Right Or Wrong?

One of my friends posted this link to his FaceBook page:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=beYYZRN1sEs

For those who can’t or don’t want to listen, a young woman asks Richard Dawkins “What if you’re wrong?” He, in my opinion typically, avoids the question, assumes that the young woman is a Christian (which she hasn’t stated) and then proceeds to sneer at her supposed belief as an accident of birth and ends by saying “What if you’re wrong about the Great JuJu at the bottom of the sea?” The clip ends with loud cheers from his supporters. It’s a masterful, yet unedifying, performance, and I feel sorry for the young woman, who must surely have felt mocked.

She might be wrong. I might be wrong - I often am, about all kinds of things. Dawkins might be wrong too. My friend says that he thinks Dawkins was trying to illustrate how pointless the question is, and that, in this life we can never truly know whether we are right on these fundamental questions. I can’t deny that. I can’t be as certain about my opinion on these fundamental questions as I am about the fact that I’m sitting on a chair now, typing these words into my iMac.

Scripture has something to say on the subject of being wrong about the resurrection, and all the belief that follows on from it.

But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. 1 Corinthians 15: 12-19

Here I am mostly concerned with verse 19 (but wanted to put it in context, which is why I quoted the rest):

If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

This sentence is a bit confusing; it is little less so in the original Greek - the word order is as follows:

"If in this life in Christ we have hoped only..."

The "only" seems therefore to qualify the whole sentence: "If we have merely hoped in Christ, and that only in this life..."

Anyway, the sense seems to be that, if I am wrong about the resurrection, and what I believe is wrong, I will be pitiable. I accept that. But if I do turn out to have been wrong when it ‘comes to the crunch’; if there really is no ‘life after death’, I’m not likely to be able to care, am I?

The implications of this sentence really ‘bite’ most deeply in situations where Christians are suffering persecution - if we’re wrong about the resurrection, then going through all that pain and stress really is pointless, and pitiable. There is an extent though, to which all Christians have to ‘bear their cross’ - if all they give up and suffer is sacrificed to a delusion, they richly deserve our pity, not least because they have been most conspicuously fooled!

But, in another sense, if the rewards in this life are such that a little suffering is worthwhile, perhaps the balance begins to swing the other way. In that sense, perhaps, Christians might still be ‘the happiest of men’ - their delusion, if delusion it be, if judged by its fruits, is more blessed than the dreary blank which would seem to form the most likely alternative.

For me personally, I do believe, fervently, that Christ is the firstborn from the dead, and that where he leads, his followers will surely follow. That doesn’t mean that I don’t doubt. Sometimes, when compared to the mundanities of everyday life, it just seems too fantastical, and almost unbelievable.

But I consider myself ‘the happiest of men’. Being a member of Christ’s body, the church, has brought me rich rewards - a wife and many dear, dear, friends - people I’d die for and who would, I know, die for me. My life before was, to say the least, miserable. I was virtually friendless and ‘unbefriendable’ - I had learned to trust no-one and no-one, it seemed, liked or trusted me. Even if I *were* wrong about Christianity, and it all turned out to be a delusion and there is no heaven, I am better off now, as part of this ‘fellowship of fools’, than if I had stayed as I was. From my perspective, I can’t lose...

Copyright Phil Hendry, 2022