The Resurrection and the Meaningless Universe

What is the fundamental problem – the underlying anxiety – facing humanity in contemporary culture? That’s the question the church needs to ask, in order to see how the Resurrection of Jesus speaks deeply to us. Following J D Hall (especially in The Cross in Our Context), in this session argues that the fundamental problem confronting our culture is not the anxiety of guilt and shame so powerfully addressed by salvation theories that revolve around substitution. He argues that the real issue in our world is:

…meaninglessness and and emptiness…. Manifesting itself in a pervasive sense of purposelessness, superfluity, boredom, escapism, etc., is so profound and perplexing an anxiety that few Christians have been courageous enough to plumb its depths.

In the session we discussed how suffering is one way in which we experience our superficial OKness with life being broken open to reveal the meaninglessness at the heart of our culture. If anything is as good as anything else, then why choose to sacrifice yourself for someone else? The idea becomes ridiculous. Best to keep your head down, busy yourself with your little pleasures, look after yourself carefully. And if you aren’t having any fun anymore, if the drugs don’t work, then there is a rational way out.

In the cross, Jesus, and hence God in God’s own self, experiences abandonment and meaninglessness. In order to live in the world, we need to experience the world as fundamentally meaningful – but how can a world in which the best possible human life is brutally ended by exactly those people who should recognise the good life make any sense whatsoever? This is summed up by Jesus’ great cry of desolation from the Cross – “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

The Resurrection is God’s “however.” In raising Jesus from the dead, God, the power behind the universe, speaks. God vindicates Jesus’ way of life – the way in which Jesus pours himself out for others. The universe itself, in spite of how things appear, cares deeply how we live.

Next week (21/5/19) we will go deeper into our thinking about how Jesus’ resurrection is transformational knowledge, leading to the sort of existential confidence in God that allows us to live the only sort of life that ultimately makes sense – one poured out for others, lived in collaboration with the God who is actively and redemptively at work in the world.

This session was on the 14th of May 2019