These questions are important, but not as foundational as the following: Did God actually put on an Earth suit? Is Jesus who He said He was? Where is the evidence that Jesus is the life-changing Savior of whom millions testify? Did He really conquer death? These questions still stare humankind in the face, awaiting our answers.
The pluralism and multiculturalism of our day question the claims of Christianity. Pluralism speaks of “my truth” and “your truth” as though truth is a double-headed Hydra. Multiculturalism — not inherently, but as argued — implies all cultures enjoy moral equivalence (cannibalism is OK because “that’s their culture”) and that one religion is as good as another.
A chief criticism of Christians today centers on their belief that truth is not relative. To an orthodox Christian, there is no “my truth” or “your truth.” Truth is objective reality, and neither feelings nor druthers affect it. Ironically, the modern claim, “there are no absolutes,” is itself an absolutist statement.
Moderns simply don’t like the idea that truth has boundaries. In our rebellion against traditional thought, we view the word truth as narrow and onerous. Truth, of course, has always been narrow. Water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, and there seems to be little we can do about it. Regardless of our station in life, Old Death visits us all, and we are powerless to change that truth.
So there are some truths we accept, but when it comes to matters outside the realm of physical science, we balk. For instance, Easter is a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. Millions of Christians are today exulting in the reality that what we call death is not the end after all. In the words of John Donne, “Death, thou shalt die!” Resurrection is the centerpiece of Christian theology, conquering that which so many fear most. Yet, this treasured centerpiece is also the bone in the throat of modern, “scientific” man.
Christianity is the world’s largest religion with over 2.2 billion adherents. Its three branches are Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox and Protestantism. With the exception of some liberal Protestants, all three of these branches hold to the literal, bodily resurrection of Jesus, considering it the keystone of their faith.
The groups within these three great branches are as the stars of the sky. Regarding Protestantism’s Baptist branch, it has been said that wherever you have two Baptists, you will have three opinions. Who knows how many different Methodist or Pentecostal groups there are? Still, belief in the literal resurrection of Jesus is the most foundational tenet of Christianity.
It is in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) and the epistles (letters) of the New Testament that Christians find the historical record of the resurrection. It is on the testimony of others and on their own transforming Christian experience that they stake the resurrection Gospel’s veracity. For example, the Apostle Paul, a former terrorist and persecutor of Christians, became the most prolific writer of the New Testament, expounding on and defending the resurrection. Obviously, something life-changing happened to him.
Evangelist Billy Graham, probably the world’s second most famous Christian after Paul, illustrates in the eyes of millions the power of the resurrection Gospel to keep a man’s ways straight and pure.
Perhaps one reason Christianity is rejected is that so many people judge it by its misrepresentation. The Crusades, the KKK, and Westboro Baptist Church are not a fair measure of Christianity. The Rev. Billy Graham’s “long obedience in the same direction” and your Christian neighbor who has consistently lived out his or her faith are far better testimonies and evidence of the Christian Gospel’s veracity and power.
One of the most contentious arguments in contemporary America is the role of Christianity in the nation’s founding. America, of course, is a land of religious freedom, but does anyone think the founders were informed or shaped by Hinduism, Islam or Buddhism? Misrepresentations and failings aside, it is the Holy Bible that has formed our national character. It is the Apostle Paul’s “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” that has lent Christians hope.
Every individual, institution and nation finds itself occasionally in need of a renaissance or a reformation. For the individual Christian believer, it is the resurrection that pulls him or her back to what is most foundational. That’s the purpose of Easter.
As Paul the transformed terrorist wrote, “If Christ be not risen, our preaching is vain and your faith is also vain.” That’s foundational.
Roger Hines is a retired high school English teacher in Kennesaw.