I posted this last year after Easter and am re-posting it this Easter day.
Abstraction is easier than earthiness. Religious principles command little, but a God become man is difficult indeed. A God who dies and comes back to life in real space-time human history might be the most difficult reality of all. Notice I didn't say "truth" for that word is so easily abstracted.
It's much safer to have religious values. It's much more demanding to deal with a God who passed through death and back to life again; and there's reasonable enough evidence to the fact.
In response to a world of theologians that neuter every Christian symbol and abstract every Christ-event into a vague principle for living, David Bentley Hart proclaims:
If then a theology of beauty stands with the concrete and the particular, in defiance of any species of thought that places its faith in abstractions or generalities, it militates of necessity against practices that simply sort narratives into discrete categories of story and metaphysics, myth and meaning, symbol and reality, and then rest content...If indeed Christianity embraces "the aesthetic principle" par excellence," then abstraction is the thing most contrary and deadening to the truth it offers...God's glory, though, is neither ethereal nor remote, but is beauty, quantity, abundance, kabod: it has weight, density, and presence...In the end, that within Christianity which draws persons to itself is a concrete and particular beauty, because concrete and particular beauty is its deepest truth.
David Bentley Hart, The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth, 2003
I couldn't help but think, on a week we celebrate the Resurrection in Christendom (except for the Orthodox community which celebrates next week), how counter-cultural the truth of history really is. We live in an America that craves principles for life, that likes to abstract God to generic religious values, and the raw fact of Jesus coming back to life stands opposed to such abstractions.
A related idea is prominent in Time's cover story this week: Rethinking Heaven, by Jon Meachem. Meachem's basic thesis is that too many Christians view heaven as a bodyless existence in some pie-in-the-sky afterlife. Meachem challenges that notion, appealing to a new heavens and new earth and abodily resurrection and afterlife.
Of course, if you know anything about Christianity, Meachem is absolutely correct, which makes his title rather presumptuous. Meachem, nor the theologians he cites, are rethinking anything. One need not go back to the Bible to point out that Christians, even since the second century, have believed in the resurrection of the body, as opposed to the mere immortality of the soul. Christians have been professing this truth by way of the Apostle's creed for 20 centuries.
But Meachem's still on to something. Far from challenging Christian stereotypes, he's really challenging the common American clinginess to abstraction and ease. Much easier to believe in a bodyless heavenly paradise, than for the fact that God the Father will redeem, through the risen Jesus Christ, this world and unite it to his new heavens.
In sum, Jesus' Resurrection shames our sense of existential viability, needing to feel certain things or perform certain religious tasks to have a fake or weak experience of the divine. No, in Christianity, as Hart notes, the particular beauty, the raw fact, of Christ's Resurrection is the deepest truth, my feelings be damned.
He is risen. He is risen indeed.