Dead people don’t come back to life

A little while back, I discussed a tweet from Professor Alice Roberts who is the professor of Public Engagement with Science at the University of Birmingham  Here’s the professor’s offering for Easter 2021 which she shared on Good Friday.

Some people took offence to the tweet. The professor is entitled to her views, they argued but surely it was thoughtless, unkind and offensive to attack Christian beliefs on one their holiest of days.  The professor shot back that her children had these beliefs forced on them, so was it really unfair to attack back?

Now, my response to the question of offence is that people have the right to be offended by things, especially if they are offensive.  However, being offended does not in and of itself give you the right to try and prevent people from given offense, especially if that’s the intent. Furthermore, the correct Biblical response to Professor Roberts is to recognise that if she is right in her beliefs then she is right to state them publicly and determinedly – on whatever day she pleases.

This is what the apostle Paul says:

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope[b] in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.[1]

Secondly, I have to say that my initial response was not offence.  Rather, it was bemusement. I am bemused first of all at the deterioration of the response from atheists and indeed from professors of public engagement with science.  Remember a few years back when what such people did was to write lengthy books such as The God Delusion. Now, they are reduced to trolling Christians on twitter. Furthermore, it is concerning when our academics seem to struggle with logical coherence in their arguments.

I want to suggest that a cheerful response to the professor’s claim that dead people don’t come back is:

  1. We know!
  2. That’s the point!

You see, when you go back to the first Easter Sunday, the disciples and women were not expecting Jesus to be raised from the dead, it was an amazing surprise for them. In fact it was a terrifying surprise. You see, as Tom Wright has argued in his book “The Resurrection of the Son of God.”  It was not just that people didn’t expect people to come back based on their experience, it was that their religious philosophy did not call on them to expect resurrection either. Greek and other pagan philosophies pointed towards a disembodied afterlife in the spirit world but no resurrection and no coming back. Jews expected a final, end day resurrection of everyone but until then not for individuals to come back and there was to be no communicating with the dead in between.

On a side point, that’s why I struggle with comments by people who have suggested that they prefer Easter Saturday to either Easter Sunday or Good Friday because they like the uncertainty of the day in between with grief tinged with hope. You see, if they choose to experience the Saturday like that, then they can only do so exactly because Easter Sunday has happened. There was no hope for those early disciples on the Saturday just deep, devastating grief and fear. 

We know that the dead don’t rise.  I’ve sat at the bedside of people as they’ve slipped away from life.  I’ve attended and taken funerals.  The whole point of mourning and the grieving process is that we’ve said goodbye and the one we love is not coming back. 

And that’s the point of Easter. Christ’s resurrection was that one off miraculous event in history. The unexpected happen. Furthermore, our experience tells us that whilst scientists and mathematicians can tell us that things generally speaking don’t happen or are probability unlikely, sometimes they do.  Before 2013, we knew that League Two football teams don’t go to Wembley and play at major cup finals in front of 80,000 spectators.  WE still don’t expect that to happen but now we know that it did happen once when Bradford City reached the League Cup Final.

The point of Easter is that something different and amazing happened that day. A dead man did come back because, Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead as evidenced by witnesses.  Furthermore, it is because he has risen that we now know that the Jewish and Christian hope of a final day physical resurrection will happen.

Christ is risen

He is risen indeed

Alleluia, Alleluia

[1] 1 Corinthians 15:12-19.

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