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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Keeping Jesus Alive
by Paul Walker

For the last two months I have worked (as a hospital chaplain) in the secular world, after sixteen years in a Church-based ministry. The contrast is marked.

One constant, however, is certain people�s insistence that I am not really a Christian.

While working as a parish priest I was always honest about my beliefs. People knew that I couldn�t accept the gospel narratives as literal history. Specifically, I didn�t believe Jesus� mother was a virgin or that he was literally resuscitated three days after his death. People knew that I considered the Nicene Creed an interesting part of the Christian tradition to which I belonged. As such, I was happy to recite it. But they recognised that I didn�t believe that it accurately described God.

Members of my congregations on the whole accepted that these were my beliefs. But often more conservative colleagues would become quite annoyed and insist that I was not a Christian. My attempt to live as I understood Jesus demanded was not considered relevant. My faith was judged by my beliefs. These were not "orthodox", or "biblical" or "the faith once delivered to the saints". So I couldn�t be considered a Christian.

The other day I fell into conversation with two members of staff at the hospital in which I now work. Both described themselves as atheists. They were talking about attempts at creating meaning. They asked for my take. I explained that I thought Christianity is a way of life which demands a radical rethink of what it is to be human and that it is based upon the incredible teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. I explained, however, that I believed that a lot of the traditional stuff about miracles, virgin births and resurrections was not really part of the core of Christianity but an ancient attempt to explain things which are hard to grasp.

Both the people to whom I was talking found they were interested in what I was saying but insisted that it was not Christianity. For them Christianity is a set of impossible beliefs which they can dismiss.

I suggest that their problem is that my arguments are credible.

Atheists on the whole do not wish Christians to make sense. Better by far that they remain people who believe, for instance, in the literal Adam and Eve story. Then they can be dismissed as crackpots.

And there's the rub. I know that many readers of this website come here because it offers thoughts on Christianity which seem sensible and thought-provoking. It suggests a kind of faith which might be possible for intelligent, educated people at the start of the twenty-first century. That is precisely the kind of faith which is not much on display on the Internet or elsewhere. It is as if there was a conspiracy between conservative believers and atheists to prevent a credible faith being heard.

For several years I gave short talks on the radio for the British Broadcasting Corporation, a notably secular organisation. Two years ago I explained how the Christmas story was mythical. This created a surprising controversy and I was told I would not be used again. It is as if we have either to accept a Sunday School version of Christianity or dismiss the whole lot. Atheists suggest that the only version of Christianity on offer is a simplistic one in which we deny our intellect and believe the impossible.

This is a quick and easy way to kill Christianity off completely.

Those who come to this website may be told by certain Church leaders that they are not really Christians. But they nevertheless hold to their faith.

I believe that it is people like you who might just keep the teachings of Jesus alive for the next generation.