Much of what Chalcedon said in his piece on the ‘Listening magisterium’ is applicable on a broader scale. I’ve certainly met clergy who seemed more interested in what Neo called ‘mission creep’ than in the mission itself; chaps who seemed, when pressed, uneasy with miracles, the physical resurrection and Jesus as God. I recall one of them explaining to me very patiently that the Bible stories were ‘myths’. I asked him what ‘myths’ he was familiar with, and where the Bible stories fitted into this rather wide genre; he changed the subject abruptly. I spent a good part of my career teaching literature, and having come across a lot of myths, I’d not say any of the Gospels fitted into that genre – if anything they are more like the Graeco-Roman conception of biography – which was not the same as our own, but used incidents from the life of the subject to paint a wider picture of what the fellow was like. You can’t come away from the Gospels without a pretty vivid portrait of Jesus – a man of charisma and wisdom, who like posing serious questions playfully, pricking pomposity, and who liked young children and had a particular talent for talking to women who were, in that society, often treated as appendages. I challenge anyone to name a myth from which you get that sort of picture of an individual.
Many of these liberal theology chaps bang on about the virtues of listening, but it’s clear what they mean is that we should listen whilst they drone on. They’ve read the latest theology (it usually turns out that it was the last fad but one), and they’ve heard x or y speak, and they’ve been to an event where their views were reinforced by some heretic of a bishop (it seems to be nearly obligatory that Bishops of a certain age are heretics). In short, they are victims of group-think. Theology, as a purely academic discipline by non-believers is an interesting branch of philosophy, but it is no more. For theology to be live to the believer, it has to be alive to the theologian. So, someone like the Anglican Tom (NT) Wright grabs you because his work is informed by and comes from his own faith. He’s far from blind to the problems, but he’s not starting from some place which makes progress impossible.
If you take it as read that miracles don’t happen, that is not an objective fact, it is your opinion; apply it as an hermeneutic to the Bible and you’ll come up with a Bible in your own image. There’s no point asking whether ‘resurrections happen’. The Bible makes claim to one only. How do you apply a modern scientific method here? How many examples of the God-Man being resurrected can we find? No point banging on about living and dying gods, a la Golden Bough, as none of those mythical figures were both human and God, and none of them redeemed mankind. As I say, you can choose to disbelieve all of that, but what you can’t do, and retain credibility, is to misrepresent it by making claims which show only that you don’t understand Christianity. For me, that’s the problem with someone like Dawkins, who simply approaches Christianity through a fog of his own misconceptions and prejudices, and finds himself involved with others equally uninformed.
There’s a deal of talking and noise about. More time in prayer and listening might be the antidote to that.