The resurrection renews the world. It makes it new so that it is a new world. The resurrection has opened and so transformed the world in which we live. Of course it is not until we are baptised that we begin to learn this, and through years of discipleship begin to grasp the dimensions of this transformation. The pagans – that is, anyone untouched by the gospel – live in a closed world, in which every man must fear that a gain for his neighbour is a loss for himself. They are locked in and set one against another in unending conflict. This was the world of our ancestors, until the gospel arrived. The gospel told them that God has broken through into this world, has made himself at home in it, and comes and goes in and out of our sight, beyond our control and beyond our ability to summons him or deny him. He is Lord of time and space. Every barrier and confinement we meet opens before him to let him enter. Though solid to us all, creation is porous to him. The master comes goes as he please. The elements of the world divide to his right and left and bow before him as he passes. No time or place confines or contains him. All places and times are the places that he creates and opens to us, so that we may meet and encounter one another and live together there. All places are his hospitality to us. As this realisation sunk into our pagan forebears they learned a much more benign and tolerant attitude to one another, the mighty to the weak, and they ceased to fear one another, learned to trust those with whom they had no ties of blood, and so learned to live together in much greater units. They gave up living in tribes that were committed to aggrandisement through war, and became a nation, a community of people under one law.
The gospel our ancestors received, released them and delivered them from ties of blood and the cycles of retaliation, and ceased to be so afraid of one another. They were on their way toward a civil society.
The Christian gospel makes very great claims for the dignity of human beings. Impossibly great, some have said. The gospel commands us to regard every single human being as a person, so claiming for them a great range of godlike attributes. They are free. They are sovereign, independent and autonomous. They are rational. We may speak to them and they may speak to us. Each is available and accountable to every other. None is too mighty to be held accountable. You may address them and attempt to persuade them and expect that they will respond rationally. They speak for themselves so no one speak for them or take their voice away. They are not interchangeable, and one cannot substitute for another. They cannot be collectivised or conglomerated. Each of them is unique, an irreplaceable one-off. This is a very high view of man. On this basis, man – every single human being – is like God, a true counterpart and companion of God. That is the new thing that the Christian gospel into human culture. It made public what was implicit in Israel’s Law. Other than that, no human political culture had conceived such a revolution as this.
The culture created, or at least, transformed by the gospel, is evidence of the divine nature. It is evidence of God. It is of course not proof of God; the evidence that it represents may be overlooked, the pattern not recognised. Yet the pattern is there that reveals a history and causality. Western society is the product of the Church and the Church is the product of the resurrection.