When Doug Pagitt basically labeled standard evangelical thought on the resurrection/afterlife as platonism and gnosticism masquerading as orthodoxy he was
1. Metaphorically burned at the stake
2. Totally right
In honor of Doug (who told me he actually regrets how the interview went down and how defensive he allowed himself to become), but more importantly, of Resurrection Sunday (did you know that's this coming weekend???) I give you a sampling of the truly awful, the pretty darn good, and the awesomeness that is NT Wright.
Maudlin, half-assed, pseudo-gnostic-but-probably-seen-in-thousands-of-church-bulletins-this-weekend Easter prayer:
"Lord, You have arisen forever
In my heart!
May the sunrise
Remind me to shine in Your light.
May the caress of a gentle breeze
Remind me of Your compassion.
May the fragrance of a flower
Remind me to blossom in Your love.
May the singing of birds
Bring a song of joy to my lips.
And in the closing of each day
May I remember to quietly pray."
Meh. Better, truer, more artful poetry:
"Make no mistake: if He rose at all
It was as His body;
If the cell’s dissolution did not reverse, the molecule reknit,
The amino acids rekindle,
The Church will fall.
It was not as the flowers,
Each soft spring recurrent;
It was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled eyes of the Eleven apostles;
It was as His flesh; ours.
The same hinged thumbs and toes
The same valved heart
That—pierced—died, withered, paused, and then regathered
Out of enduring Might
New strength to enclose.
Let us not mock God with metaphor,
Analogy, sidestepping transcendence,
Making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded
Credulity of earlier ages:
Let us walk through the door.
The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
Not a stone in a story,
But the vast rock of materiality that in the slow grinding of
Time will eclipse for each of us
The wide light of day.
And if we have an angel at the tomb,
Make it a real angel,
Weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair, opaque in
The dawn light, robed in real linen
Spun on a definite loom.
Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
For our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
Lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are embarrassed
By the miracle,
And crushed by remonstrance."
-Seven Stanzas at Easter by John Updike
And yet more forceful prose:
"What is more... because of the early Christian belief in Jesus as Messiah, we find the development of the very early belief that Jesus is Lord and that Caesar is not...
But already in Paul the resurrection, both of Jesus and then in the future of his people, is the foundation of the Christian stance of allegiance to a different king, a different Lord. Death is the last weapon of the tyrant, and the point of resurrection, despite much misunderstanding, is that death has been defeated. Resurrection is not a redescription of death; it is its overthrow and, with that, the overthrow of those whose power depends on it.Despite the sneers and slurs of some contemporary scholars, it was those who believed in the bodily resurrection who were burned at the stake and thrown to the lions. Resurrection was never a way of settling down and becoming respectable; the Pharisees could have told you that. It was the Gnostics, who translated the language of resurrection into a private spirituality and a dualistic cosmology, thereby more or less altering its meaning into its opposite, who escaped persecution. Which emperor would have sleepless nights worrying that his subjects were reading the Gospel of Thomas? Resurrection was always bound to get you into trouble, and it regularly did."
-NT Wright, Surprised by Hope