Island Lagoon, SA 2016

Conversations with a Convert

David is a minister.

Jan: What do you mean, when you say you've been converted?

David: I mean I have changed. I have been changed. I woke up one morning and it was all different.

Jan: Have you lost your faith?

David: No. It's different. It's not that. On paper, if you like, nothing in my beliefs has changed. I feel different. Some things don't matter any more. I don't care about them. And what we do in church on Sunday morning offends me. It doesn't touch me, except to be embarrassing and a 'turn off.'

For a long time I have seen that scripture cannot be taken literally. Its truth is not in actual historical events. Some of the events were historical. But the truth was in the thing the stories were trying to say.

Jan: An example?

David: Moses parts the Red Sea to get away from Pharaoh. And Joshua parts the Jordan, and so do Elijah and Elisha. Then Jesus goes to the Jordan. He's this guy who has blown people's lives apart. So does Jesus part the waters of the Jordan? No! He is- they have found him to be- more than these people were. He parts the very heavens, and the spirit of God comes down on him. People told stories using the older stories to interpret their present experience.

Jan: This is radical enough for some people. Are you saying it's not enough for you?

David: No. I'm saying the whole model doesn't work. The stories about Jesus were told to explain people's experience of him. They told them in their terms; in terms of a God who is high above all… the Hebrew God who cares for his people and intervenes in the world. And later, the Greek God who is impassable and unchanging, and doesn't get contaminated with earthly things. I'm saying that this model does not work anymore.

Evolution, and science in general, make it a nonsense. The notion of sending your innocent son to die for other undeserving guilty people, is horrific. The idea that God will help me, a sinner, if I pray, but not you if you a much better person perhaps don't know to pray, is repulsive. It's based on the notion of currying favour with the despot in court. It worked in a society where that was the political situation, and it even critiqued that situation, but it doesn't work in our time. If God were not God, we would say it was disgraceful. Well, it is. Just as we are often offended by notions of class and royalty in this country, so we are repulsed by the notions of God based upon them.

I can't believe in the miracle working, intervening on the part of a privileged few, Father God I have inherited. I have to go back to Jesus. Jesus is the one who shows us God. That is our faith So for me today, a man in the 1990's, what is Jesus saying about a believable God. Is there anything?

 Jan: Where does this leave you in your faith and ministry?

David: A bit uncomfortable. I feel like redefining agnosticism. Huxley coined the term over a century ago to mean that God is unknowable. I remember that the gnosticism that dogged the early church meant special knowledge. Have we Christians got into special knowledge, instead of common sense? I am, in that sense, a-gnostic. I feel I know very little. I can say very little.

But I remember DT Niles from Sri Lanka, who said we Christians are like blind beggars showing other blind beggars where to find bread. There is much in the faith that is of value which I may help people towards, while I work on my current blindness. In a sense I am glad. To be the unquestioned and unquestioning authority is unhealthy. No people are like that. Neither should a minister be. I am only on the road of life with others, after all.

And I am better where I am, than where I was. Perhaps I have climbed out of a bog of blindness onto a plain which seems deserted and without a path. But I am no longer floundering in the bog. And I have always found in life that there is, in the end, a path to be found.


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