Tuesday, 18 August 2015
Gretta and Me (2)
Last week I wrote about my reaction to re-encountering Gretta Vosper in the media. Gretta Vosper is the noted United Church of Canada minister who is a self-declared atheist. I was surprized by the intensity of my reaction to her as her position does not have a direct impact on me as an Anglican Priest.
I also admitted I had to admire her honesty even if I didn’t agree with her decision to stay within the United Church. I had hoped she would explain what she did believe in. She did proclaim that she could not believe in a theistic being in the sky who answered prayer. Vosper noted she did not use scripture or the word “God” in her church services or if she did she went on to clarify “by God I mean…” However, in my investigation I was never able to discover what she did mean by “God”. As I noted she calls herself an atheist and she believes in a church which has a “new and wholly humanistic approach to religion” as noted on her web-site.
With that said, I thought it is only right to elaborate this week on what I believe when I use the word “God”. I believe that part of the intensity of my reaction to Vosper is that I have travelled what may be something of a similar road that she has only it appears I have ended up on a different path. Religion has always been a significant part of my life. My father was a United Church of Canada minister and I was part of the United Church for the first half of my life before ending up where I am now i.e. an Anglican. I went through a time of self-declared atheism/agnosticism. I came back to the a place of belief in a long circuitous journey that went through Process Theology al a Henry Nelson Wieman (my father’s influence) and on to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Carl Jung. There have been many other influences which are more main-line and currently include Allan Jones and Richard Rohr. As you can see from these influences, my theology is not orthodox and I have had struggles with the orthodoxy of the church and how to incorporate all this into a practice as an Anglican priest and be forthright in my preaching and interacting with parishioners.
Like Vosper I do not believe in a theistic God figure in the sky that acts as “God the Butler” and is called up conveniently when we need “Him”. I also do not believe in scripture as the inerrant word of God. I believe it is divinely inspired and is a reflection of people struggling to understand God in their time and place and responding to God in their lives. I believe that God does speak to us today in those scriptures and can reveal God’s intention for us. I believe that whenever we try to define God we will be mistaken in that we can never catch more than small aspect of who and what God is. To call God, the Father, or He, or She, or It or Process is wrong in that it is incomplete and puts God in a box which must, of necessity, be less that God is.
I do believe in a Trinitarian God of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This may seem paradoxical but I believe that paradox is essential in our relationship to God. God the Father of the Trinity is shorthand for that which created all and holds all of creation together. I believe that creation is in process which can bring us closer to God. As noted by Richard Rohr:
in Teilhard's view, Christian life is essential to the progress of evolution. He emphasized that the role of the Christian is to divinize the world in Jesus Christ, to "christify" the world by our actions, by immersing ourselves in the world, plunging our hands, we might say into the soil of the earth and touching the roots of life.
Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Trinity, is the “Omega Point” of Teihard and the “Self” of Carl Jung and similar concepts which is the divine revelation of what that evolution can be for humankind.
The Holy Spirit, the third Person, is the power which moves over creation and moves us to respond to God in our lives. However, we are called to respond to that. However, there is no guarantee that people will respond. That is what we are called to do as Christians—be in relationship with “God” and respond to God working in our lives.
It is my projection that Vosper may believe in a divine power that that may have some similarities to what I believe. However, I also believe she has decided not to use “God” or the Bible and to call herself an atheist because this language has been so misused by people in unchristian ways. However, that is truly throwing out the Divine baby with the religious bathwater. We need to reclaim the language of God and scripture and determine God’s truth that is here for the world.
I will end with words of wisdom by Simone Weil, quoted recently by Richard Rohr, “There is, as it were, an incarnation of God in the world and it is indicated by beauty. The beautiful is the experimental proof that the incarnation is possible. The beauty of the world is Christ's tender smile for us, coming through matter.”