Landscape from Young, NSW 2011

Gross reports

Link of the Day: Common Dreams Conference 20-04-2010

Godless Gross was there. So was I, and sorry to miss meeting him, as I admire his approach to life and faith.

Kind of Christianity an atheist could believe in!

At the weekend, a radical group of Christians (and others) gathered to fundamentally redefine the nature of faith.

These people are wrestling, in a modern more educated world, with definitions of a small ''G'' god that lacks omnipotence or indeed much potency at all. These people are brave innovators who are exploring the common space of the occasionally false dichotomy of believers and unbelievers.... Read on >>>>

The conference was exhausting. I have black bags under my eyes. Dick sums up Gretta Vosper's approach rather well, and its problem.

She posits that religion is a human construction that humanity needed to survive but we know more now than we did when faith was invented.  She compared the ignorance of a medieval bishop with the knowledge of a contemporary person and demonstrated how the ignorance of the former now binds the life of the latter.  And so we need move on to the next stage of belief.  These ideas are virtually identical to mine and yet I call myself an atheist and she is a Minister of Christianity from the Uniting Church tradition.

I was left to wonder if there was anything in her theological system which was definitively Christian. I suspect she would say she is heading in the direction in which Jesus has pointed us.  This is a good thing to do.  But if Jesus is forgotten, by what tradition do we name ourselves. We would be remarkable if we were able to invent a new tradition!  My own approach to faith is progressive enough to discomfort some of my colleagues, but I see no reason to try and downplay the Jesus part of the tradition.

Nonetheless, I heartily agree with Dick Gross's sentiments here:

And in mounting these arguments, she and Bishop Shelby Spong are the change agents that more conservative religionists and more conservative atheists despise.  She challenges both conventional faith and conventional atheism.  Indeed I felt all through the parts of the conference that I attended more communion with these progressive Christians than I felt with some really mean and aggro atheists.  I have to concede, I do not understand much of what Vosper says about God or god.  I find it utterly bewildering.  But I do love her tolerance.  I do worship her determination to embrace change.  And I do feel that she is the agent of change that many faiths need in this Post Christian World.  Although she confuses me, she is an inspiration and a provocation from our simple notions of belief and unbelief.

My task today is to begin a series of posts on the nature of "Progressive Christianity." Just what does that mean? Hopefully it will be up in a day or two!


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