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Bishop Richard's Weekly video Message - Transcript 20.04.2023

Video for April 20th, 2023

Hello everyone and welcome to this week’s video.

It’s a striking feature of modern culture that people seem able to hold together mutually conflicting ideas and not see a problem. Truth isn’t as important as it once was. When I was at university 40 years ago questions about whether the Christian faith was true or not were at the forefront of conversations I had with friends without faith.  Since then the main issue has been more practical. 

Not so much is it true, as does it work, but does it make a genuine difference in life? That is also a very good question, as a faith that makes no difference and is only an intellectual concept can’t have much relevance.  I sense the more modern question has become, “does it feel good to me?”  Whilst feelings are a useful tool to test reality, they cannot possible give you a full picture.  Certain aspects of life require a more ruthless intellectual approach.  Science wouldn’t work if you relied on feelings to test reality.  You need objective measurements, and statistical tools to determine whether the data is telling you about a real effect or random noise. When I was an agricultural advisor I grew accustomed to checking out the efficacy claims of agrochemicals.  The sales blurb often displayed nice graphs going up and to the right, or bar charts in pretty colours allegedly showing the superiority of one product over another.  However, more detailed analysis showed that the pretty graphs were not statistically significant, or only pertained to a limited range of conditions.  People paid me to reassure them that using a much cheaper product had no statistically different effect to a more expensive one.  I wouldn’t have lasted long if all I could offer was a gut feeling that product A was better than product B.

Good scientific research and analysis will in some cases tell you that if fact A is true then fact B cannot be. So, for example, if the earth is round it cannot be flat. Similarly, if the earth revolves around the sun then the old idea that the earth was the centre of the universe is simply false, however fervently people might believe it. Both of these facts are established without question, although it is remarkable that advocates of a flat earth are still to be found in the murkier, lunatic fringe of social media.

All this by way of an invitation to consider the implications of the fact of the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead 2000 or so years ago.  We can accept the mutual incompatibility of flat and round earths, but perhaps haven’t thought through the implications of the truth of the resurrection. For example, if the resurrection of Jesus Christ is true, as a forerunner of human experience for Jesus’ followers, then re-incarnation cannot be true. The Christian world view is that we come into existence through the process of a sperm and egg coming together.  We have no pre-existence before that. We Christians don’t believe that there is a disembodied ‘us’ that joins our bodies at conception.  The division into soul and body is an ancient Greek invention, not a Judeo-Christian one. The resurrection of Jesus makes us extravagantly material.  The resurrected Jesus could do extraordinary things, but he still ate with his friends at the lakeside and bore the scars of the crucifixion. He wasn’t a ‘floaty’ immaterial body, but one that could be touched, as he invited Thomas to do.  “Put your hands in the nail holes and the wound in my side,” he said, Thomas did that, falling on his knees and explicitly recognising who Jesus really was, “My Lord and my God.” I’m not sure where the idea of death as a translation to playing harps, on clouds clad in nighties came from, but it certainly wasn’t the Bible.

The hope of the resurrection is for a re-constitution of the bodies of those who have died: a sort of re-creation, to enjoy the presence of God in a new realm where heaven (the spiritual world) and earth (the physical world) come together.  All that was Jesus in his earthly life, still was in his resurrection body, but minus the human flaws.  This is what is promised in the Gospel when we talk about eternal life.  Not only does the life of eternity break into our current experience through the gift of the Holy Spirit, but that is seen as a down payment for what is to come.  The resurrection is our guarantee of this hope.  I have said this many times, and will repeat it many times more.  No physical resurrection of Jesus, no Gospel.  But with it, everything changes and a Christian world view is confirmed. No wonder we celebrate for a season of 7 weeks and that every Sunday we celebrate it.  Christ is risen: he is risen indeed alleluia.

+ Richard

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