I had the great pleasure of walking some hills and swimming some streams with Ronan a few months ago. One of our conversations touched on the resurrection and I was reminded of this after his thought-provoking post yesterday.
Like Ronan, death frightens me. That fear motivates my hope in the after-life but it is also constrains the degree to which I have confidence in the life-after. To hope of a resurrection in the face of the brute fact of death just seems so flimsy. As a believing Christian, I have been conflicted about death for some time. I have a fairly robust commitment that there was an empty tomb and yet I still struggle to have confidence that I too will be resurrected.
This struggle emerges from what I perceive to be the ontological gap between Jesus and myself. There is a dual movement here. First, those doctrines which posit that I am of the same species as God resonate with me. I relish the thought of being capable of entering a divine life with God, Jesus and all those other people who will have me as part of their family. Yet, this appeal seems grounded, to a large extent, in the hope that if Jesus is like me then perhaps I might also be resurrected with him. To make God like me (mundane) is also to make the resurrection, that which was made possible by that particular divine-human combination, mundane as well. As Mormons, the very universality of the resurrection makes it a commonplace, at least theologically.
Contrary to this impulse is the accumulated realization that there is absolutely nothing mundane or commonplace about the resurrection. Not only have I come to feel that the Christ of faith is absolutely other than the mundane (he is God’s own singular intervention in the world), but I see now that the gospel is good news precisely because it is so absurdly good. I cannot wholly collapse the distance between myself and God because the resurrection stands on the other side of a chasm filled with the many, many bodies that have not been resurrected. I cannot seem to find Jesus amidst all those other people just like me (and profoundly unlike him) who are very much dead.
In answer to Ronan’s question I think my answer is this: Yes, I believe there was an empty tomb but I am not sure that means very much for me.