Friday, September 10, 2004

Faith or doctrine??

Fascinating visit this afternoon to one of the congregation...retired English teacher, who started off by telling me, with a edge of challenge in her voice, that she had "more or less no Christian faith". Since she then went on to talk fluently about moments of epiphany, when God had been very real to her, and to affirm the value of both Christian ethics and (amazingly) the church community in her life, I probed a bit and we finally came to the conclusion that she has no problems with faith at all, but found some parts of doctrine a bit sticky. I discovered that she shares my passion for the 17th century metaphysical poets, and agrees that they offer a window onto a reality which the Creeds can only hint at. We also agreed that, when all else failed, the B Minor Mass was clearly a vote for God in a messy world. It was a good encounter...I learned so much from her, and think I may have been able to suggest ways in which she could escape the theological straightjacket which she had been sure she "ought" to be wearing.
Heading home, I was excited by the way minds can meet and visions be exchanged, but also saddened by the way in which the church through the ages has provided stumbling blocks in our very attempts to present our limited understanding of the Truth that is God...Dave Tomlinson, in his GB talk, refers to the way in which words act as icons, leading us into the deeper truths beyond...but, oh dear, how very good we are at insisting that people stick with the superficials.

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