Why Believe in Jesus?

The existence of the Church is predicated on the historical event of Jesus of Nazareth returning to life from being dead. The Anglican tradition puts it this way:

Christ did truly rise again from death, and took again his body, with flesh, bones, and all things appertaining to the perfection of Man’s nature; wherewith he ascended into Heaven, and there sitteth, until he return to judge all Men at the last day.

This is the teaching of the earliest witnesses as recorded in books in the first century. The Apostle Paul said, “Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?” Paul said that Jesus “by being the first to rise from the dead…would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”
Tom Wright says:

The actual bodily resurrection of Jesus (not a mere resuscitation but a transforming revivification) clearly provides a sufficient condition of the tomb being empty and the ‘meetings’ taking place. Nobody is likely to doubt that. Once grant that Jesus really was raised, and all the pieces of the historical jigsaw puzzle of early Christianity fall into place. My claim is stronger: that the bodily resurrection of Jesus provides a necessary condition for these things; in other words, that no other explanation could or would do. All the efforts to find alternative explanations fail, and they were bound to do so.

As the Catholic Church teaches,

The faith of the first community of believers is based on the witness of concrete men known to the Christians and for the most part still living among them. Peter and the Twelve are the primary ‘witnesses to his Resurrection,’ but they are not the only ones – Paul speaks clearly of more than five hundred persons to whom Jesus appeared on a single occasion and also of James and of all the apostles.

The man Jesus rose from the dead – you will too. You may rise to wonder and awe, or to terror and pain, but you will rise. This is a bedrock truth in a world that denies truth. This is a key to all of life. Ponder your future and the resurrection of Jesus.

Wright on Worldview

N.T. Wright uses worldview as a basic category through which he reflects on Scripture and the modern world. In The New Testament and the People of God, Wright said:

Worldviews have to do with the presuppositional, pre-cognitive stage of a culture or society. Wherever we find the ultimate concerns of human beings, we find worldviews…’Worldview’, in fact, embraces all deep-level human perceptions of reality, including the question of whether or not a god or gods exist, and if so what he, she, it or they is or are like, and how such a being, or such beings, might related to the world.1In his earlier work, Wright refers to the following books as the basis of his thinking:
Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures, 1973
Arthur F. Holmes, Contours of a Worldview, 1983
Brian J. Walsh and J. Richard Middleton, The Transforming Vision: Shaping a Christian World View, 1984
James H. Olthuis, On Worldviews, 1989
Paul A. Marshall, Sander Griffioen and Richard Mouw, Stained Glass: Worldviews and Social Science, 1989 

In his footnotes, Wright says, “My use of the term is close to the use of ‘symbolic universe’ in e.g. Berger and Luckmann 1966.” He is referring to the book The Social Construction of Reality by Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann.

Wright says that worldviews are primarily expressed through story (the now passé ‘narrative’). He says that worldviews “answer the basic questions that determine human existence: who are we, where are we, what is wrong and what is the solution?” He summarizes:

Worldviews are thus the basic stuff of human existence, the lens through which the world is seen, the blueprint for how one should live in it, and above all the sense of identity and place which enables human beings to be what they are.”

Note that Wright subscribes to a form of critical realism, and not any kind of Van Tillian transcendental system of apologetics.
In his latest enormous work Paul and the Faithfulness of God, Wright provides additional insights based on developments of the past two decades. He says:

Worldview-models of various kinds have been tried out. What counts is not some abstract theoretical sophistication…but the heuristic effort, seen quite pragmatically and indeed always provisionally…My own attempts are to be located within that broader social-science enterprise, whether we call it ‘social imaginary’, ‘habitus’, ‘worldview’ or whatever.

Wright expands on what worldview entails:

If the reason for studying worldviews is the recognition that life is complex, multi-layered, and driven by often hidden energies, the method for such study must be appropriate to that quest. Those who engage in this work increasingly insist on the centrality of what may be called a ‘symbolic universe’, a world of artefacts (buildings, coins, clothes, ships) and habitual actions (what I have called ‘praxis’) in which people sense themselves at home and without which they would feel dangerously disoriented.

Wright tips his cap to Brian Walsh:

The worldview-model I am using is the one I developed, with the help of Brian Walsh in particular, as an outgrowth from the work he had done with Richard Middleton. The new version was designed (a) to meet the objection that ‘worldview’ in some of its traditional uses had been too focused on ideas, and (b) to incorporate the many other foundational aspects of human life that Clifford Geertz and others had studied in terms of culture, symbols and so forth.

Wright is outlining a set of tools to think about how people view reality. Whatever you call this, it seems to me an inescapable element of understanding how we relate to the world of people and thought around us.

Notes

  • 1
    In his earlier work, Wright refers to the following books as the basis of his thinking:
    Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures, 1973
    Arthur F. Holmes, Contours of a Worldview, 1983
    Brian J. Walsh and J. Richard Middleton, The Transforming Vision: Shaping a Christian World View, 1984
    James H. Olthuis, On Worldviews, 1989
    Paul A. Marshall, Sander Griffioen and Richard Mouw, Stained Glass: Worldviews and Social Science, 1989 

Ethnic tension in Rwanda

The Revd David Bagnall writes in the Church Times about Rwanda:

What is more, despite Rwanda’s commitment to creating a “post-ethnic” society in the wake of the genocide, field data suggest that ethnic tensions remain high in the country, not least where access to land and power are concerned. Furthermore, the tension that bubbles away beneath the surface shows serious signs of boiling over in the near future. “We’re sitting on a volcano,” as one Rwandan put it to me.

Could an ACNA diocese go bankrupt?

In Alec Smith’s January 14, 2022 letter to Archbishop Beach regarding Bishop Stewart Ruch and the Diocese of the Upper Midwest, he wrote:

Your Grace, it is imperative for you to know that if the PLT’s 1Provincial Leadership Team plans regarding the continuation of the Rivera investigation and the abuse of power investigation are carried out as proposed, it will bankrupt the UMD. UMD staff have been informed that the Province will require the UMD to bear the costs of these further investigations. …Respectfully, the threat of a thinly-sourced news article should not have been the impetus to justify committing the UMD to finance an additional investigation that will render it insolvent.

What would happen if a diocese went insolvent? What is the state of ACNA’s finances and can it bear the burden of lawsuits and/or investigations if they continue?

Bishop Ruch and others.

Notes

  • 1
    Provincial Leadership Team

The Location of the Qur’anic Revelation

Patricia Crone notes:

In addition, the Qur’an twice describes its opponents as living in the site of a vanished nation, that is to say a town destroyed by God for its sins. There were many such ruined sites in northwest Arabia. The prophet frequently tells his opponents to consider their significance and on one occasion remarks, with reference to the remains of Lot’s people, that “you pass by them in the morning and in the evening”. This takes us to somewhere in the Dead Sea region. Respect for the traditional account has prevailed to such an extent among modern historians that the first two points have passed unnoticed until quite recently, while the third has been ignored. The exegetes said that the Quraysh passed by Lot’s remains on their annual journeys to Syria, but the only way in which one can pass by a place in the morning and the evening is evidently by living somewhere in the vicinity.

This is fascinating. How could these revelations have occurred in Mecca or Medina if the people hearing them passed by Sodom in the morning and evening?

Nicholas of Cusa on Errors in the Qur’an

Nicholas of Cusa writes:

the Koran says that the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, was the sister of Aaron and the daughter of Amram. Now, it is most certain that the one who reported these [details] to Muhammad erred and was ignorant of the Gospel’s true narrative. For Mary the daughter of Amram and sister of Moses and Aaron was dead and buried in the desert more than a thousand years before [the time of] the Virgin Mary, the glorious mother-of-Jesus-Christ, who lived (as is read in this same Koran) at the time of Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist.

He is referring to passages such as Surah 66.12:

…Mary, daughter of Imran. She guarded her chastity, so We breathed into her from Our spirit. She accepted the truth of her Lord’s words and Scriptures: she was truly devout.

And Surah 3.35-36

Imran’s wife said, ‘Lord, I have dedicated what is growing in my womb entirely to You; so accept this from me. You are the One who hears and knows all,’ but when she gave birth, she said, ‘My Lord! I have given birth to a girl’– God knew best what she had given birth to: the male is not like the female–‘I name her Mary and I commend her and her offspring to Your protection from the rejected Satan.’

Imran is another way of saying Amram, who was the father of Miriam, Moses and Aaron:And Kohath was the father of Amram. The name of Amram’s wife was Jochebed the daughter of Levi, who was born to Levi in Egypt. And she bore to Amram Aaron and Moses and Miriam their sister. (Numbers 26.58-59)

The author of these Qur’anic passages is clearly mistaken about just who Mary and Miriam are. As Nicholas writes: “And since the Koran makes these statements not once but repeatedly, this one example suffices [to show] that error is contained in [that] book and [to show] that therefore the authorship is not God’s.”

Islamic Response: Exegete Ismail ibn Kathir writes:

(O sister of Harun!) referring to the brother of Musa, because she was of his descendants. This is similar to the saying, `O brother of Tamim,’ to one who is from the Tamimi tribe, and `O brother of Mudar,’ to one who is from the Mudari tribe. It has also been said that she was related to a righteous man among them whose name was Harun and she was comparable to him in her abstinence and worship.

This response does not make sense in light of the Qur’an saying that Amram’s wife gave birth to Mary, not in some ancestral way, but directly.

Reviewing

Ronald S. Berman writes in The Sewanee Review:

My method was to pick a book with some determinable public interest–for example the autobiography of Max Eastman or Hannah Arendt’s great work on Eichmann–and simply to read everything available on the subject. I would talk to whoever might know about it, then sit down and try to sum up by review not only the book but all the issues implied. It meant unnatural objectivity because that kind of writing is about other people’s ideas, and doing them justice or injustice is really harder than handling your own. Reviewing is an art form in which no one ever succeeds, a fact which is good for us all to realize.

Anglican Eucharistic Practices

Sir Robert Phillimore writes about Anglican Eucharistic practices and says:

The elevation of the Blessed Sacrament was not incorporated formally into the law of the Western Church before the beginning of the thirteenth century. [Cardinal Bona] cites a variety of authorities in support of this position, and mentions the introduction of the custom of ringing a bell at the time of the elevation, at first as it should appear in order to excite the devotions of the faithful, and not for the purpose of the worship of the Host.

It was not till the year 1217, during the Papacy of Honorius III, that this peculiar doctrine of elevation became part of the canon law.

Only anticipation is satisfying

Marcel Proust

In the London Review of Books, Adam Phillips reviews Benjamin Taylor’s book, Proust: The Search. Phillips says of Proust:

…In Search of Lost Time, about someone wanting to write a book he doesn’t write, is itself about the ways our objects of desire sustain us by failing to satisfy us.

Phillips summarizes Proust as thinking that “…reality is unbearably disappointing. Only anticipation is satisfying.”

Phillips says:

The desire to make your dreams come true is a fatal misunderstanding. You have to find something you really want to do and find ways of not doing it.