Sermon preached in Bishopton Parish Church, on 7th November 2010, the twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost.
I was watching a trailer the other day for a film which was released in October this year, called Hereafter. The main character of the film, played by Matt Damon, is a psychic who has a gift for helping people to contact their dead relatives. Now I didn’t see the whole film, but what was very clear from the preview was that there seems to be a question on everybody’s mind which is inescapable: “What happens to us after we die?”
It doesn’t really matter how old you are: everybody asked this question at least once in their life. “What happens after I die? Is there another place we are going to? Is there a heaven and a hell? Will I ever be reunited with my dead relatives?” There is a torrent of questions that come from that initial one. Because we are conscious beings, because we are aware of our own finitude, our own mortality, the question regarding what happens after we cross that finish line can cause significant anxiety.
I don’t know about you, but I’m getting rather tired of watching clergy and apologists defending the church. There is so much energy being spent in defending the church against Atheism, or Antitheism or any other theism for that matter, that there is no energy left for moving forward. Every single debate I watch in which the church is involved in a way or another, the church’s representatives have the bad habit of over-emphasizing the good that the church has done in society in the past, and minimizing the mistakes at the same time. I think that is rather distasteful and counterproductive, which is probably why I’m not an apologist.
Due to some interesting comments exchange in my previous post ‘Questions about God‘, I feel compelled to explore a few reasons why I thought Lily Allen’s song ‘Him’ posed interesting questions about God. Let me just start by stating clearly, for those who never heard of Lily Allen, that she’s not a Christian. At least I don’t think she is.
This being said, I have to declare from the outset my unashamed passion for listening carefully to what non-Christians have to say about God, and particularly about the Christian vision of God, without feeling the need to take out the sword and ‘defend the faith’. I think what non-Christians say about Christianity is very interesting and very useful for me as a Christian thinker. It is useful only if I manage to take their comments and questions seriously, without ruffling my feathers every time they say something even remotely un-orthodox. Continue reading
Quote from John Shelby Spong, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism
‘The fundamentalists will appeal to the need for emotional security by trafficking in religious certainty. The system they create will survive momentarily – it might even flourish for a time – but it will not endure. Delusions can be immensely satisfying. For short periods of time people seem to enjoy turning off their brains and listening to those who assure them that all is well. […] Fundamentalism is both an expression of and an assisting cause in the terminal sickness that hangs over religious life today. When the depth of that sickness becomes obvious, it will leave in its wake disillusionment, despair, and pain. No seeds of renewal are contained in a literalism that is itself afraid of truth.”
I would have to add that there is also a form of fundamentalism present in Atheism – it’s trafficking not in religious certainty, but rather in an exagerated confidence in science, and particularly in the extent that theories such as evolution can explain all reality. I have to say that I don’t have a problem with the theory of evolution, except Darwin himself did not claim absolute truth, and he was open to other theories that may explain reality better.