The Resurrection of the Body – not a conjuring trick with bones!

THE SUBTITLE above cites the often misquoted comment made by the late (and in many ways great) David Jenkins, Bishop of Durham from 1984 to 1994.

One of Jenkins’ gifts was to provoke people to think through their Christian faith and this is exactly what he did with the resurrection. On a more popular level, I am reminded of a scene from the sitcom ‘Father Ted’:

Father Dougal: Ted, I just want to ask you a question . . . Father Ted: Oh, not again Dougal. Look, when a man and a lady are very much in love . . .
Father Dougal: No, I didn’t want to ask that Ted. I just wanted to ask you . . . Do you believe in an afterlife?
Father Ted: Do I what?
Father Dougal: Do you believe in an afterlife?
Father Ted: Well Dougal, priests generally do have a very strong belief in the afterlife.
Father Dougal: Oh, I wish had your faith Ted.
Father Ted: Dougal, how did you get into the church. . . like collect 12 crisp packets and become a priest?

This is a classic exchange between Ted and Dougal in which the humour works by disrupting our usual assumptions about priests and what it means to be ‘in the church’. Dougal’s honest admission that he doesn’t share the church’s essential hope in life after death is of course funny, but it also hits a raw spot for many church members who share with him the internal conflict of being ‘in the church’ but not quite believing what it has always taught. Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthians to a small community populated by people like Dougal.