Thursday, October 20, 2011

the resurrection

My thoughts about the resurrection this week all started with a quote from Hugh Nibley (Any Underlining of text in this post is done by me for emphasis!)
      The only real justification for the Christian Easter is the proposition that the resurrection of Christ actually took place—not as a symbol, a myth, a hope, a tradition, or a dream, but as a real event. The Lord himself after the resurrection took the greatest care to impress the literalness of the event on the minds of all his followers. Having risen from the dead, Christ came to his disciples and found them confused, perplexed, incredulous. He "upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen" (Mark 16:14), and showed them in detail how the ancient prophets had actually predicted what had happened. He ordered them to feel him and see for themselves that he was not a spirit, but that the flesh had been resurrected; he ordered food to be brought and ate it in their presence, inviting them to dine with him. He told them that whenever they met after his departure they should continue to eat real bread and drink real wine to remind them that he had been with them in the flesh.
      There was need to make this lesson perfectly clear, for men have always been reluctant to believe it. Matthew concludes his gospel with the report that "when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted" (Matthew 28:17). The Apostles had to rebuke members of the church who simply would not believe in the resurrection, and John noted with alarm that "many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh" (2 John 7). "Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead," writes Paul to the Corinthians, "how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?" (1 Corinthians 15:12.)  (Nibley)
I started thinking about why Christ was so careful to emphasize the "literalness" of his resurrection, why so many resisted believing in it, and what we can learn from this.

I was reading The Supernal Gift of the Atonement for and institute class and found a clue. In this talk President James E. Faust explained that "in all human experience" something like the resurrection "had never happened before. It was completely unprecedented."

This really stuck out to me. It starts to explain why it was so difficult for so many to believe, and why Christ's own testimony of his own resurrection and his showing himself to the apostles -- and their testimony of that -- is so important. It TRULY TAKES FAITH to believe in something that was so inconceivable and, in many ways, illogical.

And this is important because, as stated by Hugh Nibley, the "moral and social teachings [of Christianity] are by no means unique" --
It was those teachings that were not common to the schools and not discoverable by the use of reason [the literal resurrection!] that set Christianity off from the rest of the world. As Clement says, if these things could have been discovered by human wit, there would have been no need for Christ to come to earth in person, and on the other hand, if human philosophy cannot discover them, then human philosophy has precious little to contribute to the study of the gospel. The unique value of Christianity lies in those things which would never in a million years occur to men if left to themselves (Nibley).
To me this makes sense. Our mortal perception, our ability understand, is TOO LIMTED to come up with everything we need to know/believe in. We can't just think "hard enough" and think of everything; we HAVE to have communication from God (who's thoughts are above our thoughts, Isaiah 55:8-9) and that's why He sends special witnesses (prophets and apostles) of his important messages -- and the Spirit to confirm those messages (Romans 8:16).

I think this is what Nibley meant when he said that philosophic thought is limited in what it can help us perceive and the truths it can help mankind reason out, and therefor doesn't help much in understanding the gospel. Some ideas aren't discoverable by mortals -- due to their complete foreignness to this mortal sphere or our inability to comprehend them -- they can only be gained through revelation that God grants to his prophets, who then testify of it to us, who then must believe in faith. That is part of why the discovering of truth through logic (philosophy, etc.) doesn't have the same power as discovering truth by faith -- in the testimony of those who God has called to be witnesses of that truth. That has been the purpose of prophets and apostles since the beginning:
Amos 3:7 Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.
The spiritual understanding the Apostles gained came because of their personal experience in seeing the resurrected Christ and the witness of the Spirit. Anyone who has followed, has based their understanding on their own personal witness by the Spirit of the testimonies of the Apostles WHO CHRIST SHOWED HIMSELF TO IN ORDER THAT THEY MIGHT BE THE BASE FOR THE TESTIMONIES OF OTHERS.
Ephesians 2:19-20 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles an prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
This, to me, is spirituality -- is knowing by spirituality (knowing because of PERSONAL experience with the divine). And like it says in that paragraph ("Clement says...") if these things could have just been figured out by logical study/use of reason/etc. then why would Christ have come and said them/shown himself to the apostles? I think he did it because he knew this was the only way to set into motion the process of faith on the testimony of others and the witness of the spirit of an event (the atonement and resurrection) that we all need to know of in order to believe on him and repent. 

And it makes sense because only personal experience with the divine is strong enough in the face of doubt. It is what gives us moral strength to stick to what we believe. President Faust quoted President David O. McKay as saying:
The world would never have been stirred by men with such wavering, doubting, despairing minds as the apostles possessed on the day of the crucifixion. What was it that suddenly changed these disciples to confident, fearless, heroic preachers of the gospel of Jesus Christ? It was the revelation that Christ had risen from the grave. His promises had been kept, his Messianic mission fulfilled.  In the worlds if an eminent writer, 'The final and absolute seal of genuineness has been put on all his claims and the indelible stamp of divine authority upon all his teachings. The gloom of death had been banished by the glorious light of the presence of their Risen, Glorified Lord and Savior.' On the evidence of these unprejudiced, unexpectant, incredulous witnesses, faith in the resurrection has it impregnable foundation (Faust).
The striking change in these men, the thing that gave them power to do and be Apostles of the Risen Christ, was the personal intimate involvement that each of them had as a witness of something beyond their mortal experience -- of something divine. Because of this OUR "faith in the resurrection has its impregnable foundation" on the evidence their apostolic witness, confirmed personally for each of us by the Spirit.

Elder Faust went on to say, "Like the Apostles of old, this knowledge and belief should transform all of us to be confident, settled, unafraid, and at peace in our lives as followers of the divine Christ."

Or, as stated by Joseph B. Wirthlin in Sunday Will Come :
      After the Resurrection, the disciples became renewed. They traveled throughout the world proclaiming the glorious news of the gospel. Had they chosen, they could have disappeared and returned to their former lives and occupations. In time, their association with Him would have been forgotten.
      They could have denied the divinity of Christ. Yet they did not. In the face of danger, ridicule, and threat of death, they entered palaces, temples, and synagogues boldly proclaiming Jesus the Christ, the resurrected Son of the living God.
      Many of them offered as a final testimony their own precious lives. They died as martyrs, the testimony of the risen Christ on their lips as they perished.
      The Resurrection transformed the lives of those who witnessed it. Should it not transform ours? (Wirthlin). 

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