In my previous blog I declared myself to be a liberal Protestant c.q. Adventist. I did, however, state that the use of the term ‘liberal’ does, of course, depend on how it is defined and with what it is being compared.
Today—in the Easter weekend—I want to add something important to what I wrote last week.
This is Easter-weekend. For a segment of the Dutch population Easter is still a meaningful religious event. And the Easter story continues to draw the interest of even a large number of people who will not attend church on Easter Sunday. They enjoy the Mattheus Passion, or other versions of ‘the passion.’ This was also demonstrated last Thursday evening , when one in every five Dutch persons watched the televised passion story. I was one of the ca. 3.5 million Dutchmen who were fascinated by the contemporary way in which the passion story of the death and resurrection of Christ was enacted in the Dutch city of Enschede. However, for millions of other people in our country (and in many other so-called ‘christian’ countries), Easter has simply become the day when they welcome Spring, have a good meal and enjoy an extra day off work. Millions of young—and not so young—people simply have no idea what Easter is about.
Today many believing christians, however, are far from sure whether this beautiful, heartbreaking Easter story is, in fact, more than that. Did it actually happen? They believe that there (probably) was someone called Jesus who was brutally killed by a riotous mob, that was incited by the religious leaders. But that the death of Jesus –some two thousand years ago—ensured that all the wrong thing they ever did (and do) are taken care of . . . that seems too good to believe. And that Jesus came back from death to life after about 36 hours, well . . .? It is a beautiful story, but did it happen? Even for many church-going christians this is a bridge too far. And many theologians and pastors have long ago taken leave of their faith in a literal resurrection. They often refer to themselves as ‘liberal.’ They confirm the conclusion: Liberal christians do not believe in a literal resurrection of the Lord.
Seen from this angle, I am definitely not a liberal—in spite of what I wrote last week. I am sure: What happened at Calvary was not just a tragic legal mistake, but the final solution for all things I have done wrong in my life. And it is the guarantee that eventually all will be right for me. I am sure the message of Easter is true: The Lord is truly risen! And I agree with the apostle Paul who told us: If Jesus Christ is not risen from the tomb, then there is no possibility that there is life for me after death. And as a result, the apostle tells me, I would be among the most miserable of all people.
So, am I a liberal? Yes (see my blog of last week). No (see above). Maybe we should begin thinking about a good alternative for the word ‘liberal’.