On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side… Eight days later, his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, “Peace be with you.”Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing.”
When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight… As they were saying this, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you.” But they were startled and frightened, and supposed that they saw a spirit… “See my hands and feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.
This is what Christians believe. St Paul understood this. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile… If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied. At least, this is what Christians believed for two millennia, and what they still profess. The problem is that so many of them do not.
I cannot see how anyone who denies the physical, and permanent, resurrection of Jesus can maintain that he is a Christian. All such are working, in my view, for the destruction of Christianity; and they’re doing a pretty good job. Various surveys have shown that Christianity has waned dramatically over the past half-century in Europe and the Anglosphere, with the exception of the USA, where the decline has been much less marked. Neither do surveys tell the whole story. According to one report, only 1.13 million adults went to church on Easter Sunday, 2001, while the same report indicates that, in the 2001 census, 72% of adults in Britain classified themselves as Christian. In 2002, a survey of 20% of the Anglican clergy found that one-third of them did not believe in the physical Resurrection of Christ.
The truth claims of the faith are quite definite: denying the Resurrection flouts those beliefs. During Hitler’s rise to power, as an important part of his program for seizing complete control of Germany, he promoted a movement known as “German Christianity.” The various churches in Germany had an “interesting” relationship with the German state; they still do. At any rate, German Christianity split the churches, and a countervailing movement known as the Confessing Church arose. It included notables such as Bonhoeffer, Barth and Bultmann. Their purpose was to assert ecclesial independence. Bonhoeffer’s activities in the Abwehr, leading to his execution, were not conducted under the auspices of the Confessing Church. In 1937 Pope Pius XI, from this sickbed, wrote the encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge (With Burning Concern) to the German Church, asserting the incompatibility of Nazi ideology and Christianity. The Catholics too were being ravaged by the appeal of the Nazis.
At this remove, there are few, if any, who would argue for the theological validity of German Christianity. Yet, as far as I am aware, it denied none of the fundamental tenets of of the Creeds. Today, however, the credal basis of the faith is being trashed in seminaries and theological colleges throughout the Western world. Currently fashionable political movements demand that Christian teaching be radically altered to accommodate their agendas, and this is done as a matter of course.
Orthodoxy will again resume its place at the centre of Christian life and worship. How long it will be, God knows. When is does, this time will be seen as one of those periods in the history of the Church during which the Body of Christ was traumatised by the struggle between catholic truth and dangerous heresy. In such struggles, souls are torn asunder.
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.