Containing multitudes

Editorial by Anthony Woollard
from Signs of the Times No. 61 - Apr 2016

A Modern Church supporter within my congregation is a great enthusiast for the poetry of Walt Whitman. I have never really got on with Whitman myself, but one stanza of his has resonance with me:

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then, I contradict myself.
I contain multitudes.

This can be read as an extremely pompous and self-satisfied statement, or as an expression of the Boston mysticism which Whitman shared with such as Emily Dickinson. It is probably both, but I prefer to focus on the latter interpretation.

Read more ...

A response to Tim Belben's 'Pronoun paradox'

Susan Stead responds to Tim Belben’s Pronoun paradox in Signs of the Times No. 59 - Oct 2015
from Signs of the Times No. 61 - Apr 2016

Tim Belben’s conclusion to his article is that ‘we need the unavailable gender-less pronoun’. I disagree.

After thousands of years of God as ‘he’, we need first to imagine God as ‘she’ with all the rich imagery and metaphor that evokes. Tim’s aversion to ‘she’ is on the basis that ‘she’ carries echoes of an entirely different religion. Since when has the church balked from taking over other religions and using elements that suit? We’ve taken over the winter solstice and called it Christmas and transformed the spring equinox into Easter. The goddesses have been absorbed as Virgin Mother.

It’s time we took on ‘She’ and claimed our God as one who holds both male and female within her identity – THEN turn to the apophatic way and confirm that God is neither.

Read more ...

Do we need God to be good?

by Christopher Hallpike and Maria Barry
from Signs of the Times No. 61 - Apr 2016

While modern secularists dismiss God and believe we live in a purely material universe, they still suppose we can make human rights the cornerstone of a modern, non-religious morality. Human rights are presented to us as though they were self-evident truths any rational person of good will would agree with.

But secularists either ignore or forget that the idea of human rights originally developed in a specifically Christian context, of the moral unity of all the human race as children of their Heavenly Father, of the dignity of each individual as made in the image of God, and the responsibility of kings, under God, to rule their people justly and to refrain from tyranny. To this limited extent, human rights, in the sense of ‘civil liberties’, are certainly Christian. One can add that the freedom to speak according to one’s conscience established by the Reformation was an essential basis for the liberal value of freedom of expression.

Read more ...

Science-shaped religion?

by Robert Baldwin
from Signs of the Times No. 61 - Apr 2016

Bishop E. W. Barnes was prominent in the Modern Churchman’s Union (now known as Modern Church). In 1927 he delivered a series of sermons (the ‘gorilla sermons’) aimed at synthesizing liberal theology with evolution. In 2010 the Church of England Synod voted overwhelmingly to accept evolution. The current Pope is said to favour ‘theistic evolution’.

So is Barnes’ quest complete; are Christianity and evolution reconciled? Clearly not, given the salvoes launched at each other by atheists and (largely American) evangelicals.

Read more ...

The real Jesus?

by Adrian Alker
from Signs of the Times No. 61 - Apr 2016

Since the Church has always invited its followers to affirm the humanity of Jesus, it would seem obvious that the search for this historical Jesus would always be a part of Christian theology.

So who is this Jesus? Is he the sinless Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary, risen from the dead and declared to be the world’s Saviour and Redeemer by the councils and creeds of the early Church? Or was he a human being, like you and me, whose halo could slip, a remarkable prophetic man of his time and for his time but whose bones lie somewhere in the dust of Palestine? Or could he indeed have been both human and divine? Or is Jesus whatever we want him to be – a dying saviour, an exemplar of justice and compassion, a God presence in our lives, a name to swear by?

Read more ...