Two people I have come to admire conversed with each other recently, and the interview now appears in The New York Times: How a cancer diagnosis makes Jesus’ death and resurrection mean so much more. Tish Harrison Warren regularly writes for the Times and is a priest in the Anglican Church in North America. Author of Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life, Warren manifests considerable Christian wisdom in her writings, which are definitely worth reading. Here she interviews Timothy Keller, former pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, who recently authored a new book, Hope in Times of Fear: the Resurrection and the Meaning of Easter. Keller has been suffering from stage 4 pancreatic cancer for the past two years. An excerpt from Keller in this interview:
If the resurrection of Jesus Christ really happened, then ultimately, God is going to put everything right. Suffering is going to go away. Evil is going to go away. Death is going to go away. Aging is going to go away. Pancreatic cancer is going to go away. Now if the resurrection of Jesus Christ did not happen, then I guess all bets are off. But if it actually happened, then there’s all the hope in the world . . . .I personally owe a debt of gratitude to Keller, whose repeated endorsements of my Political Visions and Illusions since 2020 have greatly increased the numbers of those reading it. I would love to be able to thank him in person, but, failing that, I will continue to pray for God to sustain him and his family through the present trial. May God bless him and prolong his life of service to the church of Jesus Christ.
We all deep down kind of know that this is the way life ought to be, and if the resurrection of Jesus Christ happens, then all those things are literally going to come true for us.
That’s the reason you have this paradox. On the one hand, the resurrection is a kind of very concrete thing to talk about, like “What is the evidence for this historical event?” Probably the single best book on this subject in the last 100 years is N.T. Wright’s book “The Resurrection of the Son of God.”
Yet if we come to the place where we accept it, then suddenly there’s no limit to what kinds of things we can look forward to. I know some of your readers are thinking, “I can’t believe there’s a person with more than a third-grade education that actually believes that.” But I do. And these last few months, as we’ve gotten in touch with these great parts of our faith, Kathy and I would both say we’ve never been happier in our lives, even though I’m living under the shadow of cancer.