Wednesday, 29 October 2014

I believe in God

Every day at Evensong in the cathedral I utter the words 'I believe in God' and I don't have my fingers crossed behind my back.  There are all sorts of things that I might wobble over, but I just don't wobble over my belief in God.  I wonder at why things are as they are, especially when I have to face some of the darkest moments in human suffering.  I have my moments of profound faith in various tenets of the Christian faith and others when I find the metaphor expresses something imperceptible behind it.  But deep down I find it more incredible to believe that everything that exists is a mere accident than I do that it has a prime mover, source and ultimate destination.

That said when we start asking what that God, prime mover, is like then massive differences of opinion open up.  I don't for instance believe in an old man with a white beard sitting on a cloud.  I don't believe in a magician who gives me a parking space when I'm pressed for time and some how prioritises that over the child dying of Ebola.  Quite frankly I'd rather he concentrated on the child than my inconvenience, however important the engagement I'm late for.  I don't believe God is a puppeteer.

Do I believe this God is personal?  I believe there is a relationship that we have with the divine and that we see this uniquely revealed in Jesus Christ, a Jew who walked and taught in Palestine 2,000 years ago.  I believe that something profound happened for the disciples to talk of him having risen from the dead, what we call the Resurrection, and they were so profoundly affected by this that they would die for it.  I can't explain it and it isn't dependent on the tomb being empty, though without it the claim would have had a serious flaw on a superficial level.  David Jenkins, the radical and inspirational Bishop of Durham of the 1980s, described this as the resurrection being much more than a conjuring trick with bones.  Sadly the journalists at the time weren't listening and misunderstood him.  I believe this resurrection is a foretaste of what lies in store for us, that each of us is uniquely loved and treasured by the creator.  Salvation is the rescuing of us from the consequences of the world being temporal and transitory.  If I'm wrong I won't have eternity to worry about it!

I don't find my belief in God incompatible with Big Bang or any scientific theory and I haven't since I first started thinking about these things.  The Bible has to be understood in a much more subtle way than that.  It is metaphor, narrative and poetry.  It's truth is more profound than whether it happened as it says it did.  I certainly don't believe the world was made in 6 days and the earth isn't flat!  I don't believe in talking snakes.  I do find in these stories profound insight.

So when I hear that the Pope has declare that God is not a magician and he accepts Big Bang I don't know whether to say 'so what else did you expect' or be depressed that anyone thinks this is earth shattering news.  Also when I hear reports that 2% of Anglican Clergy don't believe in God, I ask myself, what kind of God don't they believe in?  The survey this statement is based on, in which I took part, always hinges on how people interpret the question or options offered as possible answers.  It then depends on what those writing up the story have in their minds or fantasy about what we believe when looking for a headline.

That said there are a lot of people spouting fundamentalist Christianity which would make this radical and so it is important to make it clear that they don't speak for us all, in fact they speak for very few.

If I didn't believe in God, a prime mover and goal, the one from whom we derive life and who cares for us even though at times that seems to be expressed in questionable ways, I could not do what I do.  But I do believe it and what is more I believe that in this belief lies the answer to the darkness and that darkness finds its meaning and explanation in God.

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