John Polkinghorne on the resurrection.
The Reverend Dr John Polkinghorne, Anglican priest and emeritus Cambridge University physics professor, has found no trouble combining a passionate love of science with an equally passionate commitment to theological orthodoxy. Below are excerpts from an essay that appeared last April in the TimesOnline. The whole article is well worth reading.
“…Something happened to continue [Jesus’] story. All the writers of the New Testament believe that what happened was his resurrection from the dead on the first Easter Day. Can we today believe this strange counterintuitive claim? Looking for the motivations for this belief requires a careful and scrupulous assessment of the evidence. Here I can do no more than sketch the considerations that persuade me to bet my life on accepting the claim. The belief that within history a man should rise from death to lead a life of unending glory would have seemed as strange in the !st century as it does to us today. Many Jews believed that at the end of history the dead would be raised, and there were stories of people who had emerged from apparent death for a further spell of life before finally dying, but that was resuscitation not absolute resurrection. The claim that Jesus is a living Lord is quite different. The New Testament offers two lines of evidence. One line is the appearance stories, strangely varied, yet with a surprisingly consistent theme, that initially it was hard to recognise the risen Christ. I believe that this is a genuine historical reminiscence, indicating that these are not just a bunch of made-up tales constructed by a variety of early Christians.
Then there are the empty tomb stories. If these were just concocted, why make women the discoverers when they were regarded as unreliable witnesses in the ancient world? Clearly there is much more that needs to be said, but I hope I have said enough to show that a scientist, open to unexpected beliefs but stringent in demanding adequate motivation for them, can believe in the Resurrection of Jesus, the fundamental pivot on which Christian belief turns.”