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)



... 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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Leave the Weeds

Matthew 13.31, 44  The kingdom of heaven is like this ...

I thought I might look at the issue of salvation for this Sunday - so I am sorry if it turns into a Pentecostal bashing exercise. 

I get so sick of their smug certainty over their own and others' salvation. So its time to get my clubs out again. I got told off by a parishioner the other day because I bash them too much and I must agree perhaps there are some nice ones around. 

However, its their niceness that is sometimes the problem. Another parishioner was sad the other day and after some prying by me, she said that she felt so unworthy because a good Christian friend had said in a letter to her that she had missed the boat to the kingdom of God and that therefore she was destined for hell. Its so hard to convince some that such people are not nice Christians. They are sinister people out desperately to exert their own power through the domination of others.

I used to get so angry, that I left scripture out of most of my discussions. But I think Bishop John Spong is right. He says we need to rescue the myths and stories of our faith journey from the hands of our fundamentalist brothers and sisters, and restore them to their proper place.

Today's parables are great for reaffirming the importance of not judging each other so harshly as to who will or will not make it into heaven. It's a way we Christians exercise power over others in a kind of humble, nice way. We have become very good at smiling at some to their face whilst reaching for the appropriate knife to get them when they least expect it (aren't we nice!- not).

First, we hear that the kingdom is not so clear and that it needs to be searched for and discovered. And second, when we do get a glimpse of it we will want to be part of it no matter what it takes. 

No doubt the early Christians were also preoccupied with the question who had made it and who hadn't. 

Their questions are answered when they are told to leave the weeds and let them grow up alongside the wheat. In other words, stop trying to answer the stupid and unanswerable questions of the faith. Instead, preoccupy yourself with looking for the kingdom that's somewhere around close at hand. 

Stop wasting time and resume our acts of kindness to each other, our generosity, our mercy, our forgiveness and our humility. I reckon when we are doing these types of things we have begun to unearth the great treasure.

As to whether some will be burnt with the chaff in the big fire - I really don't know. 

For me God cannot be an unconditional lover if she would let some burn if they so choose. It's in this passage I feel another answer emerging. 

The treasure, when found, will be so wonderful that we will all want it desperately. 

I like what was said in the Church Dogmatics paper from the Vatican II Council of the Roman Catholic Church. It affirmed that those who had begun to search for meaning in their lives - or in the words of Paul Tillich, had begun to discover their "depth of being" - were already on the road to salvation. 

Indeed Tillich went on to say that if this were so he doubted very much if there was anyone you could call an atheist because we have all at some time or other asked the deep questions of our own being. 

So maybe we do have a choice. But the kingdom is so wonderful that none of us choose not to have it.

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