Saturday, July 7, 2007

Mad Priest Gives Great Sermon on Creation

The British blogger/priest Mad Priest is always worth a read--if nothing else for the irreverent humor and great music recommendations. But his blog always also includes great words of insight--on atonement, on inclusiveness, and even on modern Christian martyrs that the rest of the world is ignoring.

Mad Priest has now posted a sermon on creation that is well worth reading. Read it all here, but here are some highlights. First, the sermon addresses the issue of who is a Christian, and Mad Priest offers a good argument for trusting what people say about their own faith:

I am not the sort of person who gets all worked up about people having to believe a whole list of things before they can call themselves Christians. I tend to work on the basis that if someone identifies themselves as a Christian then it is only good manners to accept their judgement rather than imposing a judgement of my own. I think that as a priest my priority is to include as many people in the family of God as I possibly can. If God wishes to divide people into who’s in and who is out, that is entirely up to him. I haven’t got the authority to do that on his behalf, even if I wanted to.

However, as Anglicans we do say, every time we attend a communion service, that we believe that set of core doctrines that are contained within the Nicene Creed. Of course, “belief” is a word with lots and lots of different meanings. Belief does not have to mean literal belief. It can mean a belief in the transforming power of a given statement. It can include elements of hope and faith. So, although I think we should recite the creed from a position of integrity, I again leave it up to the individual to decide if they are in a position to do so. To put it very simply, I do believe that Jesus literally rose, bodily, from the grave. However, if somebody was to tell me they believed that this story in the Bible was only a metaphor for a real, redemptive action on the part of God, I wouldn’t dismiss that person’s point of view, and I certainly wouldn’t try to force that person to accept my viewpoint by threatening him or her with excommunication. Considering how little we know about life, the universe and everything, that would be a very arrogant thing to do.

I promise you, there are not two people in this congregation who believe exactly the same things about God, in exactly the same way, as each other. It is not possible for us to be human and have exactly the same thoughts, and, therefore, understanding, as anybody else in the whole world, or anybody else who has ever lived, or anybody who will be alive after we have died. Our uniqueness, based on our biology, our experience of life, our location, our education, is a primary defining factor of our humanity. People who seek power and people who are not confident of their own humanity, have always tried to get other people to believe exactly what they believe in the way they believe it, but they always fail, because the human mind is not a computer that can be programmed with every detail. Our uniqueness, our free will, will always lead to difference between every one of us. That is the way we were created, so I presume that is the way God wanted it. It would seem a bit perverse of God, to give us these minds capable of individual thought, if he really wanted us all to think exactly the same way.

Second, Mad Priest reminds us who is chiefly at fault for climate change--that would be you and me:

The weather that Britain is experiencing at the moment should not be happening. It is only happening because the world is broken. This weather is not even unseasonable. It is just wrong. It is caused by global warming, which is real. It is happening now, not some time in the future. It has been caused by the industrial processes and the technological devices of human beings during the last two hundred years or so, especially those of the last century. You will hear people say that what is happening is just a natural thing that occurs every now and then over the years. They are talking rubbish, because they are scared or they don’t want to change their lifestyles or they have some religious or political agenda that is more important to them than the scientific truth of our situation.

And, sorry folks, but this mess that the world is in has been caused by Christians. Ok, there are plenty of people throughout the world contributing to its environmental destruction who are not Christian, but they are only doing so because they are following the lead of Christians, who took the human-centred doctrines of John Calvin, which emphasised the desirability of individuals amassing individual wealth and fatalistic attitude towards life, and headed into an industrial revolution without any regard for the physical or aesthetic effect it would have on the rest of Creation, including other human beings.

And the problem is, of course, that proponents of the idea that creation only exists to serve mankind and that it can be exploited over and beyond what is necessary to mankind, find a theological basis for their arrogance in that second account of creation in the second chapter of Genesis. They had the choice of two stories to take as their paradigm in respect of their relationship with the environment. Unfortunately, they chose the wrong one and we are now all paying for their mistake.

I don’t know if global warming and the destruction of the world environment is now beyond repair. We are simply not being given enough information. There is too much politics involved in all this. The people who finance the political parties who form the governments of the world have so much to lose if we all reduce our consumption that they are, most definitely, putting a lot of pressure on governments to play down the crisis and manage the information that gets through to us.

However, whatever the prognosis actually is, I think that the most sensible course of action (on the basis that we have nothing to lose and everything to gain) is that we all start living our lives based on the assumption that we can do something about it.

And along the way, Mad Priest also gives a good account of what we mean by a belief in God the creator.

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