Friday, February 12, 2010

Michael Goulder and the Resurrection

Mark Goodacre has a short clip of Michael Goulder from BBC Radio. Goulder is explaining how he gave up on Jesus' resurrection and his Anglican orders. A story that apparently had much to do with this was the account of Susan Atkins, who had been a follower of Charles Manson. When entering her prison cell for the first time, and faced with the brute reality of a life sentence and contemplating suicide:
"She saw a door in the wall and heard a voice saying, 'Open, Susan' -- in her imagination of course -- and inside there was a brilliant light, and in the middle of the light there was a figure. She said, 'And it was Jesus.' This story comes in an introduction to the psychology of religion [and] gives a good parallel to the vision element [of Jesus' resurrection]. And it seems quite enough to say that the disciples had the experience of seeing Jesus because they were under extreme tension."
This is a reasonable parallel, but I don't think it adequately accounts for the disciples' belief in a resurrection. Visions of Jesus, without an empty tomb, would have resulted only in a belief that he was vindicated and assumed into heaven. But taken together with the empty tomb, they could have plausibly yielded the resurrection belief.


Blogger smijer said...

Here's a thought - visions interpreted through the framework of Jewish resurrection eschatology would plausibly explain the belief in resurrection. I say this because I'm doubtful that the Joseph/tomb/visitors narrative itself was a historical element, and I doubt that disciples would have been able to identify Jesus' remains or the place of their internment, but I have to acknowledge your point that visions alone might not explain belief in resurrection. And because it would be nice to have some explanation for this belief.

Blogger Bob MacDonald said...

Th unspeakable is difficult to prove. Visions are subjective as far as any other 'observer' is concerned. I think you are right, Loren, that the vision experience would be insufficient to produce the record of the NT. I also think that the intellectual content of the NT is a response, not the stimulus. The stimulus is the life of Jesus together with the TNK in its Hebrew and LXX forms - i.e. no autograph needed, and one more thing: the experience of forgiveness in a way not previously considered, what one might label as anointing, much as those who preceded Jesus in the canon and their texts are also anointed by the same Spirit. It amounts for me to the experience of trust and the subsequent interpretation of a life. Really it is no different from the Habbakuk text 'the righteous will live by his faithfulness'. The faith of Jesus produces faith in Jesus, and I think the explosion of determination and resistance to power in that first century represents such trust accurately.

I like Goulder's writing. This snippet is too short and the questions too directed. I think they were somewhat self-fulfilling questions designed to get a result. Particularly the adjective 'physical' is misleading. There is of course knowledge that is physical. The Psalmist seems to know it. But the vision in prison such as he describes is not physical. Faith is not dependent on 'arguments' either. Trust is based upon experience. If faith is dependent upon arguments, it cannot last.

Blogger Steven Carr said...

'Visions of Jesus, without an empty tomb, would have resulted only in a belief that he was vindicated and assumed into heaven.'

Do you have any data to test this conjecture?

Can you give us some test cases of people taken to be assumed into Heaven because of visions of them?


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