The Most Dangerous Idea

From the Dean

A regular article written by Phillip Jensen in his role as Dean of Sydney at St Andrew's Cathedral.

Originally Published:
17th April 2014

Tagged: easter resurrection

Related:

Return to the articles index.



Which dangerous idea has the greatest potential to change the world for the better?

This was a question put to the panellists at the end of a QandA show during the “Festival of Dangerous Ideas” last year.

One of the panellists asked time to think of an answer. That, in itself, is an extraordinary event in a show that censors anything above a sound bite.

The atheist homosexual panellist launched into his dangerous idea that “abortion should be mandatory” for 30 years to reduce the population.

The feminist, Germaine Greer expressed nothing new – just “freedom”.

When the compere asked Peter Hitchens, his answer clearly startled the others. “The most dangerous idea in human history and philosophy remains the belief that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and rose from the dead and that is the most dangerous idea you will ever encounter.”  

The compere didn’t appear to understand the danger of the resurrection and so asked “Why dangerous?”  To which Mr Hitchens replied: “Because it alters the whole of human behaviour and all our responsibilities. It turns the universe from a meaningless chaos into a designed place in which there is justice and there is hope and, therefore, we all have a duty to discover the nature of that justice and work towards that hope. It alters us all. If we reject it, it alters us all as well. It is incredibly dangerous. It's why so many people turn against it.”

He was right: It is the most dangerous idea. If true, it changes everything; if false, it is a monstrous lie. He was also right that its impact is so great that many people ‘turn against it’. 

In 2011, the Jewish atheist Dick Gross, wrote questioning what happened at the first Easter: “This question has had a more profound impact on the world in the succeeding millennia than any other event in history. I can say without fear of contradiction that the original Easter was the most important long weekend in the story of humanity.”

Some other columnists express an almost nostalgic longing and hunger for a rediscovery of the spiritual dimension to life expressed at Easter, while the more politically correct try to make Easter more accessible to the community as a whole by reducing it to ‘renewal’ – like a European springtime festival even though we are in an Australian Autumn! All seem to agree that chocolate bunnies and bilbies while edible, pleasurable, good for the economy and fattening, lack any cultural significance or value.

Wendy Harmer, the comedian and writer, was raised an atheist (Yes, Professor Dawkins, there are atheist children just like there are Christian children. And no Professor Dawkins, providing an intellectually and spiritually neutral upbringing for your children is not possible.) She commented last year at Easter on how she missed the opportunity of serious reflection that Good Friday used to provide. “When I was a child, Good Friday was my favourite day of the year. It was deeply melancholic. A time to ponder death, sacrifice, forgiveness. All the big stuff. And days like that, steeped as they are in deeper meaning, are rare when you're an Anglo-Australian born into an atheist household.” Today’s offerings of frenetic activities for her children fail to feed her or their hunger for deeper meaning. Elizabeth Farrelly, writes each year of her longing for the spiritual, vertical dimension of life to be filled - without the facts of the Christian message. Saddened that her friends have turned their back on their Christian culture (e.g. they wouldn’t sing Christmas carols with her) she longs for religious mystery and “hocus pocus”. She wishes to engage her Christian culture by de-Christianizing it.

Over the last decade newspaper editorials, trying to justify Easter public holidays in a multicultural society without acknowledging the Christian nature of our culture, generally acknowledge that Christians believe in a real death for sins and resurrection from the tomb. However, they argue, as resurrection is a matter of Christian ‘faith’ (aka ‘superstition’ in atheist circles) our Easter holidays should be about ‘renewal’. This is something we all believe in and resurrection can be its metaphor. Unfortunately while ‘resurrection as a metaphor for renewal’ may satisfy the non-Christian desire for meaning, it is not what the Bible means by resurrection.

The Resurrection cannot be detached from the history of Jesus. The Jewish Historian, Dr. Pincus Lapide (‘The Resurrection of Jesus’ Augsburg Press 1983) wrote not of ‘faith’ but ‘facticity’ when he investigated the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection and concluded that it happened. He wrote: “I cannot rid myself of the impression that some modern Christian theologians are ashamed of the material facticity of the resurrection. Their varying attempts at dehistoricizing the Easter experience which give the lie to all four evangelists are simply not understandable to me in any other way.”

Nothing has changed the course of world history more than the events of the first Easter. Nothing is a more dangerous idea for the future welfare of humanity than that God became man, died for our sins and has risen to rule the world. For as the apostles said to the intellectual posers of the first century: “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of that he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:30f).

We ignore God’s assurance at our peril. We embrace his Son’s resurrection with joyful repentance.