Thursday, 23 April 2009

Crucifixion, fact. Resurrection ...?

If you follow this link, you will find a stimulating article by Simon Heffer in the Daily Telegraph attributing to the English Reformation under Henry VIII the establishment of freedoms which led, ultimately, to the greatness and prosperity that England later enjoyed:
Every half-millennium or so an event occurs in our history that changes the basis of society. The Romans come, the Romans go. The Normans come; and between their arrival in 1066 and the outbreak of the Great War in 1914 there is one seismic event after which society sets off (after a false start or two) on an entirely new course: the Reformation in England. When the Convocation of Canterbury of the Church in England agreed in March 1531 to accede to Henry's demands about church governance that included the clergy's recognition of him as head of the English church, it also triggered a process of such profound economic and political change that even today there is still dispute about the extent of the consequences. Let me add my three ha'porth: without the Reformation we would not have had what Seeley called "the expansion of England", we would not have had a middle class educated and powerful enough to initiate the industrial revolution, we would not have had the empire we did, and would not have had the land and sea power that kept us free from invasion and foreign influence: not to mention the theological consequences.
That itself is worth pondering, especially on St George's day. But halfway through the article comes an additional interesting comment. Referring to the posting of Martin Luther's 95 Theses, Heffer writes,
it is an event in a foreign land in the ninth year of Henry's reign that stands as the most significant in all Christendom since the crucifixion (which we accept as historical fact: the resurrection, more significant to those who hold the Christian faith, is not for atheists like me).
Now my question is this: on what grounds do we accept the crucifixion "as historical fact" which are not also grounds for at least considering the resurrection as an historical fact? The evidence for the crucifixion is largely documentary - the attestations of those within and without the Christian tradition in the relevant period. But it is documentary sources also (indeed sometimes the same documentary sources) which testify to the resurrection.

On a different note, I would (naturally) contest that for Christians the crucifixion is (or ought to be regarded as) "more significant" than the resurrection. But that is another debate.

John Richardson
23 April 2009

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