ParanormalChrist’s genesis is the very ambiguous event that we call the Resurrection of Jesus. It is this singular event that has shaped the contours of faith, belief, hope and dared to challenge the norms of creation by declaring that the impossible has happened and it has happened definitively in Jesus. And this impossible event, this aporia, this enigma, this non-analogous happening is the very event that generates hope in people of faith. Yet, this event has been too domesticated and beaten down to mean much of anything anymore. It is a routine point of dogma, something people believe in without any substance to that belief. It has become nothing more than the evidence to support our faith that Jesus is God’s Christ, while the concept itself has shifted to the wayside and been relieved of its heavy theological weight. Yet, we should not let Resurrection off the hook so Gnostically…I mean easily.
During this Eastertide, however, we should note that resurrection in the New Testament and in early Christian faith is not simply a “proof” of Jesus’ identity. It’s not simply the means whereby death is defeated, and therefore, our souls may one day take flight to Christ. The Resurrection of Jesus is not something that confirms our Trinitarian belief, somehow affirming the metaphysical connections between Father and Son as eternally related beings. In other words, there is so much more to the paranormal theology of Christianity and resurrection than is common amongst popular preaching and it all begins in this part of the Christian year in which we now find ourselves: Eastertide.
The notation of this season as Eastertide is fitting. Eastertide, or the period that exists between the Resurrection of Jesus and Pentecost, is appropriately called such because it carries with it the connotation that what has happened ambiguously in the tomb (and it must be ambiguous since no one was inside the tomb to witness the mechanizations of resurrection or how it happens) has created a tide of new creation that sweeps across the hills of the world with the tomb of Christ as its epicenter. As the Christ event emerges from the tomb, creation is peeled back. Its earth is moved. In a moment similar to the movie Inception, when the city is folded in over itself and a new reality is created amongst images that intercept our conceptions of what can be, and what is normal, the resurrection of Jesus inverts the walls of the tomb and creates a space that has never been seen by anyone but those who dare to rush into the tomb and participate in the Inception of the Christ. The Christ delves into the consciousness of creation, into its deepest darkest spaces. He takes up habitation in the recesses of the being of creation, the mind of the earth, and emerges to start a new tidal wave of paranormality that sweeps across the landscape leaving nothing untouched as it moves across the lie that is our perception of reality.
This Eastertide cannot be stopped.
It cannot be repelled or stuffed back into the recesses of the tomb; it is a theological tsunami that covers creation…the after affects of which forces everyone to participate in this new creation. Even those that deny the Eastertide has arrived are still helpless amongst the waves of resurrection that surround their being and often extend newness to them in ways they could never acknowledge. Eastertides efficaciousness is not predicated on our reception of it. The Christ has emerged, the new creation has been pushed up from out of the ground in tectonic fashion, and all of creation benefits from this sovereign Eastertide that wraps us into its swells. Eastertide is not a choice we make; it is the new creation begun in the paranormal event of Resurrection that is the new condition of the world. Eastertide is grace, not a choice…the grace of a new impossible existence that is now a permanent part of creation…compliments the Inception of Christ.
Thus, Eastertide is the remainder of the Resurrection of Christ, the indelible imprint on creation of an ambiguous event that begun and continues via the imprint of the body of Christ that was rustled from its lifeless state against the cold stones of the familiarity of our lives and our boring dogmatized world.
But we fail to see this over-arching quality of resurrection because we have drained it of its significance and its theological depth. We have turned it into a “historical” event but have given up on its “historic” meaning. Preachers climb into their pulpits across this nation and testify that the Resurrection is the most “historical” event in history…having more “proof” than any other event in history, etc., etc.
These proclamations miss the point.
When resurrection is reduced to such, rather than seen in its grand theological and cosmological perspective…it is worthless. It is just a thing in the past that verifies our present faith…not something that conditions are present faith and uniquely qualifies Christian hope as it did for so many Christians who first believed in its reality. When resurrection is just FAMILIAR dogma it becomes empty because it is just an event that makes my present faith possible, it affirms what I think, feel and believe…it is not something that ambiguously sets the parameters of faith as such. Even worse, we lose the very thing that makes the flavor of our faith Christian. And there is nothing more uniquely Christian than Resurrection.
Resurrection is the intrusion of the paranormal into creation creating a New Jerusalem whereby hope is redefined and Christian eschatology more uniquely defined.
Resurrection is a game changer. It is THE event that shapes Christian thought and praxis, and not because it confirms the identity of Jesus or confirms the ability of your soul to go live with Christ. It is a game changer because it is God’s statement that our bodies matter because the Body of Jesus mattered! That God was so passionate about creation and our bodies that God raised up the Christ in bodily form (not to mention the idea of incarnation is also a very body heavy concept) is the declaration that God is just as much interested in our material world and our material redemption as God is our spiritual redemption. Eastertide is the renewal of material creation…not a flow of water beneath the surface that makes unseen spiritual changes! And if we take the idea of resurrection seriously, it may even be the case that God is more interested in the material than the spiritual…as even the Christ makes subsequent appearances post-Resurrection in material form. That God raises Christ means that whatever it means to have life in Christ and hope in the God…is to mean that in some way our physicality is redeemed and not hostage to the typical cycles of death. God could have given Christ a soulish resurrection, but such would not have created the alterity necessary to change the structure of creation to such a degree that redemption could be redefined and the ultimate telos of creation redirected!
You will hear some commentators call the risen Christ’s body a “spiritual” body or a body that was “special” but this is NOWHERE IN THE TEXT! Even one of my favorite theologians Paul Tillich makes this mistake on philosophical grounds. We may not like the idea of a physical resurrection or think it is a rudimentary belief of ancient peoples, but that does not change the hard core positioning of this belief in the early Christian community and the power it wielded in shaping eschatology.
The very clear connotation of the Gospels is not that Jesus was a new spiritual substance, but that Jesus’ physical body was resurrected and seen and touched by people who knew what his physical body looked like! To interpret these post-Resurrection scenes as mystical Christs’…or Casper Jesus such as we see in John 20…is absurd and not part of the plain meaning of the text. It is our way to reduce the reality of the resurrection…to not face the fact that the Resurrection is paranormal. It cannot be assimilated into our ideas of what is acceptable. If God was interested in being normal and doing things the normal way…he would not have chosen to raise dead people nor produced a bunch of idiot believers that would believe in this absurdity. This is not normal; this is paranormal.
The story of Easter is paranormal. It cannot be domesticated. It cannot be reduced to spiritual meanings because it is a very physical intrusion. It is paranormal hope in the Rising Dead!
But what is this paranormal hope? What hope does Eastertide bring that begins in the tomb and puts an exclamation point on the importance of our physical bodies to God in Christ? (this should not be new either folks, in Genesis Jacob’s body matters as the people of God take what’s left of his body to Canaan from out of Egypt where he died. See Genesis 50…and also Ezekiel seems to think our bodies matter. See chapter 37) God has been interested in resurrecting and preserving bodies as a part of new creation throughout the entire story of scripture…and the hope of Resurrection that is found in the Resurrection of Jesus is our Resurrection. That’s it. That’s the revolutionary hope. Don’t seem so disappointed…let me explain.
Our hope is NOT eternal life. Our hope is NOT an afterlife. Our hope is NOT that our SOUL goes to heaven when we die. This is NOT our hope…and I would argue that this is not even scriptural. This is pagan; this is Gnostic; this is Greek; this is NOT a Christian perspective and it is not grounded on solid NT Theology or biblical studies. Our HOPE IS, however, Resurrection.
The early followers of Jesus did not follow Jesus because he was the first guy to come along preaching an afterlife in God. Afterlife was not a new concept and Christians did not own the block on this idea. It is at least as old as Egyptian civilization and we have evidence it is probably older than that. Jesus did not just come along and give his version of how to live life because his version of after life was better.
The thing that is unique about Christ is that at the END OF HIS LIFE, his life was taken back up by God in the form of Resurrection. Resurrection is the NEW IDEA. It is the hope that has captivated the people of God from the time of the Maccabees to the time of Christ. Part of God renewing creation is the literal renewing of creation! Go figure! And part of that renewal is as the Apostle Paul stated…Christ is the FIRST FRUITS of the new creation, the new harvest…of the resurrection of the dead. And because Christ is the first-fruits, we can anticipate their being a second fruits harvest. That harvest IS the HOPE of all Christians.
Early followers of Jesus did not follow him because they thought they would live forever with God. Plenty of philosophies and religions already taught that stuff. What gave the Christ event its unique quality and impetus was that the follower of Jesus had hope that they too would be part of the new creation that was started in God raising Christ and would continue in their own resurrection…their own BODILY resurrection. Why else would Paul be so adamant about the supreme importance of Resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15?!? He writes (NASB version)
“Now if Christ is preached that he has been raised from the dead, how do some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, NOT EVEN CHRIST HAS BEEN RAISED!, and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is also in VAIN. Moreover, we are even found to be false witnesses of God because we testified against God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ is raised and if Christ is not raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. THEN THOSE WHO HAVE FALLEN ASLEEP IN CHRIST HAVE PERISHED!…but now Christ has been raised from the dead, the FIRST FRUITS of those are asleep”
Paul is directly relating the resurrection of Jesus to a resurrection of the dead and arguing that they are co-dependent! One implies the other. The Christian hope is not that we live with God after we die in the form of some weird thing we call a soul that is non-identifiable or non-localizable. If we are counting on our souls to be with Christ we are of most folks to be pitied because our hope is not in the perpetual life of our soul. Nice try Plotinus, but I don’t think so. This is Greek pagan Gnostic religions and this is NOT Christian and I loathe that is has become a part of Christian belief in the present…and not only that but to the detriment of a robust Easter resurrection faith.
Our hope is, rather, that if we have life after death after death (and I mean the double negation there)…it is because God CHOOSES to raise us up as God also raised up the Christ! Our lives and our existence in God after this life is not the result of a paranormal nature we all possess that ensure we exist either here or there after we take our last breath. Rather, as Christians, our only HOPE and the very unique hope that made Christianity a different kind of faith was that people had the audacity to believe that God raised up the physical Body of Jesus as a sign of his victory over creation and set the parameters of Gods restorative goals…and so too God will raise up those who trust in Christ even though we perish within the confines of History.
This is the scandal of Christianity folks…that people actually believe they will be bodily raised as a part of God’s redemptive plan for the world. If we are to live after we breathe our last…Easter faith teaches us, the Gospels teach us…that it will be because God resurrects our physical bodies and NOT because our soul goes to live with God. Easter does not simply confirm the identity of Jesus as God’s great Houdini moment; it is the content of what matters to God and a foreshadowing of the direction of the world.
This sort of faith is not normal…it is paranormal…it is the belief that our dead corpses will be restored by God (a very grisly scene of faith if there ever was one) and it is only in the audacious confines of Easter faith that we can believe such nonsense.