What does ’the Son of God’ mean? How can ANYONE understand the Trinity? How CAN you have a personal relationship with God? These ideas started as models to explain the inexplicable but became shibboleths as the church became mainstream. They limit us though as we talk to people of other faiths and to ordinary people who think the ideas are cartoonlike. So let us start thinking again.
Religion and the Christian faith in particular often seems locked into ‘cartoon’ thought patterns. Our pastors & priests (and the words different denominations use to denote ordained leadership derive from the same Greek word) are exposed to more advanced thought patterns during their training but then revert to set phrases & thoughts during their ministry: either for fear of disturbing people’s settled faith or because they don’t really believe it themselves. The odd exception – for example John Robinson, Anglican (Church of England) Bishop of Woolwich during the 1960s, and David Jenkins, Anglican Bishop of Durham during the early 1980s – attempted to broaden access to a more liberal thought process but were labelled as dangerous and radical when in fact both merely represented a moderate, thinking strand of our faith.
For most believers their Christian lives revolve around simplistic phrases and beliefs that act as ‘a code’ amongst ‘the faithful’ but which appear to the greater populations as anachronistic & childish; and all of this is at a time when people in general seems to be searching or even grasping for a high spirituality. This series of thoughts is based on a lifetime (so far) thinking about issues and a brief series of talks delivered in 2014/5. It attempts to put Christian belief in a coherent, plausible, modern context. Whether it is any more ‘right’ than the more ancient thought patterns we have inherited in the wider church will only be revealed at the end of time, but in ‘freezing’ our beliefs in accordance with the creeds of the 3rd/4thC we inhibit our ability to review our perspectives on God in a way that makes it relevant to the human race at large.
Each question & answer on this site that follows a set of ideas derived from a set of talks listed under Talks & Thoughts. Each tries to present a modern ‘de-cartoonised’ thought for the thinking, enquiring mind. None are particularly radical.Finally I want to mention of a few influences. David Jenkins, who first started me on the path to questioning thought, and John Robinson, both stand out. As does the religious historian Karen Armstrong. Of people I know myself, a wonderful priest by the name of Carol Hibberd little realises how much her sermon on ‘letting everything you do contribute to the Kingdom of God’ sparked a new path for me. Kate Massey, ‘took a punt on me’, gave me my head and trusted what I did when she was priest in charge of my church for her last year as a final stage curate: as a faith we tend to gravitate towards people who think like and act like us; but reconciling the practices she and her husband grew up with, coming from two opposite strands of the Scottish denominational spectrum, before settling into that compromise which is the Church of England, enabled her to see something in someone with a very different perspective to her own. She remains one of the very few able to give me a fresh and different perspective on my own thinking. Finally my own father Norman Simister speaks & thinks with a clarity that avoids the coded ‘in speak’ universal in the church. He brings a vibrant, unclouded viewpoint to almost every situation in life and to do with God; and he remains a breath of fresh air to the thinking Christian. He has a private set of sermons delivered in the years after retiring, whilst functioning as a ‘locally ordained’ clergyman in the ever increasing group of parishes where I grew up. They would be a gold mine to the thinking, reasoning Christian if someone could decipher the hieroglyphics they are written in 🙂