These thoughts have been bouncing around my brain for some time, but they finally coalesced last week when I received an email from the good people at the Faith Initiative at Hong Kong University. (They're the folks who hosted the seminar with the group from Regent College last fall in Hong Kong, which I attended.) On September 9 they will host a discussion with John Lennox of Oxford. The title of the event is short and to the point: God is Irrelevant: Discuss.
Here's the introduction to that presentation, which resulted in this post:
"Humans once found solace from a universe of things that could not be explained with a myriad of gods that thundered from above. This idea was later refined to say that a single God was in charge of the world. Today science points the way to unlocking the mysteries of the natural world around us. God is therefore obsolete, rendered irrelevant. (But is this true?)"
Two separate but related thoughts immediately came to mind for me. The first is presented clearly in the email. To me, the paragraph above brilliantly positions the critical need for an evolutionary approach to our faith.
As I have said in this space many times before, God self-revealed in an age of gods. (I think I now want to expand that thought and say that God self-revealed or was intuited in an age of gods.) It makes sense that the people of that age interpreted this god, the One True God, through age appropriate lenses--that is, through what they already knew about gods. They then obviously wrote about that God through those same lenses, and some of those writings survived the passage of time to become sacred scripture.
The problem with this approach is that absent an evolutionary element, we have locked ourselves into this ancient, static view. We have assigned the label objective truth to what was largely subjective interpretation. I'm reminded once again of that bold, perhaps hyperbolic statement from Rudolf Bultmann so long ago:
"There is nothing specifically Christian in the mythical view of the world as such. It is simply the cosmology of a pre-scientific age."
That resonates, as much as it might have once offended.
In summary, for some still, God is the "God of the Gaps", necessary to fill in the spaces between those things we can explain well enough without the existence of God. The problem here is obvious: In an evolutionary environment, where we grow, science grows, knowledge grows, a fixed, mythological God of the Gaps is a shrinking God, a God who comes with an expiry date.
The second issue is not addressed in the email quoted above, but it immediately comes to mind when I consider the relevancy of God in the light of my own faith journey. I'm referring to the issue of salvation.
Many of us grew up within or were introduced to a faith where arguably the greatest benefit was not going to Hell when we died. Getting saved, asking Jesus into your heart, accepting him as your personal saviour--choose your favorite conversion metaphor--this was the only way to avoid the fire and brimstone.
But what if we no longer believe that we all come into the world cursed and damned to eternal punishment before we have even drawn our first breath? Someone or something that would save you from a danger that does not exist is at best unnecessary, and quite possibly irrelevant.
In short, what good is a Get Out of Jail Free Card if there is no jail?
Thoughts so far? More to follow.