The future of faith
David Palmer (‘Your Say’, Insights, October/November) courageously sets out his views and the challenge that many of us have if we are to make sense of our faith when living in the 21st century. David’s views certainly strike many chords with me.
Although it may not be so in all cases, I have found many of the Uniting Church Congregations of which I have been a part are, indeed, very inclusive and generally willing to embrace a wide range of theological views. In my view, the only way that Christianity will survive in Western society is if people are able to continue to explore their faith in the most open-ended way possible.
Back in 1965, the English theologian Leslie Weatherhead wrote, “No honest mind can exclude doubt, or ignore criticism, or shut its ears against reason. And if we do these things we should be left, not with faith, but with a head-in-the-sand superstition.”
Weatherhead’s views are even more pertinent today when we note the specific challenges to traditional religious views such as in astronomy, with so many far-reaching insights into the origins and immensity of the universe. At the other end of the scale, there are advances in our knowledge of the human genome that reveal an extensive DNA overlap between human beings and other life forms.
Along with the many other advances in science, medicine, sociology and psychology, our understanding of how we humans function grows exponentially year-by-year. This surely means that our religious understandings have to be recast too if they are to be meaningful to the widest possible range of people in the future. This doesn’t mean that we lose the essential experience of
God that Christians believe we have met in Jesus. But we do need to escape from the limitations of the tradition, the distortions, barriers and boundaries that hold us back, so that we can experience the same God of Jesus — but in terms of what speaks to us now.
American philosopher John D. Caputo writes: “Whatever you say God is, God is more. There is no formula with which God can be described.” God remains a mystery and if we absolutise our God-belief, we lapse into idolatry. But we certainly need to be thinking well beyond the old theistic understanding of God as a supernatural being who dwells outside this world and who can be called on to periodically visit us to assert the divine will, before retreating once again.
As David Palmer pleads, we need to be free to continue to explore matters of our faith, our humanity and the mystery of the divine — and where better to do that than in an inclusive, accepting church community.
Robert Henderson, Jerrabomberra.