Saturday, 15 September 2007
Dear John Halford
Your Christian Odyssey editorial, Stirred but not Shaken, gave me pause for thought. You wrote:
These are stirring times to be a Christian. Critics are having a field day, questioning, undermining and ridiculing every aspect of our beliefs. Nothing, it seems, is sacred.
This struck me as a remarkable observation from a longtime WCG functionary. After all, "questioning, undermining and ridiculing" was the evangelistic strategy of choice in the old WCG. The nightly World Tomorrow monologues by Garner Ted Armstrong (imitated in the pulpit by the humblest local elder) raised ridicule to a near art form.
The whole idea of God is a delusion, argues the enthusiastic atheist, Professor Richard Dawkins... What are we poor ordinary Christians to make of all this?
Perhaps you'll bear with me for a moment John, but I'm old enough to recollect Plain Truth articles where science was attacked mercilessly and evolutionists were clearly portrayed as blind fools. Now John, fair is fair: what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If I'm not mistaken, you were around back then too - and in more elevated circles than the common herd. Surely you haven't forgotten!
But you can be sure that there are capable men and women out there who are more than able to defend the Christian turf. They have education and experience, and they are not intimidated by clever arguments. When given the opportunity, they can more than hold their own, and show that the opposition has not really done its homework.
In your footnotes you reference prominent Anglican evangelical Alister McGrath. I enjoyed McGrath's discussion of the King James Bible, and am currently wading my way through his tome on Christian Theology (not by choice, it's "required reading" for a course.) McGrath is a gifted writer, but let's be honest, he's an apologist, though an eminently scholarly one, and whether or nor he does a convincing job in defending the ramparts of conservative orthodoxy, ultimately he's a refined version of GTA in a roman collar.
If any branch of the Christian church has less legitimate cause to get its knickers in a knot over issues like these, it's the Worldwide Church of God. Not only because of the contemptuous treatment it doled out to others in years gone by, but also because that same contempt was poured out upon its own people during its so-called reformation.
You know, John, you could do worse than actually reading Dawkins. He has some important points to make, even if you don't go the full way with his argument (as I don't.) And you could do worse than tackling some of the material on documents like the Gospel of Thomas - which you also seem to find threatening - with an open mind (Marvin Meyer is a great place to start.) Why not leave the pre-Copernican apologetics to the nice people over at the Good News: Mario Seiglie has it well covered.
Nothing, it seems, is sacred.
I guess they said that in Rome during the Reformation, but there are no questions that shouldn't be asked. It's by grappling with the tough questions that we grow. Trying to shield the "poor ordinary Christians" from that responsibility is just plain presumptuous. Given the opportunity, some of those folk could be extraordinary instead!
In the post-modern world a gentle stir may not be enough. Sometimes the foundations need a decent shake-up. It's tragic when Christian leaders counsel their flock to avoid the opportunities - and the insight - by circling the wagons and bleating about how awful things are.
Stirring times indeed!