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Did Jesus really rise from the dead?
According to Gerard Baker, one "famously erudite example of graffiti" was spotted on the wall of an Oxford lavatory a while back. “Archduke Ferdinand found alive,” it said. “Wars of twentieth century all a big mistake”.
An “example of graffiti”? He won’t stick his neck out and say “graffito”? Perhaps he didn’t want to be over-pedantic, like the Cambridge mathematician, who wrote to another suggesting they should meet to discuss "some conundra about pendula", and received the reply: "Surely we have better ways to spend a Sunday afternoon than sitting on our ba doing sa."
Anyway, back to the topic. If Archduke Ferdinand was not assassinated, then, simplifying somewhat, both world wars were a big mistake. Similarly, if Jesus did not rise from the dead, Christianity was a big mistake and we need to go back to the drawing board. So did he?
Where better to find the answer to this burning, and topical, question, than this week’s Spectator (subscription required):
Easter is the most important feast in the Christian calendar. ‘If Christ be not risen,’ wrote St Paul, ‘then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.’ The Spectator approached politicians, churchmen, media folk and entertainers — and members of its own staff — and asked them a simple question: ‘Do you believe that Jesus physically rose from the dead?’ Some did not answer the question: Tony Blair, Ruth Kelly, Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Sir Menzies Campbell. Those who did reply gave some surprising answers. The results of our inquiry reveal a remarkable mix of faith, doubt and evasion.
I will depart from the order of the Spectator article, saving the best till last.
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Archbishop of Westminster
‘If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile’ (I Corinthians xv,17). The Christian message stands or falls by this truth. Both the empty tomb and the witness of those first disciples who saw, ate and conversed with the Risen Christ highlight this. This is not only the core of my faith but it is also the faith of the Church, namely, of those countless millions who since that first Easter Sunday have believed and proclaimed that Jesus is Risen. Therefore, his life and what he promised bring meaning and hope for everyone. What I do at Easter as Bishop is proclaim this truth on behalf of that believing community.
Ann Widdecombe, Conservative MP for Maidstone and The Weald
Yes, of course I believe in the physical resurrection of Christ.
Straight answers to a straight question.
George Galloway, Respect MP for Bethnal Green and Bow
Yes, I believe in the Resurrection. I believe God restored the life of Jesus of Nazareth and took him to his bosom. The example of suffering and sacrifice followed by vindication is central to my religious belief.
Fine words, but remember, they are spoken by somebody who looks like this:
Yes. [Just kidding – Mary] No. People believe in the Resurrection not because of good evidence (there isn’t any) but because, if the Resurrection is not true, Christianity becomes null and void, and their life, they think, meaningless. From this it is grotesquely false logic to conclude that therefore the Resurrection must be true. The alternative — that their religion is indeed null and void — may be unpleasant for Christians to contemplate, but there is no law that says the truth has to be pleasant. And nature does not owe us a meaningful life. It is up to us to make it so.
Yes: he overcame death, body and soul. However, this is a statement of belief, not science. If archaeologists could prove (which they won’t) that they had found the bones of Jesus in Jerusalem, Christianity would still be true. This sounds like a contradictory statement, but I do not think it is.
Hmm. Not sure about that.
Fraser Nelson, associate editor, The Spectator
It’s what makes a Christian: belief in a stone rolled away, body vanished, death conquered and mankind emancipated. If the verifiable bones of Christ were discovered, you’d have to admit that the Muslims were right, Jesus was a prophet and Christianity was a 2,006-year hoax.
Hmm. Now I’m even more confused.
Yes. For me the validity of the Christian faith stands or falls by the Resurrection. If it didn’t happen, then all we’ve got is a code of ethics. Good ones certainly, but we need more than ethics to change lives.
But what we all want to know, Cliff, is have you had botox?
The last word must go to the ArchNebbish of Canterbury. For the first shall be last:
The Most Revd Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury
Thursday. Archishop’s assistant: ‘He’s very busy but I’ll see what I can do.’
Friday. Archbishop’s assistant: ‘I’m afraid we don’t take part in compare-and-contrast surveys.’
The Spectator: ‘But we’re not comparing or contrasting anything. Please at least ask him.’
Monday. The Spectator: ‘Any luck with the Archbishop?’
Archbishop’s assistant: ‘Archbishop Rowan said to put him firmly in the “yes” camp. What were the follow-up questions?’
The Spectator: ‘No follow-up questions. Just the one about the Resurrection.’
Tuesday. Another assistant: ‘I’m afraid there won’t be a [further] quote from the Archbishop. Sorry to let you know so close to the deadline!’
“In the yes camp”. That is so Anglican, indeed so very English. There’s hope for the ArchDruid yet.