. Since Christ’s resurrection is one of a kind in the history of humanity, it defies logical proof for it or logical proof nullifying it.The prime reason I believe that Christ actually rose from the dead is because I have confidence that God did pull it off. To believe in the biblical God means that we believe goodness is at the center of the universe. To believe in biblical God means that renewed life is at the core of our days. To believe in the biblical God means that hope sparks what’s at the heart of who we are meant to be. Easter declares how divine goodness overpowers evil. Life God suffuses within the universe and us is stronger than death. Convicted that good triumphs over evil and life is stronger than death, we can be hopeful, even in despairing times.Because God is for goodness, life and hope, he rescued Jesus from the grave. “Up from the grave he arose” is a chorus Christians sing. How true it is. God raised up Jesus. To believe in the Resurrection does not hinge on logical proof. Christ arose because God is greater, stronger and eternal in defeating death.We hear sappy talk from pulpits on Easter Day of how bunnies renew our hope and buds sprouting from winter doldrums suggest new life. These are mere ghosts of what really is true. God resurrects – Jesus and us. If we believe in this God, how can we fail to have confidence in his resurrection power?The Rev. Jack R. Van Ens is a Presbyterian minister who heads the tax-exempt, nonprofit Creative Growth Ministries, enhancing Christian worship through lively storytelling and dramatic presentations. Van Ens’ book, “How Jefferson Made the Best of Bad Messes,” is available in local bookstores at $7.95 per copy.Vail, Colorado

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