Items posted on 29 June 2012
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Theology’s wrong turning.
Posted: 29 June 2012 in Scripture

I hope my readers will excuse the departure from the usual format, but I have a rant I want to get off my chest.

I hope also that John Selby Spong will excuse me for taking his name in vain, but in him we have a former Anglican bishop who has difficulty believing any of the articles in the Apostles’ Creed (and I do mean any). Does he call himself an atheist? Not at all, he is a “believer”. In him, I suppose, we have the end point of that piece of foolishness which is commonly known as liberal theology. Naturally that craziness did not come from nowhere, and it has its roots in the loss of confidence which befell theologians when science became the “in” thing – having, as it did, tangible results it could put on display (like electricity). Religion came to be thought of as being old fashioned and pretty irrelevant, with nothing tangible to offer. Scientists became the new high priests.

The temptation then befell theologians, which they did not for one moment resist, of trying and make themselves relevant by adapting themselves to the spirit of the age. They too wanted to be somehow scientific. They didn’t stand much chance of aping the physical sciences, so perhaps they could settle for second best with things like history and philosophy. For a discipline which had those pretensions, things like miracles and the Ressurection, which decidedly did not fit in with the scientific world view, were a bit of an embarrassment. So a gradual junking of the Bible and the Creeds took place, becoming ever more daring in how much it was prepared to discard as time went by. Finally we arrived at John Selby Spong and others like him.

The only problem was, of course, that nobody was fooled by a theology defined as something other than the study of God’s revelation. Even before the Spongs came on the scene, people could smell a mile off the odour of something which had lost confidence in itself, and which was now trying to clothe itself in garments more fitted to the spirit of the age. The solution offerred for the evident lack of progress in persuading people that religion had anything to offer was – more of the same.

In giving us the benefit of his wisdom, former Bishop Spong says that, if Christianity is to survive, it must change. In one sense he is right, but not in the sense he intends. If Christianity is to survive, it will have to be a case of back to the future. Theologians will once again have to return to their proper task of working out the implications which follow from reading the Eternal Word of God. Adhering to biblical revelation will not necessarily get you a theology which is very easy to live with, nor will it gat you one which is “scientific” in any sense, but it will get you one which is coherent, and which does due justice to the eternal glory of God. Theology will once again need to be a discipline which stands on its own two feet, without trying to ape another. Then, although it might sound a bit old fashioned (eternal truths by definition do not change) at least a few people might notice that it no longer has the smell of something in terminal decline.

Having said all that, systematic theologies which spend half their pages railing against the theory of evolution won’t help much either. In doing so, they too betray a basic lack of confidence that the Bible is compatible with modern scientific knowledge, and Richard Dawkins needs no help from them in putting that idea out into the public domain.

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