Last night I attended a packed-out NT Wright lecture, ‘Can a Scientist Believe in the Resurrection?’. It was the clearest I have heard the good bishop for a while (of course, this could be because I was the most awake, a rare thing in itself). Those expecting to hear a ‘scientific’ engagement with the issues may have been disappointed; for the historians (and apologists) among us, however, it was great. Nothing at all new but classic apologia – Wright-style.
This lecture has also been made available in a number of formats.
- Lecture transcript (99Kb PDF)
- Lecture transcript (73Kb DOC)
- Lecture audio (14Mb MP3)
- Lecture movie – complete lecture (147MB MOV)
- Lecture movie – questions following lecture (48Mb MOV)
- Post-lecture dinner discussion audio (20Mb MP3)
- Post-lecture dinner discussion transcript (94Kb DOC)
Alastair has saved us some work by posting his excellent summary of the talk here. My notes are considerably more scrappy (resembling the state of my mind) but for the record, here they are:
- Science can never be enough for a full and flourishing account of human being.
- Resurrection in the C1st necessarily impinged on the the public world. It meant a real physical act. To talk of resurrection is to do history rather than science because it is a unique, unrepeatable, event.
- Resurrection is not about life after death; it is about what happens after life after death.
- Christianity stands with the Pharisees rather than with the Sadducees or Philo on the question of resurrection.
- The resurrected body – though created out of the ‘stuff’ of the old body – contains new properties. The resurrected body used up all the old properties (hence the empty tomb). The resurrected body has a ‘new kind of physicality’, one equally at home on earth as in heaven. It is not capable of decay or death.
- Resurrection is not resuscitation, which is merely the return to the corruptible body.
- No Jewish hope envisaged a two-stage process of resurrection, the second part of which was a general resurrection.
- The resurrection of Jesus transformed Jewish notions of a messiah. No Jew expected the Messiah to be resurrected because no Jew expected the Messiah to be killed.
- ‘Death is the last weapon of the tyrant; and the point of the resurrection is that death has been defeated’.
- Discrepancies in the accounts in the four canonical gospels concerning the resurrection of Jesus is evidence which supports the historicity of the event. If we only had one account – or of the accounts were derived from one another – then the story would be more improbable.
- The resurrection accounts witnessed to in the gospels are very early, arising from oral traditions.
- 1 Corinthians 15 is a later revision from the earlier gospel accounts wherein the first witnesses were women. In the C1st, women were considered incredible witnesses. There appearance in the gospels, therefore, suggests that the gospel accounts were the earlier.
- Christianity appeals to history and so to history it must go. And yet who we meet as we go challenges us to rethink – and reconceive – our worldview, including our understanding of history.
- Faith does not ignore history but respects and transforms history because it is faith in the Creator-God.
- When something turns up in science that doesn’t fit the paradigm with which we’ve been working, we must be prepared to change our paradigm even while not rejecting all that had gone before. The faith by which we know is determined by the nature of its object. This corresponds to the methodology adopted by science. Scientific epistemology occasionally requires having to change ways of seeing to that which is more appropriate to the new reality. So too with Christian faith.
- Hope in the resurrection is actually a ‘mode of knowing’. Wright cites Wittgenstein, ‘It is love which believes the resurrection’; as it was for Peter. The reality of the resurrection cannot be known is we insist on a mechanistic view of reality. Belief in the resurrection requires a full devotion of love. This love-epistemology relates to a new ontology of the resurrection.
- Unlike with lust, love requires a real other, a real external knower. To believe in the resurrection, therefore, is to believe in the one resurrected.
- All knowing is a gift from God – no so less scientific and historical knowing – and ought be situated within the arena of knowing established by faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Forthcoming James Gregory Public Lectures are:
February 28, 2008: John Polkinghorne, ‘Has Science Made Religion Redundant?’
April 17, 2008: Bruno Guiderdon, ‘Islam and Science’