Christ’s resurrection. Most that is said about the resurrection falls into two camps: 1. “All Christians must believe in Jesus’ physical resurrection.” and 2. “I don’t buy Jesus’ physical resurrection, and therefore the whole thing is just a dumb story someone made up.” Neither one is really what the Bible seems to present, and neither one is very interesting. Two main questions, of interest to me, do not get very much attention (at least not that I see). The first is to wonder what it is that the disciples experienced that they then described as Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus still has wounds, can walk through walls like a ghost, but eats food. Not “physical” in the way we use the word, and yet not “just a story.” And whatever happened to the disciples – can that happen to us? Can we share their experience of Jesus? The second thing I wonder is whether we all participate in Jesus’ resurrection all the time. The church is the Body of Christ – why do we need another, magical Body apart from the one we are already part of? And if we are the Second Coming, and there is no deus coming ex machina, then maybe we need to be about the Kingdom of God instead of…almost everything the church does now. I just wish that discussion of the resurrection wasn’t a choice between Cartesian dualism and…Cartesian dualism.
The Incarnation. Most of us tend to pay only minor attention to the quite mind-blowing doctrine of them all: The Incarnation. It’s really an amazing to think that it literally means “to become flesh.” This is, as Eugene Peterson says in the message paraphrase of John 1, “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes,the one-of-a-kind glory…” This is trans formative like no other, all those arguments we tend to have over what God wants, well we have an account of what God actually did when he “moved into the neighborhood.” We get a blood and sweat, bread and wine version of God to translate all that God wants into words and actions. The divine became human. The high and all-powerful became weak and vulnerable. That deserves more attention.
Purgatory. To most Protestants purgatory just seems like an oddity, or a complete fabrication of the Roman Catholic Church, but it is more biblically supportable than eternal conscious torment and says a few things I think are true about God and salvation: that God’s efforts to redeem us don’t end arbitrarily at our death. That holiness and reconciliation are necessary for flourishing in the kingdom. That there is a trajectory, a telos, an end, which gives some suffering meaning. Christian faith is about this life, not the next one, but in the way that our beliefs in the afterlife serve as a sort of mirror for us, I think purgatory reflects some interesting facets of sanctification.