So I do not mind if I stand accused of ‘speculation’ – of seeking to find new ways to recover the original ‘Way of Jesus’ behind the ancient language. For the old language and old “faith” were born of times when people had no concept of the scale of the universe or of its evolution towards life, of the birth of self aware minds seeking understanding of our meaning and purpose.
- We will still begin from the Bible – but we are free to see it as a record of our human response to God, not as a divine product with divine authority.
- For us the Bible is historical and metaphorical – not literal and factual.
- The Bible explains and motivates through metaphors and sacramental actions – it is not a source of given doctrine and morals – but a route to ever new insight and responsibility.
- What the Bible points to is a “transformation in this life” through inner relationship with the reality Who is in all things. The emphasis on belief as a way to salvation in an afterlife - is a misinterpretation.
First we need to get to the heart – the essence - of the tradition. I believe we need to radically reinterpret and restate core elements in Christianity in order to renew the faith and begin to call new disciples!
- Faith would be essentially experiential, not overly concerned with ‘belief’. It would not be about “assent” to certain increasingly unbelievable interpretations – but about a way of action in and for the world. Remember the passage in Hebrews 11 – “By Faith Abel, etc …”. It was their deeds that demonstrated faith. There would be no tests for orthodoxy, just a welcome to “follow the Way of Jesus”. We would have an open table at communion – celebrated as “Christ’s feast with the world” – God in sacrament of bread and wine – everyday things for everyday people.
- The Bible would still be affirmed as central to Christian identity. It remains our foundational source document, though we would not claim it as the only source of God’s disclosure. It would inform ethics and morality but not free us from the task of doing our own thinking in a world of ever more amazing human capacities in science, medicine and technology. The Bible only has very general principles to offer on most of the hard choices facing today’s decision makers. As Christians we have to “come of age” – and need to take on the responsibility for the planet and our world order – alongside all people of faith or humanistic care.
- God would still be explored as the “heart” of Reality. Christians would affirm God as the mysterious, tremendous, facinating “more” at the heart of all things – over against the non religious world view that claims there is no “more” only “this” – the space-time randomly evolving world of energy matter and life. How the mystery of God and the life we are in this Universe came to be would be an exiting ongoing quest – tested through both science and theology.
- Jesus would be for Christians their decisive disclosure of God, without saying he’s the only source of God’s disclosure to the world. We would honour Jesus as a complete human being, fully grounded in the heart of the universe - revealing the Heart of God - the Christ we too are called to be.
Born Again – is the traditional language used to express the process by which people reach a mature decision to follow Jesus. Being a Christian is about transformation – of ourselves and our society. It is personal and political – bringing political, social, economic and environmental justice to the world. We are born again or renewed when we awaken and begin to live out that call. Mission is thus a call to change our and others ways of life. We need to align our daily living with the insight that comes from letting God’s reality flood our lives. This does not come from believing things but from trusting, insight and experience. It is metaphorical language but can lead to real change. What Nicodemus failed to see in John Chapter 3 is that God calls all human beings to personal transformation.
So, basically its all OK! Whatever our views, lets get stuck in to building the vision together where we can, honouring but challenging difference – and seeing where it all leads.
John Hetherington – July 2007