Christianity and the Problem of Human ViolenceChristianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 49: The Resurrection, part 4: Jesus’ Return
from Guide to Kingdom Living

True Christian living requires us to live according to Kingdom standards which bring Heaven to earth.

Christianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 49: The Resurrection, part 4: Jesus’ Return

By Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.

For many Christians, “believing in the resurrection” is a prerequisite for calling oneself “Christian.” Yet, there are scientifically oriented people who consider themselves Christian who also find it hard to believe that the resurrection really happened.

I don’t think there is any way to determine, scientifically, whether or not the resurrection actually happened. However, concern about its scientific proof is largely a modern problem, because science was not the measuring rod of truth in Jesus’ time. Theologically, the important question is not whether the resurrection is scientifically true, but whether or not it is eternally true, that is, does it reveal knowledge about God.

Christianity is distinctive in another crucial way. In most religions, the hero gets revenge on evildoers either during life or upon the hero’s return after death. In Christianity, Jesus did not return to avenge his death but rather to pardon those who had betrayed and abandoned him. Jesus did not accuse or abuse his disciples; he greeted them in love and friendship saying, “Peace be with you.” In doing so, he participated in reconciliation, not an endless cycle of mimetic recrimination, accusation, and violence. This, then is one of the eternal truths about the resurrection: God is about love and forgiveness, not revenge and hate.

There is another, related eternal truth upon which I have dwelt previously. In the 19th century, the new scientific discipline of anthropology was making an amazing discovery: Throughout the world, religions were telling remarkably similar stories. All primal cultures relate foundational stories in which there was a crisis, then death, and then reconciliation, often associated with a resurrection. In primal myths, the resurrected victim has often become a God, reflecting the miracle of reconciliation that occurred after the murder of the scapegoating victim. Influenced by Enlightenment thought, which tended to view Christianity as mere superstition, many 19th century thinkers saw anthropology as confirming their skepticism about Christianity’s stories. Christianity does indeed have the same structure as the primal myths: a crisis, a death, and reconciliation with resurrection. However, Christianity is distinctive (if not unique) in that the story describes the victim as innocent. The community comes together because they have heard the cock crow, not because they have destroyed the evil in their midst. The eternal truth is that God loves all of God's creation; God does not hate the one who has been blamed for crises, particularly those arising from mimetic rivalries (see parts 2-6).

Since human culture has always involved the scapegoating mechanism, humankind can only become fully reconciled (i.e., abandon scapegoating) if people learn about God’s love. How can this happen? The Bible provides two main approaches that compliment each other. One involves explicit instructions, such as the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount. The other involves demonstration, and the Bible relates how Jesus showed love and mercy through his life, resurrection, and teachings.

Next week, we will begin to explore the Ten Commandments from the Girardian perspective of mimetic theory, and then we will reflect on Jesus’ “Great Commandment.”

Go on to: Part 50: The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:3-17; Deut 5:6-21)
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