Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Empty Tomb

It seems that almost every Easter season nowadays we are treated to a movie whose basic theme is that the Christian faith is a humbug. This year, the movie was a "documentary" that shows us the human remains and burial place of none other than Jesus Christ. Caiaphas and the Jewish leaders, who had more than a passing interest in producing Christ's corpse, couldn't find the body, the Romans couldn't find the body, but some 21st century docu-dramatists did discover the body. Amazing!

Of course if the makers of the documentary or the troglodytes who financed it were really interested in going over the actual case for the physical resurrection of Christ, they could read a book called Who Moved the Stone? by Frank Morison. Morison started out as a prosecutor determined to prove that the story of Christ's resurrection was nonsense and ended up as a witness for the defense.

I have an impression, not solely dependent upon this isolated passage in the gospel of the Hebrews, that as dawn approached in that quiet garden, something happened which caused one of the watchers hurriedly to awaken his companions and to proceed to a closer inspection of the tomb. It may have been only the stirring of the trees, or the clanging of a gate in the night breeze. It may have been something more definite and disquieting, such as that which later shook and utterly humbled the proud and relentless spirit of St. Paul. 'He appeared to Cephas... then to the twelve... he appeared to James... last of all, as unto one born out of due time, he appeared to me.' Did He appear also in the first instance to 'the servant of the priest'?

If that were so, then we should indeed have stumbled, almost unconsciously, upon the true answer to one of the profoundest questions which has engaged the thought of the Church from the time of the Early Fathers to our own--viz. why it was that, despite the wavering of tradition concerning the locality of the Appearances, the disciples were so immovably convinced that the Resurrection itself took place in the early hours of Sunday morning.

There may be, and, as the writer things, there certainly is, a deep and profoundly historical basis for that much disputed sentence in the Apostles' Creed--'The third day he rose again from the dead.'

But Mr. Morison was a man with a respect for truth and not simply a huckster out to cash in on the anti-Christ market.

It wouldn't do a bit of good though to place Who Moved the Stone? or some other similar work in the hands of the docu-dramatists. In fact, it would do little good if Christ appeared in their living rooms. They have lost what Henri de Lubac called a "taste for God." They are not open to any proofs which might indicate that on the third day He did indeed rise from the dead.

We have all lived with the Christ-hating liberals so long now that we take them for granted, like an old set of deck chairs. 'They've been there for ages -- I can't think of a time when they weren't there.' But when you think of the liberals' passionate hatred of the Christ story, it does seem strikingly odd. Why would a person prefer to believe in a meaningless impersonal universe rather than in a personal God who promises eternal life? There is a mystery there, the mystery of the human personality. Why do some choose hell? C. S. Lewis's description of the dwarfs who refuse to be "taken in" by Aslan (in Chapter 13 of The Last Battle) is one of the best descriptions I have ever read of the defiant satanic spirit that says, 'I refuse to see the light lest I be forced to serve the light.'

There will always be the defiant dwarfs. We can't convert them, we can only do battle with them. And we must do battle with them for the sake of those who are under their influence, not because they are of the dwarf's party, but because they have not been exposed to any view of existence but the dwarf's view of existence.

The sightless, empirical view of existence represented by the dwarfs is the reigning orthodoxy of the modern age. It was once a minority viewpoint at the periphery of Christendom, but now it is at the center. I know I certainly imbibed the dwarfish viewpoint when I was growing up. By the time I was nineteen, my beliefs coincided with those of Frank Morison prior to his conversion: I had a deep, illogical respect for the person of Christ but could not believe in the resurrection because it was unscientific. But the blinders came off when the poets of Europe taught me to see through and not with the eye, or to put it more bluntly, when I learned that scientific thinking was not thinking at all.

Science is a very narrow field of study. It encompasses only the material world. So if you scientize thought, you will confine human thought to the barriers of the material world. Yet, in the modern world the label "scientific" automatically confers a legitimacy to one's studies or one's thought that would not be conferred if the thought was not scientific. It's a closed circle. Thought that is not scientific is viewed as not genuine and is then disregarded. In addition, any critic of the scientific mode of non-thought is not taken seriously. And the temptation, for someone of religious faith, is to couch one's defense of the Faith in material terms so that one can be taken seriously by the enemy. But of course this plays right into the enemies' hands. You have placed yourself in the position of the woman who was asked by Winston Churchill, "Madam, would you sleep with me for five million pounds?"

"My goodness, Mr. Churchill… Well, I suppose… we would have to discuss terms, of course…"

"Would you sleep with me for five pounds?"

"Mr. Churchill, what kind of woman do you think I am?"

"Madam, we’ve already established that. Now we are haggling about the price."

How often do we do this -- accept the enemy's scientistic view of the world and then try to argue within the enemy's parameters? The 'women in the military' issue is a case in point. The Christian against the use of women in the military often uses the empirical, scientistic defense against the enemy because the enemy will not listen to any other argument. Indeed in the enemy's world there is no other argument. But what happens when the poetic or metaphysical argument is abandoned? Defeat is the result:

Christian: "Studies show that women are not as strong as men."

Scientized Man: "Strength is not the primary asset of the modern soldier. Besides, with training women can perform up to and above the minimum strength requirements that the Army maintains for men."

I don't have to go through the whole gamut of assertions and counter-assertions. You've heard them all. The argument always ends up as a victory for the materialists, even if he is wrong in all or most of the particulars. He wins because the debate has never left the scientific or material realm.

Let's look at an even more pertinent case, the case study of the pro-lifer vs. the pro-choicer.
The pro-lifer has all the material arguments on his side, so he uses them. He shows the pictures of the baby from conception to birth. Behold, it's a living, human being. And yet the pro-lifer loses; abortion remains legal. Why doesn't the scientific, rational materialist accept realistic proof of the humanity of the child in the womb? Because the rational, scientific view of the world is not reality-based. It is an alternative religion. The scientific rationalist is more of a mystic than a Christian. He is constantly making mystic leaps of faith. He leaps over the hurdles of the obvious reality-based differences in sexes, and he leaps over the even more imposing, reality-based hurdle of the living child in the mother's womb. He's a regular leaping Lena.

Now, if one makes the argument in the case of women in the military that it doesn't matter if a woman is 220 pounds worth of Amazonian muscle and a man is 160 pounds of mediocre manhood, the man should fight and not the woman because women are meant, by God, to be the gentle nurturers and givers of new life, one will lose the debate with the materialist. And if one makes the case in the pro-life/pro-choice debate that innocent human life is sacred because it is created in His image, one will also lose the debate with the rational-scientific man. But in both cases the metaphysical argument is the argument that should be made, first, because it is the true argument, and second, because it will clarify the Christians' position vis-à-vis the scientific rationalist. The materialist is not someone a Christian can debate; he can only be fought with. Someone morally obtuse enough to send women into combat and to murder innocent babies is certainly not somebody with whom one can dialogue.

The scientific materialist is always a Gnostic. Because he sees no animating, spiritual principle in the physical world, he sees no connection between the world of sense and the world of the spirit. The physical world exists only to serve the abstracted mind of the post-Christian scientific man. Thus a woman's breasts, for instance, are simply mounds of flesh. They are not, by virtue of their ability to produce milk, signs of God's intent that those who give life and nurture life in its early stages should be closest to babies during those early years. "Caring for children is merely a physical function," says the rational materialist; "A man can be a nurturer in those early years, after birth of course, just as easily as a woman."

And because the scientistic man views the world of sense as inanimate matter only, he places no significance on events that take place in that world. Nor does he view people who inhabit that world as individual personalities. The events and the people only exist to be manipulated and subjected to the mind of scientistic man. He can make scientific documentaries about the fiction of the resurrection because he doesn't feel any obligation to connect events that take place in the world of sense to any kind of reality. The concept of truth, the type of truth that is seen through and not with the eye, is alien to the scientific, rational man. He cannot see. What does St. John tell us? "And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not."

All the various churches have condemned the documentary, but aren't they acting a bit like the girl who allows every liberty but the ultimate one? Beginning with Aquinas and continuing on through the later scholastics and the Protestant theologians, the Christian intellectuals have been systematically scientizing Christianity. Christ is no longer the animator of the material world; He is now viewed as part of that world. Even He, according to the modern Church, must bow to the scientific laws of nature, as the Greek tragic hero ultimately had to bow to the three sisters who controlled the strings of fate.

Is our life a fairy tale or is it not? The message I hear from the Christian Churches is -- Maybe. Yes, in any mainstream church you will hear the proper words. But don't you get the impression that the hierarchy of the Christian churches is much like the Russian communist hierarchy was in their latter days? Members of the hierarchy had to mouth the communist party line because their jobs depended on it, but they really had lost their belief in communism. Does that sound too extreme? I don't think so. Where your treasure lies, there lies your heart as well. What do our clergy cherish? Do they spend their time, like St. Paul, preaching Christ crucified, Christ risen? No, they largely spend their time talking about racial integration and the glories and wonders of the noble black savage. This is because they must fill the void created by their acceptance of the scientistic view of religion. If no definite scientific conclusion exists about Christ's resurrection then the Christian faith must be held in abeyance until science gives a definitive verdict on it. And in the meantime the clergy will preach the glories of blackness crucified and blackness risen from oppression.

But we, Christians of the post-Christian era, do not have to bend our knees to black idols or wait for the verdict of scientists before we worship the risen Lord. In the real world, the fairy tale world of the vagabond King from Nazareth, the verdict has already been given. And that verdict says that on "the third day He rose again from the dead."

Labels: ,