Published: April 2009
Related Topics: General Theology
What a challenge the Niagara Anglican presents us! I have not found a single article during the past three or four years that has not given me some food for thought, and yet I have not found that much discussion of the articles. Last month I welcomed the comments of Roger Tulk; this month I find inspiration, not for the first time, in Michael Thompson. Our editor deems it unnecessary to identify the clerical authors as "Rev,", as many of them are. I hope that I may raise the voice of the laity. Our Primate is asking for our Anglican dreams for the church of the future; I believe that he may find them in these pages.
Is there a rosier side to this "vale of woe", to this "republic of pain"? Can we accept a god that has set out on a great adventure to find out what may happen—a god who has not decided in advance to impose a godly will upon the creation, but is instead letting that creation find out what that will is? It seems to me that that is the very essence of the Lord's Prayer—thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Humanity is responsible for bringing that will to earth.
Humanity seems to have been endowed with the sense that this earthly life is not the whole story. This is fundamental to the believing Christian: Jesus died and rose again. As St. Paul reminds us If in this life we who are in Christ have only hope, we are of all men most to be pitied (1 Corinth. 15:19). There is a purpose in life and that is to do the will of God. How do we know what is the will of God? Why have we been given that annoying and disturbing thing that we call a conscience? Unfortunately, it follows "why do some people seem to have no conscience?"
Is it possible that the conscience is an echo of some purpose that we were given before we left the "heavenly home" to which we are destined to return? Is it impossible that God has a purpose for each one of us that we can choose either to pursue or to reject, in whole or in part? As Michael Thompson reminds us, God endows humanity with freedom and power, but that freedom and power involves the use of freewill and humanity's self-interest invariably leads to selfishness and lack of concern for others, resulting in pain on earth and the destruction of our environment.
What of this god who has given us the choice of doing as we like in his creation? I have called it a Great Adventure. Where would have been the adventure if we had all been puppets on strings, predestined to do just what this authoritative god demanded of us? There would be no need for religions of any kind; we would know who (or what) is in command and would have no choice but to obey. I would imagine that a god like that would be a very uninteresting character and life might very well be exceedingly boring.
But humanity has this propensity for belief in the Divine and is taking a very long time to come to terms with it. Inevitably it has had to start simply, for humanity's concepts are limited and take time to develop. Somewhere in the cradle of civilization people began to think of powers beyond their control. Since learning begins from the known and proceeds to the unknown, the interpretation of these powers had to be put in terms well-known to the people trying to understand them. They therefore imagined them in the form of creatures with whom they were familiar, in human and animal form. We peoples of the so-called Western World have been so conceited as to think that this god spent time revealing the godhead to us without any consideration that there are others, living in other parts of this world, to whom the godhead was also being revealed. Different cultures inevitably envisioned the Godhead in different forms....
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