i also deny the resurrection of jesus

one of my favorite authors was recently on a north american tour to chat about his book and the different issues that it raises. 

he’s known as much for his clever word-plays, turns of phrase, and linguistic acrobatics, as he is for merging the insights of postmodern theorists with theology. to his critics who prefer straight forward answers, he can be absolutely infuriating. but to those who can at least sympathize with his philosophical inclinations, he is a much needed prophetic voice. 

at calvin college, a faculty member asked him if his philosophical beliefs led him to deny the resurrection of christ. 

he responded with this: 

Without equivocation or hesitation, I fully and completely admit that I deny the resurrection of Christ. This is something that anybody who knows me could tell you, and I am not afraid to say it publicly, no matter what some people may think…

I deny the resurrection of Christ every time I do not serve at the feet of the oppressed, each day that I turn my back on the poor; I deny the resurrection of Christ when I close my ears to the cries of the downtrodden and lend my support to an unjust and corrupt system.

However there are moments when I affirm that resurrection, few and far between as they are. I affirm it when I stand up for those who are forced to live on their knees, when I speak for those who have had their tongues torn out, when I cry for those who have no more tears left to shed.

rollins was asked a simple theological question. his books and writings have led many to wonder about the orthodoxy of his theology. 

but here’s why i am so enamored with his response. what he said was not simply another crafty turn of phrase, and i don’t suspect he said it just to be provocative. 

instead, he points out that “right belief” can neither be confirmed nor denied with a verbal acknowledgment. had he replied with a simple “yes” or “no” — it wouldn’t have mattered much, wouldn’t have meant a whole lot. elsewhere, rollins uses the lacanian insight that our “desire is the other’s desire” — in other words, our verbal affirmations are more a reflection of our conscious desires than anything else. 

in the end, an inner affirmation of jesus’ resurrection must always lead to outward transformation. with this insight, we can conclude that, actually, everyone denies the (bodily or otherwise) resurrection of christ, regardless of what words come out of our mouths. and maybe the really challenging part of this all is that, the choice to affirm the resurrection of christ isn’t a one-time choice to be made at a conference in a christian college, but one that must be made at the “street-level,” everyday.


2 thoughts on “i also deny the resurrection of jesus

  1. loved the post. thanks jeff. it reminds me a lot of bonhoeffer’s critique of faith of church in the context of nazi germany being merely an “abstract idea.”

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