He’s not a friend of conservative Christians, but sometimes it just takes the right person to answer the right question. The question has to do with teaching the Bible as mere literature. Stanley Fish is one of the nation’s most notorious liberal intellectuals. He once headed the English department at Duke University and made it notorious for its left-wing views and today teaches Law in New York City. In an article “Religion Without Truth,” published by the New York Times, he made an important argument. He is responding to those who were pushing for classes in the Bible as literature in the public schools. In his view, dismissing the truth claims of Scripture and yet teaching it as literature doesn’t make sense. He put it like this: “The truth claims of a religion--at least of religions like Christianity, Judaism and Islam—are not incidental to its identity; they are its identity. The metaphor that theologians use to make the point is the shell and the kernel: ceremonies, parables, traditions, holidays, pilgrimages—these are merely the outward signs of something that is believed to be informing them and giving them significance. That something is the religion’s truth claims. Take that away and all you have is an empty shell….”
That is all very true. But why stop there? We have churches full of people whose reasons for being present on any given Sunday morning have nothing to do with truth claims. A beautiful building, friendly people, enjoyable music….you could continue to add to this list all of the reasons why people draw close to the Christian Faith. But the Christian Faith has very little to do with any of these things. Either God visited this planet in the person of His son Jesus or He did not. Either Jesus rose from the dead to open the doors to eternal life for all who believe and accept Him or He did not. If He did not, then the Christian Faith is mere window dressing—it has no power to experience, no salvation to enjoy and no eternal life to celebrate. If Jesus were never buried in that tomb, or, if buried, He never came out, then we are the most deluded people in the world. The Apostle Paul put it like this: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins….If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” I Cor. 15:17-19.
Make no mistake about it, everything we claim as Christians, every promise we enjoy, every hope we entertain amounts only to thin air if the event we celebrate in a couple of weeks never took place. But we have it on the highest of authorities that it did take place. And that being so, we will again be present to celebrate the greatest event in the history of the human (or Divine) calendar. Hope to see you and your three friends on Resurrection Sunday, April 20.
Senior Pastor of Cactus Christian Fellowship