top of page

How To Live in the Real World

00:00 / 17:58

14 Apr 2024

Second Sunday of Easter

Luke 23:36(b)-48


Suggestion that Christianity is key to living in real world may sound outlandish. This is what I will argue here.

Different Ways of Viewing the Resurrection

1)    In spiritual, metaphorical, symbolic, or exemplary terms.

2)    As a unique, historical, objective fact.

Spiritual Resurrection

-       First tendency of disciples: ‘they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit’ (Luke 24:37).

-       Spiritualisation of resurrection quite common. John Dominic Crossan (slight paraphrase): ‘(The resurrection) never happened. (The resurrection) always happens’.

-       The resurrection did not happened as a historical event but occurs through the empowering of Jesus’ followers.

-       Jesus may be ‘alive’ in a non-historical sense: through his teaching, his example. Not literally alive.

Suggested Implications

-       Christ’s soul may be in heaven with God. His body is not.

-       Therefore physical redemption not part of God’s plan for Christ, presumably not for us either, or the world around.

-       Our hope may therefore be to escape the corruption and unreality of our bodies and of this world.

A word on this:

-       Desire to escape world, often associated with term ‘Gnosticism’.

-       Gnosticism: religious beliefs at time of NT.

-       Focus on interior light within, freedom through knowledge (gnosis – knowledge)

-       Corruption and unreality of this world and escape to a purer realm of thought.

-       Gnosticism endures today.

-       Modern emphasis upon the “real me”: feelings, psychological states are who I am, more real than the world out there.

-       Physical world is evil and arbitrary.

Difference between ancient and modern Gnosticism. Author and journalist Mary Harrington:

‘Unlike the ancient Gnostics…the modern variety seeks to transcend the physical not through spiritual knowledge but through technology.’

Harrington: This is “bio-libertarianism”…it amounts to ‘waging war on the idea of “nature”’…it ‘views any moral or legal effort to restrict the tech-enabled control of our biology with horror and dismay’.

Mary Harrington, Feminism Against Progress, p.141

-       Emphasis upon real me leads to emotional and psychological burdens: feelings change frequently. Cannot be basis for entire view of reality.

-       Promotes view that the world needs to change, rather than me. Leads to inability to self-reflect.

-       Clearly a major problem amongst younger generations.

The Objective Fact of the Resurrection

-       Contrast to this radical subjectivism, Christianity rooted in historical claims, such as the resurrection of Christ.

-       NT Wright on Luke 24: ‘The whole point of this story is that it is about an event which (Luke) understands, not as an “example” of the kind of “spiritual experience” which people may still have as they ponder strange happenings, meditate on the scriptures and break bread together, but as a shock, a one-off unique moment. Luke presents Jesus’ resurrection as a surprise to…the disciples in the upper room. And the explanation given is…that it was the single event through which the world, and Israel, were changed forever’ (N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, p.657).

-       Point not to belittle our spiritual experiences, but to emphasise historicity. The resurrection really happened. Jesus really appeared.

-       Christ’s body not a ghost but same body that was put in tomb. Yet changed: (Luke 24:31). NT Wright: “transphysicality”: the same human body but transformed, given special abilities, apparently to appear and disappear at will.

-       Christ says, “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Luke 24:39).

-       Asks for food and eats a piece of broiled fish (Luke 24:41-43). To prove his physicality but also to demonstrate continued friendship beyond death and resurrection.

Problems Confronted

Suggest two significant helps given us by belief in historical resurrection.

1)    Reality not reliant primarily upon my spiritual experiences, feelings, or psychological states but upon history and objective truth.

Reality comes from out there, given as a gift from God. Do I accept it or insist that reality must be bent to my preferences?

Challenge modern attitudes that stresses primacy of feelings and psychological states. Reality is not something invented but received.

2)    More specifically: the resurrection demonstrates God’s concern with physical creation, including human body.

God made the body and will redeem it.

The body is not a shell that can be manipulated by technology to suit an interior preference, but a good gift given by God. It matters what we do with it: accept it, care for it, use it for righteous living.

‘…the Church recalls that human life in all its dimensions, both physical and spiritual, is a gift from God. This gift is to be accepted with gratitude and placed at the service of the good. Desiring a personal self-determination…apart from this fundamental truth that human life is a gift, amounts to a concession to the age-old temptation to make oneself God, entering into competition with the true God of love revealed to us in the Gospel.’ Pope Francis, Dignitas Infinita


It really matters whether we see Christ’s resurrection as the appearance of a spirit or as the reappearance of the real man Jesus Christ, whose body was no longer in the tomb. The former belief can lead us almost anywhere, but the latter leads us to a confrontation with historical questions and to an encounter with the real world. If we accept it, it will give us hope that, one day, we too – body and soul – will be completely redeemed from the power of death. Once again: dost thou believe this?

bottom of page