Every year there is the predictable call from some quarter to re-think the belief in a literal resurrection and start accepting that it’s really just a metaphor. This years effort comes from social commentator Phil Dye on the abc website. He argues that if the church gave up it’s insistence on accepting miracles there are many lapsed believers out there who would readily return to the fold.
It’s hard to know where to start with an article so full of silly statements. For example is he really condescending enough to argue that South Americans and Africans are accepting Christianity at a great rate because they are all oppressed and uneducated?
And do we have to go through the whole santa-easter bunny-resurrection comparison again. Perhaps he can’t tell the difference, but ironically my seven year old son, with his supposedly irrational Christian upbringing, has been disgusted this week because all the teachers and other kids at school have talked about is the easter bunny who doesn’t even exist. We have never run a campaign against santa or the easter bunny at our place, J just has a keen sense of the ridiculous and he sniffed them out as fakes years ago – long before anyone else his age. But he, along with millions of other people around the world, easily sees the difference with Jesus and his well documented resurrection. And J feels that Jesus should be the focus of Easter.
The really gaping holes in Dye’s argument however, are the suggestions that firstly a metaphorical reading of the resurrection hasn’t been tried before, and secondly that if only Christian leaders accepted the metaphorical approach it would solve the problems of church decline.
Even a small amount of church history would tell Dye that his de-supernaturalised Christianity is so last century. It’s been extensively championed by church leaders in Europe, in the US, and even here in Australia. And it has successfully killed off all the churches where it has been adopted. It might be true that some people find it hard to believe in a literal resurrection. But no-one is interested in believing in a metaphor.
The truth is, the resurrection story is stubbornly and undeniably literal. It may be false. But it simply is not a metaphor, and any attempt to read it metaphorically will be seen for the hypocrisy and intellectual dishonesty that it is. If there are thousands of people out there wanting to believe in a metaphor – that’s fine, But they’re going to have to come up with their own. This re-think needs a serious re-think.