This window of the Resurrection by Christopher Webb is in Sherborne Abbey. (Fr. Lawrence Lew, OP)
resurrection of the body is not primarily a question of logic. It is a question
of fact, of witness. We do not begin from a philosophical theory to deduce the
resurrection of the body. Rather we start from the fact of the resurrection of
Christ. We ask whether it makes sense, whether it is “reasonable” in some basic
manner. In this sense, philosophy follows fact, provided we can accept the
facts of what is
of Nazareth: Holy Week, Benedict XVI examined all the evidence that would argue
that the resurrection as a fact did not happen. He concluded we have no evidence
showing that the testimony and witness of the disciples present at the events
were fabricated, false, or naïve. We conclude that Jesus was who He said He
was. Included in this understanding of who He was is His resurrection. But the
resurrection involves the fact that Christ as such was one of the Persons of
the Trinity, the Word, who became man. It was not the Father or the Spirit who
became man. The resurrection thus refers to Christ insofar as He was true man,
yet also God.
in the Old Testament that God never intended for us to die. But we also learn
that death was a consequence of a prior act of man. Death followed the exercise
of freedom. Man was not forced to be what he was intended to be. We might then
expect that the overcoming of death would also be the consequence of freedom.
The question is whether the exercise of human freedom, our self-redemption, was
sufficient to accomplish this purpose. The whole account of Christ’s passion
revolves about this issue.
this question of freedom, however, is the fact that by nature we human beings,
body and soul, are not free from death. We are the mortals. We die and we know
that we die. Yet, something about us seems “immortal.” We call our souls
precisely immortal, a spiritual power. But this immortality as such does not
include our bodies, the whole persons that we are.
of the “logic” of the resurrection I want to approach this question through
something in Plato. As a young man, Plato was concerned with the question of
whether the world was necessarily formed in injustice as it seemed to be. He
implied that if it were formed in injustice, there could be no coherent order
of man, society, or cosmos since no consequences would follow from any unjust
acts. And, to add to his problems, it seemed that the world, not just Greece,
was not in fact created in justice.
Plato think this way? Basically, he was reflecting on the execution of
Socrates, which appeared to him to be an injustice. At the end of his trial,
Socrates told the jury that condemned him to death that wherever his story was
told (and it was Plato who told it), the men of this jury, the citizens of
Athens, the best existing city, would be held accountable for the death of the
philosopher Socrates, a just man.
recognized that injustices of this sort existed at all times and places in
human history. Thus, if there were to be justice in the world, it had to come
after death. Consequently, he proposed the philosophical “myths,” themselves so
close to revelation, in which he pictured the immortal souls of the dead being
judged for their crimes and rewarded for their virtues. This understanding is
based on reason. Only in this way, on this hypothesis, could there be justice
in the world if the crimes and sins were in fact punished and the virtues
This Platonic reflection brings us to the immortality of the soul but
not to the resurrection of the body. Plato at times seemed to think, contrary
to Genesis, that the body was the cause of our errors and sins. This consideration
brings up two further issues that relate to the resurrection of the body. The
first is one that relates to Aristotle. Man as such is a rational being
properly not a soul but a complete being, body and soul. He is not what he
fully is in only body or soul. Since we all die, the issue of human completion
remains. The immortality of the soul at least indicates some link is possible
between the soul, the form of our bodies, and what we will be in the
resurrection. Otherwise, we would be new beings and not ourselves.
The second issue has to do again with justice. Since it is not merely
our souls that are involved in either our sins or delights, it follows that the
“logic” of the resurrection of the body grows from Plato’s consideration of
justice. Thus, a coherent understanding of justice includes the resurrection of
the body together with an understanding of freedom that requires us to choose
to be just. If the world is not created in justice, we need not be just.
Anything goes. Power rules. If the world is created in justice, the drama of
the life, death, and resurrection of Christ makes perfect