I am convinced that the climate of skepticism, which for the last two hundred years has made it unfashionable and even embarrassing to suggest Jesus’ resurrection really happened was never and is not now itself a neutral thing, sociologically or politically. The intellectual coup d’etat by which Enlightenment convinced so many that “we now know that dead people don’t rise,” as though this was a modern discovery rather than simply the reaffirmation of what Homer and Aeschylus had taken for granted, goes hand in hand with the Enlightenment’s other proposals, not least that we have now come of age, that God can be kicked upstairs, that we can get on with running the world however we want to, carving it up to our advantage without outside interference. To that extent, the totalitarianisms of the last century were simply among the manifestations of a larger totalitarianism of thought and culture against which postmodernity has now, and rightly in my view, rebelled. Who, after all, was it who didn’t want the dead to be raised? Not simply the intellectually timid or the rationalists. It was, and is, those in power, the social and intellectual tyrants and bullies; the Caesars who would be threatened by a Lord of the world who had defeated the tyrant’s last weapon, death itself; the Herods who would be horrified at the postmortem validation of the true King of the Jews. And this is the point where believing in the resurrection of Jesus suddenly ceases to be a matter of inquiring about an odd event in the first century and becomes a matter of rediscovering hope in the twenty-first century. Hope is what you get when you suddenly realize that a different worldview is possible, a worldview in which the rich, the powerful, and the unscrupulous do not after all have the last word. The same worldview shift that is demanded by the resurrection of Jesus is the shift that will enable us to transform the world.
Think of Oscar Wilde’s wonderful scene in his play Salome, when Herod hears reports that Jesus of Nazareth has been raising the dead. “I do not wish him to do that,” says Herod. “I forbid him to do that. I allow no man to raise the dead. This man must be found and told that I forbid him to raise the dead.”
There is the bluster of the tyrant who knows his power is threatened, and I hear the same tone of voice not just in politicians who want to carve up the world to their advantage but also in the intellectual traditions that have gone along for the ride.
But Wilde’s next, haunting line is the real crunch, for us as for Herod: “Where is this man?” demands Herod. “He is in every place, my lord,” replies the courier, “but it is hard to find him.”
N.T. Wright, Surprised By Hope, pg 76-77