In honour of this weeks lectionary reading from Acts - I would like to confess my own philosophical leanings.. and my puzzlement at those Christians who seem hell bent on pitting faith against reason, as though there were nothing reasonable or intelligent about either the Gospel or your continuing creative presence.
You who know how we are made, who gave to us this amazing thing we call curiosity and set in our hearts a hunger for the truth, seem to delight in communicating with us in riddles and parables. You invite our exploration, tease us with the possibilities that knowledge affords, and then gently persuade us to use the phenomenal intelligence of the whole of humanity to speculate and wonder at the mystery of creation and our place within it.
How sad that religion so often decries the great gift you give to us of collective intelligence, of the progress of knowledge and the slow but inexorable maturing of the mind of humanity. How pathetic when priests, the appointed guardians of the mysteries, perjure their calling by insisting that they already know what the truth is, that we need look no further, seek no harder. We can stop asking and stop knocking at your door because you have already said all you intend to say. The Bible says it all, and what it says is all that we need to know.
Thank you God - that you taught me better than to believe that!
The Bible is your word - but it is not your final word and you never meant for it to be understood literally. If Paul had realised he was going to be quoted for the rest of time, he would have undoubtedly chosen some of his words with more care! (The same can undoubtedly be said of Ezekiel and one or two other authors) The TRUTH of Scripture is not literal, it is alive: real truth is so much more than plain facts.
So I read with joy the following report in the American New Scientist
Almost 13,000 Christian clergy have done it. Nearly 500 Jewish rabbis have too. Now, Islamic teachers, or imams, have begun signing an open letter declaring that there is no clash between their religious faith and evolution.The Imam Letter, launched this week in the US, is the latest challenge to fundamentalists of the three Abrahamic religions who reject evolution in favour of creationism. The Clergy Letter was launched in 2006 and now has 12,725 signatures, followed three years ago by the Rabbi Letter, which has 476 signatures.
So at least some leaders of each of the three great faiths of the Book are united in the great battle against idiocy. It's a small start I know but could we dare to dream that in the not too distant future young and old will rise to the challenge set out in Scripture to grow and flourish as you desire us to. Will the world finally be free of the despotic idiotic presentation of you as the God who punishes thought and questions, doubt and insecurities, the God who is determined to keep humanity submissive and simple! (How on earth such people have ever squared this image of you with the fact that you also gave us mathematics and science I have never quite been able to fathom!)
Can we dare to dream of the day when Dawkin's savage ignorant God dies!
YES, YES and again YES!
And the best of all is, when we stop pitting reason against faith, when we stop demanding that people throw away their brains when they enter the Church, when we stop trying to defend you(?!) from the enlightened questions of your created offspring - then, and only then, will we understand what love really is.
Love that is blind is an easy love to hold on to. It is not the love of the cross which saw the pain and shame and yet still chose to love. If Jesus did not know what he died for - he died in vain. If he was not aware of the cost - it cost nothing - if his love was blind, it was no love at all.
Love which is pure faith is not the love of the Spirit which leads us into all truth about ourselves and then still demands us to love ourselves - completely. If all that we needed was the Good News of Christ, then why was the Spirit sent? If all that we needed was the Bible, why bother with the gift of tongues? If all that was said and done was all that you ever intended for us to know - why does the Spirit continue to breathe new life into your people, and impart new gifts of grace for this age?
Above all this - Love that does not dare to question is not the love of Christ who demands to know - 'why have you forsaken me?' Your love does not, nor has it ever, belittled the pain and suffering of your people. We hear from your own lips the question so many need the answer to. And in response we learn to listen as you plead in your love for us 'How long will you forget me?'
Reasonable rational knowing love, love which is not afraid of the questions as well as the dreams and aspirations of the other is the love that you ask of us. Not the love of a supplicant, fearful and afraid to do anything else, nor the love of the mindless adherent, empty and ignorant of why they do what they do. But the love of a child, trusting yet inquisitive, determined to grow and become all that they can be. Delighting in discovery, enjoying being teased by the puzzles and riddles you set them, and spellbound by the parables and the stories you tell.
This is the love that flourishes and lasts forever - for there is an eternity of mystery to explore and you seem to delight in the processes of revelation.
You are not unknown to me God- and I too struggle with the concept of resurrection, but nonetheless. you hold me enthralled by the very opportunity to discover more! I do not yet know what knowledge is, or understand how I know what I claim to know- epistemology is as much of a riddle to me as resurrection - but I am keen to try and make the leap from reason to faith and back again as required in order to gain the greater prize of a love that I can comprehend.
So thank you God for the way in which you continue to open my mind to the potential for greater understanding - for insisting that growth in grace and holiness includes growth in knowledge and understanding.
I look forward to learning more.