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Emergent Asks, and Answers the Question: Is Jesus Dead?

Over at Progression of Faith Mike L answers the question, Is Jesus Dead? and concludes that He is.

If you have wondered if Emerging was liberal, the answer is now very plain. Emergent is old school liberalism; the same old actor with a different costume. It is no surprise to many, who practice discernment, but for many more this may come as a complete surprise; they think that Emergent is just some new fashionable approach to God. Evangelicalism of old put liberal Christianity in check, but they never lopped off the head of that viper, and today old school liberalism has become the new Evangelicals. Liberalism has been resurrected under the banner of New Evangelicalism, The Younger Evangelicals, and Emergent.

With this bold pronouncement of Mike L, Liberalism is no longer flying under the radar, they are in the open. The question is, Why the boldness? Francis Schaeffer described in his book, How Should We Then Live, how modern culture has been effected by the flow of thought through history. It goes something like this: philosophy, art, music, general culture (novels, poetry, drama, films), theology, man on the street. As the major philosophical thrust of liberalism began to be more and more the message projected by the arts in music and television it becomes obvious that the ideas of the philosophers have become the ideas of the man on the street, even though the man on the street was unable to express those idea in an intelligent way, they had become a part of him.

“On the Christian base it is possible to know why music speaks. Man is not the product of chance. Man is made in the image of God, and on this basis, it is understandable why music is music to man. On the basis of revelation–the Bible and the revelation of God in Christ–there is not ultimate silence in the universe, and there are certainties of human values and moral values and categories to distinguish between illusion and fantasy. And there is a reason why man is man. But not for these modern” (or Postmodern) “with a humanist position.” the music and ideas of this Postmodern age speak clearly of where these people have come from, and they are in deep trouble. “People function on the basis of their world view.” Francis Schaeffer

As Solomon has said, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”

Read the following to determine your world view, and if you are emerging.

Is Jesus Dead?

Mike L

This is the real question we must wrestle with on the Saturday before Easter Sunday. Most of my faith journey felt like one long confusing Saturday. Brian McLaren wrote a song called “I Am an Atheist”. This song makes the provocative statement “I can’t believe what they believe in you [but] I believe.” I can identify with that song. As an adult, I could no longer believe the things I was taught about Jesus as a child, but I still believed. I kept hoping for Easter to make sense. Most of the stories in the bible were easy to see as symbolic language. Easter was a bit more difficult to reconcile. It remains a stumbling block for many, but we can’t stay on Saturday. We have to find our way to Easter Sunday.

The first time I saw this book by Bishop John Shelby Spong, “Resurrection: Myth or Reality?”, I was so shocked by it that I put the book down after reading the first few pages. Now, I would say this book has been more helpful than any other book on the subject. It is so much more than a philosophical discussion about the reality of resurrection or a dry academic search for the historical Jesus. If you think you know Bishop Spong or could guess his answer to this question, then you might be wrong and you may want to pick up this book and take this journey.

To dismiss these familiar biblical details as legendary does not end our search for the truth of what happened, it only drives us to another level where we ask a different question. What happened that gave birth to the legendary details that gathered around the moment of Easter? Why did they gather? Hundreds of millions of people have lived and died on this earth – some of them famous, powerful people – and no similar legends gathered around them. Why this one man, at this time, in this place?
Our great failing was that we did not know anything about midrash, so we literalized narratives that were not intended to be literalized. The Jerusalem Easter legends are not to be dismissed as untrue. They are meant to be probed for clues, as I trust I have done adequately. Behind the legends that grew up around this moment, there is a reality I can never deny. Jesus lives. I have seen the Lord. By that faith and with that conviction I live my life and proclaim my gospel.

For Bishop Spong, the key to understanding the gospels and the early Christian development of faith is grounded in the tradition of Jewish literature called Midrash. I’ve been blogging about that for the last couple of weeks. Understanding the New Testament as Midrash may save Christianity in the 21st century from dying the slow death of ridicule and irrelevance.

My own wilderness moment, my Saturday, my period of mourning the death of Jesus, ended at some point in my journey. I found Easter Sunday when I found a Jesus I could believe in. The Gospels poetically describe resurrection as symbol for the moment when the mourning ended and the meaning of Jesus’ life sunk in. It was an enlightenment experience. At some point, possibly first in the mind of Simon Peter, the light bulb came on. The reason for Jesus’ life and death finally made sense. His followers couldn’t remain silent. All they needed to do was envision it through the lens of their religious ancestors and begin telling this powerful life-changing story. That was the moment of Easter and it became the defining moment in history. It happened the moment that these early Christians knew Jesus’ life could not be silenced by his death. Each community immortalized Jesus with their own specific narrative about his life, baptized it in the allegory of Jewish antiquity, encapsulated the whole story into Jesus’ defining ritual of bread and wine, and then placed their own understanding and words deeply into the dialogue and action.

Is Resurrection a myth or a reality? I believe something real happened in the lives of these real people that lead to these important stories. I also recognize that the Resurrection is a myth about a transcendent reality that could not be described through any other means.

2 replies on “Emergent Asks, and Answers the Question: Is Jesus Dead?”


Can you try to get your buddies Ken Sliva and Ingrid Schlueter to criticize me on this one? I get more traffic when they do it. Your site doesn’t seem to be as popular as theirs. This particular post is very heretical, I deserve more criticism and exposure for this.

Thanks in advance for your help!

Am I a liberal? ABSOLUTELY! Why? Because, the bible is a liberal document detailing the liberation of the world through the creation of a kingdom of justice on Earth. Jesus proclaimed a liberal agenda like Moses and the prophets before him and I made him my lord and savior. I am compelled to be a liberal as I am a Christian following my lord Jesus Christ.

My conclusion, clearly stated in the last line of my post: The resurrection is a REALITY described through myth. Christ is risen! He lives! We, his followers, are his living body.

I’ve always been “in the open”. If Emergent is not “in the open” as a liberal movement, it is because there are as many or more theological conservatives in the movement as liberals. There is no single stance. It is a collection of faith-filled people from many theological, political, and denominational positions. My theological views cannot speak for all Emergents any more than my political views could speak for you as an American. Yet, we are both Americans.

If there is something that you can “disclose” or “out” on the subject of Emergents, it is that there is a real possibility for people of different theological and political view to call themselves friends even as we disagree. That may be a shock to you, but it is nevertheless a REALITY.

Thanks for the comments and repost.

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