20 May 2015

Speaking faith

Tonight I am sitting here in the cold of an autumn night with the cat next to me on the arm of my chair, reflecting on a blog post I have just read. John Shore has rapidly become one of my heroes of the faith: a passionate, articulate person who has shown me that there are others out there that think like me, that my lonely faith journey here in smalltown New Zealand isn't alone. The story I read is entitled Eight "Bible-believing" churches vs one progressive church, and it is a sad indictment of the narrowness and sickness of the "fundamentalist" and "evangelical" churches that I left with relief 15 years ago.

At the bottom of that article, John has a summary of what a progressive Christianity could look like, and I want to summarise his summary here in my own words. This is a good summary of what I have come to know over the past 15 years or so.

  1. Jesus was divine, but Jesus was also human. Jesus allowed the crucifixion as evidence of God's love for us - it was never any kind of punishment or "substitution" for us - it was an act of ultimate love.
  2. The Bible is not a contract or literally dictated by God. It is a complex set of different kinds of literature that is human's record of God's dealings, filtered through their understanding and time period. God always requires us to choose love, compassion, and kindness over any other action or so-called biblical law because love is the highest good there is - God is love, and where there is love, there is God. 
  3. Christianity is about nothing more (or less) than living a loving, caring life that is gentle towards all others, and towards the earth.
  4. Where there is love, there is God. Love comes in many forms, and can and does include love between people of the same gender. The scholarship stating that St Paul never wrote anything condemning homosexual love is much more convincing than the scholarship claiming he did. 
  5. God does not require any person to submit to another in an unequal power relationship, including between men and women.
  6. God is beyond gender, and therefore it is as accurate to speak of God as she as it is as he. Sophia is an ancient naming of God that is totally valid biblically and historically. 
  7. God introduces herself in history through many different ways, places, and people. There is true knowledge of God everywhere that people love and are loved, and in the stories where we are taught to love and act with compassion.
  8. There is no support in the Bible for a hell where people are eternally punished, nor is this consistent with a God that loves us inordinately. 
  9. God loves us and wants to teach us, not punish us. God uses ordinary everyday circumstances to do this.
  10. God and power are not normally a good mix. Church and state are separate and should remain so, but we who love God are called to speak truth to power in love.
  11. We are called to love. God handles the rest. 
  12. God made it, evolution shapes it. There is not, nor has there ever been, any conflict between faith and science. God created the capacity for change and growth in all things, just as God herself changes and grows. God delights in our human curiosity and desire for knowledge, because God made us that way! 
  13. Divorce is not immoral and in some cases is a good idea where power is being misused. God loves everyone, even when relationships don't work. 
  14. Our identifier as to whether we are truly God's is how we treat each other. 
  15. God gave us a brain, a will, and a desire to learn. Asking questions is right, and "because the Bible says so" is not an answer - it is an interpretation. The bible is always open to interpretation, but if the interpretation means someone acts without love to others, their interpretation cannot be true. God never guides us to act without love. 
This is as close to a summary of my understanding of God and her ways as I can currently make right now. Thank you, John Shore, for helping me arrive at it.

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