Fr Dresser could probably do no better than to read the Holy Father’s latest Catechesis on St Paul at last week’s General Audience. His topic: The Resurrection in St Paul.
Here are some relevant tit-bits:
The tradition to which he unites is the fount from which to draw. The originality of his Christology is never in detriment to fidelity to tradition. The kerygma of the apostles always prevails over the personal re-elaboration of Paul; each one of his arguments flows from the common tradition, in which the faith shared by all the Churches, which are just one Church, is expressed.
At this point, he goes on to follow through the line in his intervention at the Synod of the Word, regarding the necessity for the work of scripture scholarship and theology to be united in the tradition of the Church:
And in this way, Paul offers a model for all times of how to do theology and how to preach. The theologian and the preacher do not create new visions of the world and of life, but rather are at the service of the truth transmitted, at the service of the real fact of Christ, of the cross, of the resurrection. Their duty is to help to understand today, behind the ancient words, the reality of “God with us,” and therefore, the reality of true life.
Here it is opportune to say precisely: St. Paul, in announcing the Resurrection, does not concern himself with presenting an organic doctrinal exposition — he does not want to practically write a theology manual — but rather to take up the theme, responding to uncertainties and concrete questions that are posed him by the faithful.
Take note, Fr Dresser, and all avant-garde theologians of similar ilk who wish to make the Resurrection “relevant” to the modern world.
In fact, it is hard to think of why you would need to do anything other than proclaim the resurrection in order to make it relevant. Surely it is relevant to every single human being if just one human being at one point in history – even 2000 years ago – rose from the dead. Not as a “resuscitated corpse” to be sure, but as an entirely new, immortal bodily life in full continuity with the bodily life that existed before.
Standing at the side of the grave, conducting a burial, I have often had first person experience of just how “relevant” the proclamation of the resurrection is: this body, this one we are laying to rest in the ground today, this body will be raised up with Christ on the last day. It is as the Holy Father says:
The fact of the Resurrection emerges above all else, without which Christian life would simply be absurd.
It is astounding that Dresser could say, of his idea that Christ’s resurrection was not bodily but only “in the minds and in the community, of his followers”, that “this is born out in the New Testament”, for, as Pope Benedict goes on to point out, the Gospels consistently point to two particular signs of the Resurrection: the witness of those who saw his resurrected body and the witness of those who saw the empty grave:
On that Easter morning something extraordinary and new happened, but at the same time, something very concrete, verified by very precise signs, attested by numerous witnesses.
Also for Paul, as for the other authors of the New Testament, the Resurrection is united to the testimony of those who have had a direct experience of the Risen One… Paul therefore gives — as do the four Evangelists — fundamental relevance to the theme of the apparitions, which are a fundamental condition for faith in the Risen One who has left the tomb empty.
These two facts are important: The tomb is empty and Jesus really appeared. Thus is built this chain of tradition that, by way of the testimony of the apostles and the first disciples, would reach successive generations, up to us.
How can the resurrection possibly be made “more relevant” by denying what it actually was: a miracle of earth-shattering order which cleaved history in two – into a “before” and “after” – and which has fundamentally changed everything we know about our universe, our God and our life.