DON CUPITT

 

Is it possible for people, and even for a whole society, to lose faith in God? ... [If] it happens, [it is] not primarily because something they used to think existed does not after all exist, but because the available language about God has been allowed to become too narrow, stale and spiritually obsolete ... the work of creative religious personalities is continually to enrich, to enlarge and sometimes to purge the available stock of religious symbols and idioms ... (The Sea of Faith, 1984)


DENNIS NINEHAM

 

... people of different periods and cultures differ very widely; in some cases so widely that accounts of the nature and relations of God, men and the world put forward in one culture may be unacceptable, as they stand, in a different culture ... a situation of this sort has arisen ... at about the end of the eighteenth century a cultural revolution of such proportions broke out that it separates our age sharply from all ages that went before (The Use and Abuse of the Bible, 1976)


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The Force of Faith
Richard DeRemee 

Each time I consider matters pertaining to religion and particularly to Christianity my thoughts inevitably return to my paternal grandmother, Matilda. At age 19 she immigrated to America following a brother who preceded her by a number of years. Brother Sven had found good employment in Minnesota as a skilled cabinet builder. He underwrote Matilda's passage on a sailing ship to America.

Matilda found employment as a house maid and acquired competence in English, maintaining a charming Swedish lilt. She had no formal language training. Then she met Adolf, also a Swedish immigrant, and they married when she was 29 and Adolf 32. The union produced three boys, my father being in the middle. I was often in the care of Matilda when both of my parents were working. This was a blessing as it was from her I developed my religious sentiments.

Grandmother was a woman of strong faith having been raised in the traditions of the Swedish Lutheran Church. To her God was real, and His influence on her life was real. She read the Bible and prayed for God's guidance and support daily. She was unsophisticated. Her meager formal education that ceased on immigration, was provided by the local priest. Although pious, she was not a stiff moralist. She accepted everyone recognizing that she was a sinner as were all persons.

Life in American was hard and challenging. Adolf, a millwright, provided a marginal living standard but he seemed indifferent to the marriage contract. Though he was not unfaithful he was not affectionate to his wife and I sensed he considered her more as a housemaid than a spouse.

It was Matilda who held the family together and it was her faith that empowered her. Her example remains with me. Adolf and Matilda died at ages 90 and 87 respectively, three months apart.

I provide this lengthy prologue to make a number of points regarding the scholarly and finely-argued essay, Revelation Revisited.

First I would ask, is Christian Faith important in the search for and maintenance of human happiness thus contributing a positive influence to civil society? If it is, should it only be the province of those who are highly educated and have been exposed to and understand concepts such as "category error" or "systems.'? 

In the case of Matilda the answers are yes and no respectively. She would be shocked to hear that God did not inspire the Bible. Somehow, despite her lack of understanding of the intricacies of intellectual argument, her faith was a very positive influence in her difficult 87 years on Earth. 

I am sure millions of people have similar stories. If we make a category error when we say, "My heart is full of joy", I am sure most folks will understand what is meant. Interpretations of Jesus and the Church may indeed change over time and evolve out of the culture from which they come. Along and with such change remain abiding and constant truths that may take on different appearances.

The author totally nullifies Faith and Revelation and with it Free Will. As a consequence the idea of Sin is destroyed. This is facilitated by the introduction of the concept of "Systems" that is reified into a universal mechanism to solve the mystery of existence.

What I perceive from this essay is a very adroit rendition of the old argument amongst theologians, atheists, metaphysicians, physicians and whoever wants to join the fray, as to whether or not there is a God or a non-physical reality that we can access. 

No matter how much the sciences advance in their understanding of the physical World, this question will, in all likelihood, remain unanswered and unanswerable. I agree that Myths are essential to religious sentiment. I see no reason why one cannot  grasp physical reality and at the same time understand the mystery, beauty, guidance and consolation of Christianity. If Jesus is not divine, then we have turned him into a cult figure. That is a precarious path to diminishing His influence in our culture.

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