Do you think it is naive to be hopeful?

Not optimistic, but hopeful

“You are quite sensible, but how can you believe in all this fairy tale stuff? And then the thing about the resurrection? That's totally weird! ”I heard such crucial questions not infrequently at a time when conferences did not end with awkward waving to the zoom orcus, but included“ in vino veritas ”discussions at the conference dinner. Each question intention is unique and different from others. One wants to mock or provoke, the other seeks meaning, the third consolation, the fourth is simply curious. Each question deserves its own answer. I have to abstract from all this when I share a few thoughts why to me, who see myself as a modern person, "resurrection" is important in my and for my life:

I do not share the wish of one of the most recognized theologians of the 20th century - also in the philosophical guild - Wolfhart Pannenberg. He wanted to historically "prove" the resurrection with the method arsenal of modern historical science. He was by no means so naive as to advocate the thesis that - had the appropriate technology existed - one could have seen Jesus of Nazareth step out of the grave after the angel had rolled away the stone. But just as historians very briskly reconstructed other events from antiquity, one could, Pannenberg said, speak plausibly of the historicity of the resurrection: equal rights for all! I lack this apologetic interest. I also don't think that one gets to the "sense" of the talk of the resurrection or at least induces religiously unmusical people to think about their own existence in the face of this religious and cultural founding document of Christianity.

In my opinion, you don't do that either, if you want to understand it as “the cause of Jesus goes on” - for the “boom” that the first successor community has seized, this is probably an all too shallow formulation. And if one then wants to understand pious tones or a revolutionary interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount by “the matter of Jesus”, those who are no longer familiar with the “special group semantics” (Niklas Luhmann) of Christianity only hear rustling. The fact that resurrection in Christianity should stand for the fact that love is forever stronger than death may "somehow" comfort those for whom there is unbroken endurance, "which seems to everyone in childhood and in which nobody has been" (Ernst Bloch). Many modern people, including Christians, do not want to give up their minds when they ask themselves whether the resurrection has a potential for opening up their presence - e.g. in times of the Corona.

Absolute collapse of meaning

So let's put aside religious and metaphysical “descriptions” of reality about the hereafter, but please also remain relaxed if a few religious motifs are to be taken up in the following and then interpreted secularly. Don't worry: nothing should be proven! First: Resurrection of the body does not mean immortality of the soul. With his talk of the resurrection, Paul, unlike many theologians after him, acknowledged that the body is significant, indeed infinitely significant. In contrast to the long Platonic tradition of Christianity, the body is not only understood as a transitory stage or a dungeon that has to be broken into. Rather, Paul makes it clear in the first letter to the Corinthians: "What I am as a physical being, in all my vulnerability, my frailty, my finitude, that counts infinitely" (and Christ: inside add: "by and before God") - a thought that can shine on the concept of human dignity.

Then: Easter, the feast of the resurrection, so the belief in the religious culture of Christianity, does not exist without Good Friday, i.e. the experience of total abandonment by God. Or to put it secularly: the real possibility of an absolute collapse of meaning. This, in turn, occurs, “symbolically”, after Maundy Thursday, the day that symbolizes how quickly we humans make the transition from the excessive community celebration of “pretty good friends” to life-destroying betrayal. This means for the interpretation of the resurrection: Nobody may preach or sing about the triumph of life who does not have the constant struggle between death and life, biologically and socially, in mind. To put it secularly: it is radically bad for us humans as humans. Good Friday relentlessly holds up a mirror to human existence: We do not need to wait for a Messiah of ours. Ecce homo! This exclamation of Pilate intended for Jesus is not only for those who drag themselves to the place of torture, but also for us, the constant spectators, in the whole ambivalence that Pilate radiates between despotism and the search for truth.

Each of them may paint the stage for themselves on which they can record personal or social Calvary experiences - those who cannot name them have not lived, probably only suppressed them. What a realistic “dialectic of the Enlightenment” the stories of the Passion draw - in spite of all progress optimists! “No reason for optimism” - the Marxist literary scholar Terry Eagleton calls out to us - and hits the nail on the head when it comes to human senses and attitudes. But to his sober "not optimistic" he adds - apparently paradoxically -: "hopeful". You can hardly get the punch line of the resurrection message for secular people to the point better than with Eagleton's catchy book title (just turned around by me): not optimistic, but hopeful.

All orders can be blown up

In contrast to Ernst Bloch's attempt to impose on us in the final passage of the “Principle of Hope” quoted above, hope is formed if one wants to understand it as a resurrection hope, not like a legitimate expectation from diligent activity homo faber. This image of hope remains stuck in the feasibility mode, which is not very disappointing, be it in politics, economics, but also religion as work justice. Think of the quasi messianic expectations towards Barak Obama or the hopes of reaching the end of history after the fall of the “iron curtain” - how naive, embarrassing or presumptuous, in retrospect.

All imagined futures may be meticulously planned; Resurrection is a form of hope against all optimism, against all teleology. That is why it testifies more than Adorno's wanting to cause unrest, but not very inspiring “Because what is is not everything”, even different from Horkheimer's protest saying “... that the murderer should not triumph over the innocent victim”. I personally have sympathy for such secular reimaginations of resurrection. But when Paul speaks of the fact that the resurrection should actually be called resurrection, then he wants to say in the context of his religious culture: It is only a divine act. Translated secularly, this also means: Resurrection is not a human possibility. With the talk of the resurrection it is expressed that in the present a “beyond being”, “something other than being”, a hope for what one does not see (Paul, letter to Romans 8:24) breaks into .

The narrative of the resurrection can therefore sensitize, even for secular people, to the insight that one can count on it, and I would even say count on it, beyond all plans that one may and should have for granted, that one can pursue carefully and responsibly It is allowed that not only new things, but unexpectedly new things open up, that extraordinary things can happen and that order and forms of life can be exploded. Not only is the whole more than the sum of its parts. From the beyond of being, and there was good for Plato - who was scolded in other respects - that is: unintended, not intended and not negotiated, salvation can come. Sometimes it grows, and one hopes for it where the danger lurks. But one can always reckon with the one who will save, not only in case of danger - it comes towards, interrupting and thwarting one's own - and so the hope: still thwarting one's own cross.

Departure from nowhere

If the resurrection narrative is reformulated in such a secular way, then of course it does not constitute an instruction for action. Rather, it is the blowing up of all instructions and strategies. One has these experiences of the unexpected, of “I / we are not to be beaten”, of “there is still something going because: there is still something to come!” In the form of religion, the other with culture, again others in sport, in the Family, with friends, "among people". Everywhere breaks that cannot be deduced from human endeavors can occur. They make the supposedly last into the penultimate, bring unwanted dynamics into life - and this readjustment is good for us. Resurrection as hope beyond all preparations for planned futures also means: “We don't have to be or do the last thing.” Because regardless of whether resurrection in the Christian sense gives me “comfort in life or death” (according to the Heidelberg Catechism) or I in These days - whatever - experience that the light at the end of the tunnel is not always an oncoming train - you can expect to be able to see unexpectedly differently if you hope that something new will come out of nowhere or the supposed everything can come. That is realistic resurrection hope. •

Peter Dabrock is professor for systematic theology with a focus on ethics at the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg. From 2012 to 2020 he was a member of the German Ethics Council and its chairman from 2016 to 2020. He (together with Patrik Hummel, Matthias Braun, Steffen Augsberg and Ulrich von Ulmenstein) will shortly publish “Data Sovereignty - Governance Approaches for the Health Sector” (Springer VS).