Some have suggested that if the orthodox version of the resurrection isn’t literally true, then Christianity is necessarily a fraud. I think that’s an example of what John Wilkins (the Salty Vicar) aptly describes as a false dichotomy. [Correction: false
At least according to the synoptic Gospels, the essence of Christianity is three things:
- Love God above all;
- love your neighbor as yourself -- and your neighbor is everyone who crosses your path, not just your fellow tribesman; and
- be willing to change your life to more closely match God’s will.
Other doctrines such as the resurrection, the virgin birth, the atonement, etc., are at best ancillary to the Essential Three. But they did fortuitously serve as pedagogical devices, as “hooks” that got people’s attention and thereby helped them internalize the Essential Three.
If you think about it in communications terms, such ancillary doctrines could have been the equivalent of a tough mailing envelope in which the message of the Essential Three was bundled. Without the envelope, the messge inside might never have gotten through to us.
But we should never confuse the envelope with the message inside.