‘If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain’, declared Paul (I Cor. 15.14). For him and for earliest Christianity as we know it, God’s raising of Christ was the foundation for faith in Christ, and thus the foundation of the church of Christ as well. And it is in fact true that the Christian faith stands or falls with Christ’s resurrection. At this point faith in God and the acknowledgment of Christ coincide. Faith in the God ‘who raised Christ from the dead’ and the confession that ‘Jesus Christ is the Lord’ are mutually interpretative. In chapters III and IV we tried to discover what the confession of Christ means. We shall now turn to the faith in God which provides the foundation for that confession. We shall first of all ask the historical question: what does the original Christian belief in the resurrection say, and what does it not say? We shall go on to ask a theological question: how can belief in the resurrection be understood in the conditions and cognitive forms of modern times? And we shall finally put an ethical question, asking how faith in the resurrection can be convincingly maintained today: what are its consequences?
The event which is called ‘raising’ or ‘resurrection’ is an event that happened to the Christ who died on the cross on Golgotha. Where he himself is concerned, the cross and the resurrection are mutually related, and they have to be interpreted in such a way that the one event appears in the light of the other.1 The cross of Christ is the cross of the Lord who was raised by God and exalted to God. It is only in this correlation that the cross acquires its special saving meaning. The raising by God was experienced by the Christ who ‘was crucified, dead and buried’. It is only in this interrelation that the raising acquires its special saving meaning.