I am now 82 and I became a Christian when I was 23. Five years later in 1963 I became treasurer (for 8 years) of the local Anglican Church (in the UK) but gradually became disillusioned. I couldn’t get satisfactory answers to some of my questions (especially related to the significance of the trinity). I also saw a lack of ‘radical’ Christianity. I walked away in the early 1970’s. Years later I joined a Sabbath-keeping Christian church. It was in 1995 that the leadership of the church we were attending announced that much of their theology was misguided. This was a very traumatic experience that led to the breakup of our family of 14 related by marriage.
I have been using the internet since 1997 (I was then no longer employed) and created a web site in 2000 that eventually became the foundation of my blog. By 2003 I was very involved with the Emerging / Emergent / House Church scene. I stopped attending church in 2009.
In 2003 we talked of tens of thousands of people leaving Christian churches that they may have been attending for many years. The figure now across Europe and North America seems to be between 3 and 4 million every year.
I have no recollection of ever doubting the existence of God although I have sometimes wondered why.
A major turning point for me occurred early in 2012 when I read a review of “Christianity After Religion – The End of Church and a New Spiritual Awakening” by Diana Butler Bass (see my note – “Christianity After Religion” – in sidebar) where the reviewer suggested that this is a story of a people who diversely believe, belong and behave rather passionately.
At that time, as a result of the traumatic experience of 1995, I saw myself as an outside observer for over 15 years of Evangelical (and Fundamentalist) Christian teaching. The book review and subsequent study simply reinforced what I felt was a seriously misguided emphasis on the place of FEAR, GUILT and SHAME but that is a very long story! I’ve written at length about the journey between 1995 and 2012. Let’s just say that by the summer of 2012 I had a faith that I could hold on to loosely. I was then 76 and simply wanted to support and encourage others who were being drawn away, especially from Evangelical and Fundamentalist churches.
I could never have imagined how much things were going to change over the following 5 years.
What follows are a series of bullet points (my favourite way of presenting material) pointing to just some of the material that has been important to me in that time.
- Towards the end of 2012 I watched a lengthy BBC TV series entitled “A History of the World” by Andrew Marr, that highlighted for me the reality that the universe has existed for some 13.8 billion years but that civilisation as we know it is no more than about 13,500 years old. It occurred to me that so much human history has been influenced in such a short time by the many world religions. Some might find my notes enlightening – see sidebar.
- In 2013 I started attending local U3A (University of the Third Age) classes that have included some Philosophy, Psychology, Counselling, History of Christianity, History of Religion, Buddhism and Islam – much of which was completely new to me, and raises so many more interesting questions.
- In “Another Watershed – April 2016” I have described the impact of a lengthy podcast with Rob Bell and Richard Rohr. Even as I listened to this for the first time I just knew that this was another personal watershed. This is now one of the foundations of my blog.
- It was in July 2016 that I read an article by a pastor I have known well for some 35 years. He wrote:
True science, real mind-blowing science, comes from the endless birthing of new understanding by those who’ve caught on that life is full of surprises, and the surprises never stop coming to those who seek with an open mind. If only religion caught on to that in its search for God too, where instead of nailing God in a box and telling people that’s all there is to know about him, it would let God reveal himself in his way, with new and endless surprises. (my highlighting).
He went on to say that science is now pushing boundaries into areas where no one has trodden before. Old concepts suddenly become antiquated and quaint, as new interpretations of the universe blow the old views to pieces.
- Compare that with what John Shelby Spong, a retired Episcopal Bishop had written in December 2015:
The explosion of knowledge over the last five hundred years in the West has rendered most of the biblical and creedal presuppositions to be unbelievable. They rise out of a world that no longer exists. Yet churches continue to operate as if eternal truth can be placed into these earthen vessels, proclaiming that in both the Bible and the creeds ultimate truth has been captured forever. The result is that Christianity seems less and less believable to more and more people. Can we separate the Christ experience from the dying explanations of the past? If we cannot then surely Christianity will continue its relentless journey into a declining irrelevance.
This is an extract from “Charting a New Reformation: The Twelve Theses” – some very provocative and thoughtful material.
- It was also in July 2016 that Paul Young, the author of ‘The Shack’ posted an article by Richard Rohr on his blog entitled, “Transformation is More Than a Change of Mind”. In the podcast with Rob Bell (see “Another Watershed – April 2016”) Richard had suggested that Christianity hasn’t made a very good job of exposing the ego. In this article there is an emphasis on the process of letting go. He writes:
The Achilles heel of organised religion might be that we tend to tell people what to see instead of teaching them how to see, and the thing we often miss is that transformation is not merely a change of morals, group affiliation, or belief system – but a change at the very heart of the way you receive, hear, and pass on each moment.
Do you use the moment to strengthen your own ego position or do you use the moment to enter into a much broader seeing and connecting? Two very different ways of seeing!
- It was in October 2016 that Drew Downs posted a series of discussions entitled, “31 days of Choices”. He said that he had been influenced by a series of discussions between Rob Bell and Peter Rollins entitled, “Shall we talk about God?”. I have since spent some time considering the thoughts of Rob and Pete on the subject of God! In “What does it mean to you to believe in God?” I have created a series of bullet points based on some of the questions Drew was asking.
- It was then in April 2017 that I saw what for me has become a very significant article in the March Newsletter of the Progressive Christian Network in the UK entitled, “Where is Progressive Christianity Heading?” by Andy Vivian where he paints a picture of four separate but overlapping strands or paradigms of Progressive Christianity:
- Evolutionary Spirituality
- Emerging Church
- Radical Theology
- Atheistic Christianity
He suggests that all four paradigms emphasise the role of religion in supporting humans to live generous and compassionate lives, and that all four place such a life above a particular set of religious beliefs about God.
I have spent a significant amount of time with people who come from each of these strands, including a couple of Bible College students who subsequently became atheists.
Radical Theology is said to be the one that stands out as the most open approach, while the other three all have an element of egotism about having found the True Path.
As I said at the beginning this is an ongoing story.
It is over 28 years since I had a full time job. I’ve covered a lot of ground in those years and it’s been very difficult editing out much of what was important at different stages of that journey – especially when I remember how important some of that material was, not only to me, but to those with whom I was sharing the journey at that time.
I’ve tried to resolve this problem with one final introductory Page entitled “Collecting My Thoughts” where I have simply provided links to material that I might want to blog about later.
I now hope to get back to blogging; sharing on a few Facebook Groups; and catching up with what others are blogging about without needing to explain where I’m coming from.