Monday, 16 August 2010

God's forgiveness without the empty tomb? E Schillebeeckx and NT Wright

Even though I disagree with Edward Schillebeeckx about important theological issues, I have to agree that he is probably the most famous theologian who held a chair here in Nijmegen where I am studying. I came across the following significant disagreement between him and NT Wright. It is worth the read:

‘Edward Schillebeeckx . . . declares that when the disciples went to the tomb their minds were so filled with light that it did not matter whether there was a body there or not. What happened in the Easter appearances was a conversion to Jesus as the Christ, who now came to them as the light of the world, and this was the “illumination” by which the disciples were “justified”(Jesus: An Experiment in Christology, Huber Hoskins, trans. New York: Crossroad, 1979, 384). Schillebeeckx fits out Bultmann’s suggestion with a more precise one; that the dicsiples, who were overcome by deep feelings of guilt at having run away and let Jesus down, experienced on Easter morning a wonderful sense of the forgiveness of God and the continuing presence of Jesus. This then became the start of the characteristically Christian experience knowing the forgiveness of God and/or knowing the presence of Jesus (380-397).

The trouble with this is that if you had said to a first-century Jew that you had had a wonderful experience of the forgiveness (or the love and grace) of God, she or he would have been delighted for you. But if you had gone onto say that the kingdom had come, that a crucified leader was the Messiah or that the resurrection had occurred, they would have been deeply puzzled if not downright offended. This language is simply not about private experiences, even communicable private experiences, of forgiveness. It is about eschatology, about something happening within history that resulted in a world being now a very different place. Neither Bultmann nor Schillebeeckx can explain from the texts the rise of Christianity as we know it’ (NT Wright, “Christian Origins and the Resurrection of Jesus: The Resurrection of Jesus as a Historical Problem” [Originally published in Sewanee Theological Review 41.2, 1998]).


francois mulder said...

Why do every generation think that "we have arrived" and have all the knowledge? Why do we keep on thinking that the first Christians were naive and interpreted things wrongly?

Frederik Mulder said...

Having studied the resurrection texts in Paul and the gospels for more than four years, I cannot come to the conclusion that the women and disciples experienced God's forgiveness appart from the overwhelming realization that His body came out of the tomb transformed.