Posts Tagged ‘faith’

Change or Atrophy—Today’s Choice

Posted on: January 27th, 2017 by Wayne Fraser No Comments

Having questioned the Creeds in the October issue of Niagara Anglican, we thought we would follow up with what we believe. We worship God who created all things, follow Jesus who is our teacher, healer and friend, and hear the Holy Spirit who communicates all we need to know and do.

There are many ways of understanding, worshipping and serving. Wherever we are on the theological spectrum, we all need the courage, theological understanding and common sense necessary to tackle the great and inevitable changes and challenges facing our religious institutions today.

The concept of Original Sin is the key to obsolete beliefs including propitiatory sacrifice and substitutionary atonement. Likewise, to blame afflicted people for their personal torments is presumptuous in the extreme. God did not create us evil and prone to diseases as punishment for our fallen state. Humanity is not fallen.

Original Sin is not a concept even mentioned in the Bible. Original Blessing, its opposite, is, yet we allow ourselves to be “guilted” about Jesus dying for our sins. Instead, we see the Bible’s claim that God created the human race, all other species, our habitats and “saw that they were very good.”

The God we worship and serve is not an old man living above the clouds. We can call ourselves “a-theists,” people who do not worship a human-like, a human-made God. Many who have left church have done so because of the traditional image of God. Non-theism for most of us still attending church, is uncharted territory, a new theological creation. Who or what do we worship?

We must start with a humble reading of the New Testament, with the brilliant hope, peace, joy and love put before us by Jesus. We experience God as an evolving Ground of Being, and the key word is evolution. Here’s where the most radical concept comes in: God is Love, is giving and receiving. God plunges into the breakdown of humanity’s connection to creation as Love in our loving.

We seek the wisdom and faith to explore our human understandings of God, for kindred spirits of other world religions, and for this fragile earth, our island home. We see the destruction of the ecosystems and the mass extinctions of fellow creatures as crimes against God and all creation. We believe in caring for all species of creatures and their habitats. We welcome interfaith peace and inclusive justice for all.

A new era of Christianity is here and now but many are afraid to acknowledge it. It is here in our ecumenical and interfaith worship. We must give up our fantasy that Christianity is superior to other religions. People of all faiths have in common an evolving experience of the Divine.

True worship does not care a whit for the forms of our rituals. God gives no one the right to be militant. Jesus commands us to love God, our neighbours and ourselves. Change is difficult, in anything we do. It seems especially challenging in matters of faith.

We must, however, change or atrophy. Instead of condoning all the fears, threats and guilt induced in the past, let us rejoice in the complexity, beauty and mystery of all creation. All people come from God, we are imitators of Emmanuel, and we are co-workers with the Holy Spirit.

For the beauty of the Earth,
sing oh sing today.
Of the sky and of our birth,
sing oh sing today.
Nature human and divine,
all around us lies.
Lord of all, to thee we raise
grateful hymns of praise.

–Paul Winter, Missa Gaia

First published, http://niagaraanglican.ca/newspaper/docs/2017/feb.pdf  (page 6)

 

The Creed’s Credibility

Posted on: December 27th, 2016 by Eleanor Johnston No Comments

In each of the six Niagara churches where we have worshipped, Wayne as interim priest and Eleanor as chorister, a few parishioners have expressed their difficulties with the content of the Nicene Creed.

Picture this: a diligent, positive parishioner asks to see Wayne and sets a time and date. When he arrives, he closes the door, locks it, takes a seat and confesses: “I feel guilty for doubting the Nicene Creed.”

What a relief! He isn’t suffering from cancer or about to lose his job. Theology? Let’s talk. First of all, however, he needs to be heard: “The Creed is not even in the Bible. It’s all about levels of power. This isn’t what Jesus is all about. The word love isn’t even in the creed! And God doesn’t sit on the clouds, for heaven’s sake! Most of what I believe is reflected in the hymns and the sermons, but I have to tune out when we get to the Creed. I can say about half the words. What’s wrong with me? Am I still a Christian?”

The first response must affirm his doubting faith. Jesus helped Thomas when he experienced doubt. Questioning faith is an opportunity for growth in faith. Freaking out at doubters is singularly unhelpful. We, too, are uncomfortable reciting the Nicene Creed every Sunday. ‘Uncomfortable?’ That’s an understatement.

An active lay person in another parish told how, in a conversation with the priest and his assistant, she had expressed similar doubts. Both men harangued her and insisted that until she took a Bishop’s Diploma Course and reconsidered her faith, she could no longer function as lay reader. When two ordained men gang up on a single lay woman, forcefully telling her that she must believe every word of the Creed to be a Christian, that is bullying—at such a moment, the Creed loses its credibility.

Why is the weekly repetition of the Nicene Creed so important? The ritual must have some meaning for parishioners, and we get that. The difficulty arises with those who are inflexible, who insist that it must be spoken at every Eucharist. Alternate creeds like the Apostles Creed or the ancient Shema are deemed second-rate. And Heaven help us if an experimental liturgy uses contemporary language to reflect today’s spirituality!

After all, the Nicene Creed was commissioned by the Emperor Constantine in 325CE. Imagine Jesus and his followers composing something similar for the Caesars in their lifetimes. Surely Jesus’ teachings as found in the Bible are more spiritual, more profound, than a Roman Emperor’s plans to make Christianity the state religion. This elevated status undermined the radical theology of Jesus which challenged Rome’s violent suppression of its conquered people.

There’s just so much old science reflected in the Creed that does not jive with what we know today about the universe. The ancient concept of a three-tiered world, to begin with. And a flat earth.

The Nicene Creed teaches us to believe in “one holy, catholic and apostolic Church.” Is that in the Bible? No. What good does it do? It does not make much difference to most people’s lives. If we are still considering the role of the Nicene Creed in the Christian church after 1700 years, still fretting about ideologies, we have missed the point.

It’s more important to be like Jesus than to repeat words about Jesus. Faith is not recitation of words but living the Word, following the Way of Jesus. Instead of reciting a creed, we should be helping, praying, learning, teaching and curing in Jesus’ name. Jesus did not tell us to believe in concepts but to trust in Him, in the Father, in the way of the Kingdom.

by Eleanor Johnston and Wayne Fraser

first published, October 2016, http://niagaraanglican.ca/newspaper/docs/2016/oct.pdf