C.S. Lewis on Resurrection: What Did It Really Mean?
From God in the Dock
We come to the strangest story of all, the story of the Resurrection. It is very necessary to get the story clear. I heard a man say, “The importance of the Resurrection is that it gives evidence of survival, evidence that the human personality survives death.” On that view what happened to Christ would be what had always happened to all men, the difference being that in Christ’s case we were privileged to see it happening.
This is certainly not what the earliest Christian writers thought. Something perfectly new in the history of the Universe had happened. Christ had defeated death. The door which had always been locked had for the very first time been forced open. This is something quite distinct from mere ghost-survival. I don’t mean that they disbelieved in ghost-survival. On the contrary, they believed in it so firmly that, on more than on occasion, Christ had had to assure them that he was not a ghost. The point is that while believing in survival they yet regarded the Resurrection as something totally different and new.
The Resurrection narratives are not a picture of survival after death; they record how a totally new mode of being has arisen in the Universe. Something new had appeared in the Universe: as new as the first coming of organic life. This Man, after death, does not get divided into “ghost” and “corpse.” A new mode of being has arisen. This is the story. What are we going to make of it?
The question is, I suppose, whether any hypothesis covers the facts so well as the Christian hypothesis. That hypothesis is that God has come down into the created universe, down to manhood – and come up again, pulling it up with him. The alternative hypothesis is not legend, nor exaggeration, nor the apparitions of a ghost. It is either lunacy or lies. Unless one can take the second alternative (and I can’t) one turns to the Christian view.
“What are we going to make of Christ?” There is no question of what we can make of him, it is entirely a question of what he intends to make of us. You must accept or reject the story.
The things he says are very different from what any other teacher has said. Others say, “This is the truth about the Universe. This is the way you ought to go,” but he says, “I am the truth, and the way, and the life.” He says, “No person can reach absolute reality, except through me. Try to retain your own life and you will be inevitably ruined. Give yourself away and you will be saved.” He says, “If you are ashamed of me, if, when you hear this call, you turn the other way, I also will look the other way when I come again as God without disguise. If anything whatever is keeping you from God and from me, whatever it is, throw it away. If it is your eye, pull it out. If it is your hand, cut it off. If you put yourself first you will be last. Come to me everyone who is carrying a heavy load. I will set that right. Your sins, all of them, are wiped out, I can do that. I am Rebirth. I am Life. Eat me, drink me, I am your Food. And finally, do not be afraid, I have overcome the whole Universe.” That is the issue.