Posts Tagged ‘Archbishop Cranmer’

What Christian isn’t a creationist?

February 25, 2016

O.K., my headline is slightly tongue-in-cheek. I’m well aware that “creationist” is a technical term that means not simply that God designed and created the world in which we live, but that he did so in a way that is consistent with a particular interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2.

I almost wrote “he did so in a way that is consistent with Genesis 1 and 2.” But if I put it that way, then that would make me a creationist, and I don’t want to be one of those! I might be lumped in with the Ken Hams of the world. Never mind that Ken Ham knows a lot more about biology than I do (and nearly any other Methodist minister who shuns the label “creationist”), having learned everything I know from a ninth-grade textbook I only half-understood at the time. But if I reject Ken Ham then I’ll be one of those “respectable” kinds of Christians—wink, wink—who “knows better” than to take the Bible’s creation account seriously—and who is “smarter” than those bumpkins who call themselves creationists.

I bring this up on the heels of yesterday’s post because of a controversy surrounding Dan Walker, a popular television host with the BBC, who came out last week as—gasp!—a creationist! His condemnation in the news media was swift and severe. How can he be trusted to read news off a tele-prompter if he holds these beliefs?

Even many Christian op-ed writers were alarmed: “We’re Christians,” they assured the public, “but not that kind of Christian.”

Nevertheless, David Robertson, who frequently appears on the excellent Unbelievable! radio show and podcast, leapt to Walker’s defense with this opinion piece:

This may come as a shock to the British journalistic community but those who believe in God tend to believe that he created everything. The question – which apparently they have neither the intelligence or the courtesy to ask – is what kind of creationist is Mr Walker? There are Christians who are theistic evolutionist creationists, old earth creationists and young earth creationists. On the basis of one statement from a spokesperson, many journalists made the assumption that it was the latter that was being spoken of.

And why is this news at all? Who cares? He is a TV presenter! The only people who care are those who want to introduce American style culture wars into the UK, and who view creationism as a bogeyman which enables them to vent their anti-religious prejudice and feel self-righteous while doing so.

For the record, I am a creationist. I believe that creation happened according to Genesis 1 and 2. To believe otherwise undermines one’s belief in the authority of scripture—including the credibility of Christ’s own words. As for how it happened, I’m somewhat agnostic on the question: I would say that there are a number of faithful ways in which we can interpret Genesis 1-2. But people who are more literalistic on the question than I am are not my enemies, and I am not morally superior to them. In fact, I don’t disagree with Archbishop Cranmer, when he says the following (in response to the Dan Walker controversy):

Beyond scientific doubt, the earth is many millions of years old. Radiocarbon (and -uranium and -potassium) dating tells us that Bishop Ussher was wrong: the earth was not created in 4004BC. But don’t some creationists hold to the Apparent Age theory? Adam was created on the sixth day. On the seventh day, how old was Adam? 33 years or just one day? Forget whether he had a navel or not, you see the point: God reveals Himself through His created universe in very many and mysterious ways. It may offend against common sense, but the God who can raise a man from the dead is perfectly capable of creating trees with rings in them.

William Lane Craig does an outstanding job assessing various biblically faithful alternatives to interpreting Genesis 1-2 in this series (21 episodes!) of podcasts: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/defenders-2-podcast/s9

Occasional doubt is a part of a healthy Christian faith

September 25, 2014

Not long ago, I had a parishioner who was suffering from a mysterious ailment that doctors didn’t quite know how to treat. Three times he had shown signs of improvement, was sent home, only to suffer a relapse and return to the hospital. It was frustrating and worrisome, to say the least.

I visited him several times during this two- or three-week period of his being in and out of the hospital. At the end of each visit, as is my custom, I held hands and prayed with him and any friends or family present.

Once, while I was preparing to pray, I had this internal dialogue with God: “Why am I bothering? You’re not going to do anything, no matter what I pray. Do you know how bad this is making you look? Do you  know how bad this makes me look?” (I’m vain and self-centered even in my prayers.) “This is why my atheist friends don’t believe in you. We pray and pray and pray and nothing happens.”

Yes, friends, yours truly has thoughts like these sometimes.

On another occasion, during a dark moment of self-doubt about my vocation, a friend of mine tried to cheer me up: “I admire you for all the sacrifices you’ve made. You gave up a successful career… money… prestige. Most people wouldn’t have the guts to do that.”

Immediately I thought—without saying out loud—”Yeah, I hope Christianity turns out to be true. Otherwise I’ve wasted my life!” I am “of all men most to be pitied,” as the Apostle rightly understood.

My point in sharing this is to say that I completely understand what Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, meant when he was asked recently if he ever doubts:

Yes I do. I mean there are moments, sure, where you think ‘Is there a God?’, ‘Where is God? The other day I was praying over something while I was running and I ended up saying to God, ‘This is all very well, but isn’t it about time you did something, if you’re there,’ which is not probably what the Archbishop of Canterbury should say.”

The press in Britain had a field day with this, as if the archbishop were admitting something shocking. One headline read, “Archbishop of Canterbury doubts the existence of God.”

Oh, brother! Only someone who doesn’t practice the Christian faith could imagine that Christians never doubt.

As Archbishop Cranmer puts it:

If those who bring us the news and the majority of those who consume it had any idea what the Bible says, they would see that doubt is a continually recurring theme. The Psalms are full of it:

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? (Psalm 13:1,2)

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?

My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest. (Psalm 22:1,2)

But I cry to you for help, Lord; in the morning my prayer comes before you.
Why, Lord, do you reject me and hide your face from me?
From my youth I have suffered and been close to death; I have borne your terrors and am in despair. (Psalm:88:13-15)

Great heroes from the pages of the Bible, including King David, Elijah, Job and ‘doubting’ Thomas had desperate moments of questioning God. John the Baptist had a major crisis of faith regarding Jesus’ divinity, despite having waited his adult life to baptise him as the Messiah. Even Jesus had his moment of turmoil in the Garden of Gethsemane.

So Justin Welby is in good company. He is doing little more than being frankly honest about his relationship with God. There are things he finds wonderful about his faith and others he finds frustrating and challenging. He is not trying to pretend to be something he isn’t and most Christians will find his words resonating with their own experiences.

Glenn Peoples also says it well in this post:

As it turns out, the story could have just as easily (although not as tantalisingly – or smoothly) been called “Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has some thoughts and feelings every now and then that most normal Christians have, nothing to see here.” But there is something to see here, and it’s this: Doubt is a normal part of a committed Christian faith. Not all the time, of course, but anyone who tells you otherwise either doesn’t know what it’s like to be a mature, thoughtful Christian or else they don’t want to admit it…

Doubt can exist for a variety of reasons (usually more emotional than strictly rational), and the denial of doubt is foolishness. A faith that has never been exposed to real doubt at all must surely be weaker (or I insist, at very least much less mature) than a faith that has come out the other side of episodes of long, dark doubt that relentlessly occupies the whole mind. I have no authority over the church, but if I did I would insist that a person is only considered eligible for ministry if they have experienced that sort of doubt. You’ll need that experience when a member of your church approaches you and tells you they’re having doubts and you don’t want to respond like the idiot who says “come now, where is your faith?” How will you know how to answer the question of how to come back from soul-crushing doubt and set your eyes on what you know to be true if you’ve never had to do it? Of course it would be a mistake to automatically respond to doubt as though it were a rationally compelling factor in itself, and so to give up belief, taking the path (at that moment) of least emotional resistance. But depicting the faith as a place where serious doubt simply doesn’t happen is madness.

“What we all ought to be doing”

November 8, 2013
Pope Francis blesses and kisses a man with the "Elephant Man disease," neurofibromatosis.

Pope Francis blesses and kisses a man with the “Elephant Man disease,” neurofibromatosis.

Just this… from Archbishop Cranmer’s blog.

Visiting St Peter’s Square, most of us would shun this poor wretch because of his Elephant Man-like appearance. We would certainly decline to share a communion chalice with him, for fear of some unknown contagion. But, like his namesake St Francis of Assisi, this Pope abjures his royal palace, lives in a guest house with his brothers, and prays deeply – quite movingly – for a modern-day leper. Indeed, the Pope kissed the carbuncles upon this poor man’s deformed forehead.

Humility and holiness in action.

It is Christ-like.

Some will say it is prophetic – a sign of profound faith in a superficial world of beautiful people and bright young things. But it is simply what we all ought to be doing – manifesting the self-emptying love of Christ and transcending the narrow confines of the world.

Love does not solve life’s problems: it helps us to cope with them. It brings perspective and confers order. Faith working through love is creative and redemptive. Pope Francis acts for that poor distorted being because he has an appreciation of that being. Such love is the fruit of God’s presence within us.

Please note that His Grace refers to Francis’s “self-emptying love,” a reference to the very scripture I’ll be preaching on this Sunday.

“The greatest living embodiment of the Gospel”

June 28, 2012

Eloquent as always, the long-dead Archbishop Cranmer blogs the following about Queen Elizabeth II, setting my Anglophile heart aflutter.

Indeed, His Grace is increasingly persuaded that the Queen is the greatest living embodiment of the Gospel of Christ of any world leader; the very incarnation of patience, kindness, grace and forgiveness. In Northern Ireland she is quite literally a bringer of peace, sowing love where there is hatred, and pardon where there is injury. She instils faith where there is doubt, and hope where there is despair. She shines light where there is darkness, and brings joy where there is sadness.

Politicians rarely achieve the spiritual objectives of St Francis’. They might quote them, talk about them, debate them, or make manifesto pledges to fulfil them. But the Queen just gets on with it, and lives them.