Honest To God | Notes

Posted on April 15, 2017

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John Arthur Thomas (A.T.) Robinson. Honest To God. Westminster, SCM Press, 1963. (143 pages)

NTWright Page’s Doubts About DoubtNot Nearly Radical Enough: The Irony of John Robinson’s ‘Honest to God’ by Geoff Thompson; BBC News: When did people stop thinking God lives on a cloud?; NYTimes Obituary;

Preface

I believe we are being called, over the years ahead, to far more than a restating of traditional orthodoxy in modern terms. … A much more radical recasting, I would judge, is demanded, in the process of which the most fundamental categories of our theology–of God, of the supernatural, and of religion itself–must go into the melting. (7)

…the line to which I am referring runs right through the middle of myself. … Thus, not infrequently, as I watch or listen to a broadcast discussion between a Christian and a humanist, I catch myself realizing that most of my sympathies are on the humanists’s side. This is not in the least because my faith or commitment is in doubt, but because I share instinctively with him his inability to accept the scheme of thought and mould of religion within which alone that Faith is being offered to him. I feel he is right to rebel against it, and I am increasingly uncomfortable that ‘orthodoxy’ should be identified with it. (8)

What dismays me is the vehemence–and at bottom the insecurity–of those who feel that the Faith can only be defended by branding as enemies within the camp those who do not. (9)

…almost everything said from within the Church at the time has since proved too conservative. What I have tried to say, in a tentative and exploratory way, may seem to be radical, and doubtless to many heretical. The one thing of which I am fairly sure is that, in retrospect, it will be seen to have erred in not being nearly radical enough. (10)

1. Reluctant Revolution

Up There or Out There?

…ascension–the conviction that he is not merely alive but reigns in the might and right of God… (11)

…we do not realize how crudely spatial much of the Biblical terminology is, for we have ceased to perceive it that way. (13)

[via: There are two means of misapprehending the story that are rooted in the same problem of “literalizing” it. One is to criticize it as unscientific and therefore absurd. The other is to absolutize it, and therefore to miss its metaphorical and narratival meaning.]

For in place of a God who is literally or physically ‘up there’ we have accepted, as part of our mental furniture, a God who is spiritually or metaphysically ‘out there’(13)

In fact the number of people who instinctively seem to feel that it is no longer possible to believe in God in the space-age shows how crudely physical much of this thinking about a God ‘out there’ has been. (13)

But the idea of a God spiritually or metaphysically ‘out there’ dies very much harder. Indeed, most people would be seriously disturbed by the thought that it should need to die at all. For it is their God, and they have nothing to put in its place. (14)

The final psychological, if not logical blow delivered by modern science and technology to the idea that there might literally be a God ‘out there’ has coincided with an awareness that the mental picture of such a God may be more of a stumbling-block than an aid to belief in the Gospel. (16)

Suppose that all such atheism does is to destroy an idol, and that we can and must get on without a God ‘out there’ at all? Have we seriously faced the possibility that to abandon such an idol may in the future be the only way of making Christianity meaningful, except to the few remaining equivalents of flat-earthers (just as to have clung earlier to the God ‘up there’ would have made it impossible in the modern world for any but primitive peoples to believe the Gospel)? (17)

Must we upset what most people happily believe–or happily choose not to believe? And have we anything to put in its place? (18)

Some Christian Questioners

Indeed, as one goes on, it is the things one doesn’t believe and finds one doesn’t have to believe which are liberating as the things one does. (20)

I stand in a religious tradition…which really does not know very much about religion. – James Pike

But the point I want to make is that I gradually came to realize that some of the things that rang bells and some of the things that didn’t seemed to be connected. I began to find that I was questioning one whole set of presuppositions and feeling towards another in its place. All I am doing in this book is to try to think this process aloud and help to articulate it for others. For I believe it is a process common in some form or other to many in our age. Indeed, it is the number of straws apparently blowing in the same direction that strikes me as significant. (21)

The name of this infinite and inexhaustible depth and ground of all being is God. That depth is what the word God means. And if that word has not much meaning for you, translate it, and speak of the depths of your life, of the source of your being, of your ultimate concern, of what you take seriously without any reservation. Perhaps, in order to do so, you must forget everything traditional that you have learned about God, perhaps even that word itself. For if you know that God means depth, you know much about him. You cannot then call yourself an atheist or unbeliever. For you cannot think or say: Life has no depth! Life is shallow. Being itself is surface only. If you could say this in complete seriousness, you would be an atheist; but otherwise you are not. He who knows about depth knows about God. – Paul Tillich.

Bonhoeffer was saying, the Church has based its preaching of the Gospel on the appeal to the religious experience, to the fact that deep down every man feels the need for religion in some form, the need for a God to whom to give himself, a God in terms of whom to explain the world. But suppose men come to feel that thy can get along perfectly well without ‘religion’, without any desire for personal salvation, without any sense of sin, without any need of ‘that hypothesis’? Is Christianity to be confined to those who still have this sense of insufficiency, this ‘God-shaped blank’, or who can be induced to have it? Bonhoeffer’s answer was to say that God is deliberately calling us in this twentieth century to a form of Christianity that does not depend on the premise of religion, just as St Paul was calling men in the first century to a form of Christianity that did not depend on the premise of circumcision (23)

In order to express the ‘trans-historical’ character of the historical event of Jesus of Nazareth, the New Testament writers used the ‘mythological’ language of pre-existence, incarnation, ascent and descent, miraculous intervention, cosmic catastrophe, and so on, which according to Bultmann, make sense only on a now completely antiquated world-view. (24)

The relevance of Bultmann’s analysis and of his programme of ‘demythologizing’ to the whole question of God ‘out there’ from which we started is obvious enough. If he is right, the entire conception of a supernatural order which invades and ‘perforates’ this one must be abandoned. But if so, what do we mean by God, by revelation, and what becomes of Christianity? (24)

Theology and the World

The first stage is to get it out of the world of the professional theologians into that of the intelligent thinking churchman (26)

I do not pretend to know the answers in advance. It is much more a matter of sensing certain things on the pulses, of groping forward, almost of being pushed from behind. All I can do is to try and be honest–honest to God about God–and to follow the argument wherever it leads. (28)

2 The End of Theism?

Must Christianity be ‘Supranaturalist’?

Traditional Christian theology has been based upon the proofs for the existence of God. The presupposition of these proofs, psychologically if not logically, is that God might or might not exist. They argue from something which everyone admits exists (the world) to a Being beyond it who could or could not be there. … such an entity, even if it could be proved beyond dispute, would not be God: it would merely be a further piece of existence, that might conceivably not have been there–or a demonstration would not have been required. (29)

Rather, we must start the other way round. God is, by definition, ultimate reality. And one cannot argue whether ultimate reality exists. One can only ask what ultimate reality is like. … Thus, the fundamental theological question consists not in establishing the ‘existence’ of God as a separate entity but in pressing through in ultimate concern to what Tillich calls ‘the ground of our being.’ (29)

…any notion that go really exists ‘out there’ must be dismissed: ‘gods are peripheral phenomena produced by evolution’. True religion (if that is not a contradiction in terms, as it would be for the Marxist) consists in harmonizing oneself with the evolutionary process as it develops ever higher forms of self-consciousness. (32)

Must Christianity be ‘Mythological’?

Must Christianity be ‘Religious’?

The attack by Christian apologetic upon the adulthood of the world I consider to be in the first place pointless, in the second ignoble, and in the third un-Christian. Pointless, because it looks to me like an attempt to put a grown-up man back into adolescence, i.e. to make him dependent on things on which he is not in fact dependent any more, thrusting him back into the midst of problems which are in fact not problems for him any more. Ignoble, because this amounts to an effort to exploit the weakness of man for purposes alien to him and not freely subscribed to by him. Un-Christian, because for Christ himself is being substituted one particular stage in the religiousness of man. – Deitrich Bonhoeffer

Operationally, God is beginning to resemble not a ruler but the last fading smile of a cosmic Cheshire Cat. – Deitrich Bonhoeffer

[via: In other words “God” continues to retreat further and further to any last semblance of intellectual credibility.]

Bonhoeffer’s answer is that we should boldly discard ‘the religious premise’, as St Paul had the courage to jettison circumcision as a precondition of the Gospel, and accept ‘the world’s coming of age’ as a God-given fact. ‘The only way to be honest is to recognize that we have to live in the world etsi deus non daretur [as if God did not exist]–even if God is not ‘there’. Like children outgrowing the secure religious, moral and intellectual framework of the home, in which ‘Daddy’ is always there in the background, ‘God is teaching us that we must live as men who can get along very well without him’. (38-39)

Transcendence for Modern Man

I cannot emphasize too strongly that acceptance of the Christian faith became possible for me only because I found I did not have to go back on my wholesale rejection of the superstitious beliefs that had hitherto surrounded me. The faith I came to accept was not merely different from what I had hitherto believed Christianity to be–it was utterly opposed to it, and I still regard that sort of ‘religion’ as an unmitigated evil, far, far more anti-Christian than atheism. This is a truth to which I do not think religious apologists pay nearly enough attention. There is a misplaced sense of loyalty which makes many Christians feel reluctant to come out in open opposition to anything that calls itself by the same name, or uses words like ‘God’ and ‘Christ’; even Christians who in practice dislike superstition as much as I do still often treat it as a minor aberration to be hushed up rather than a radical perversion to be denounced. For example, Christian writers whose positive views are, as far as I can judge, very similar to my own, even though they may use different language to express them, still feel constrained to produce ‘refutations’ of the Freudian case against religion, although in fact a very large proportion of what passes for religion in our society is exactly the sort of neurotic illness that Freud describes, and the first essential step in convincing people that Christianity can be true in spite of Freud is to assert outright that belief based on the projection-mechanisms he describes is false, however much it may say ‘Lord, Lord’. It is not enough to describe such beliefs as childish or primitive, for this implies that the truth is something like them, even though much more ‘refined’ or ‘enlightened’, whereas in reality nothing like the ‘God’ and ‘Christ’ I was brought up to believe in can be true. It is not merely that the Old Man in the Sky is only a mythological symbol for the Infinite Mind behind the scenes, nor yet that this Being is benevolent rather than fearful: the truth is that this whole way of thinking is wrong, and if such a Being did exist, he would be the very devil. – John Wren-Lewis, They Became Anglicans

That, I believe, is an exaggeration. (43)

Nevertheless, I am firmly convinced that this whole way of thinking can be the greatest obstacle to an intelligent faith–and indeed will progressively be so to all except the ‘religious’ few. (43)

If Christianity is to survive, let alone to recapture ‘secular’ man, there is no time to lose in detaching it from this scheme of thought, from this particular theology or logos about theos, and thinking hard about what we should put in its place. (43)

The old doctrine of transcendence is nothing more than assertion of an outmoded view of the world – Professor R. Gregor Smith

Our concern is in no way to change the Christian doctrine of God but precisely to see that it does not disappear with this outmoded view. (44)

3 The Ground of our Being

A Depth at the Centre of Life

‘Deep’ in its spiritual use has two meanings: it means either the opposite of ‘shallow’, or the opposite of ‘high’. Truth is deep and not shallow; suffering is depth and not height. Both the light of truth and the darkness of suffering are deep. There is a depth in God, and there is a depth out of which the psalmist cries to God. – Paul Tillich, The Shaking of the Foundations

So conditioned for us is the word ‘God’ by associations with Being out there that Tillich warns us that to make the necessary transposition, ‘you must forget everything traditional that you have learned about God, perhaps even that word itself. (47)

For this way of thinking, it say that ‘God is personal’ is to say that ‘reality at its very deepest level is personal’, that personality is of ultimate significance in the constitution of the universe, that in personal relationships we touch the final meaning of existence as nowhere else. ‘To predicate personality of God’, says Feuerbach, ‘is nothing else than to declare personality as the absolute essence’. [The Essence of Christianity] To believe in God as love means to believe that in pure personal relationship we encounter, not merely what ought to be, but what is, the deepest, veriest truth about the structure of reality. This, in face of all the evidence, is a tremendous act of faith. (49)

Belief in God is the trust, the well-nigh incredible trust, that to give ourselves to the uttermost in love is not to be confounded but to be ‘accepted’, that Love is the ground of our being, to which ultimately we ‘come home’.

| If this is true, then theological statements are not a description of ‘the highest Being’ but an analysis of the depths of personal relationships–or, rather, an analysis of the depths of all experience ‘interpreted by love’. Theology, as Tillich insists, is about ‘that which concerns us ultimately’. A statement is ‘theological’ not because it relates to a particular Being called ‘God’, but because it asks ultimate questions about the meaning of existence: it asks what, at the level of theos, at the level of its deepest mystery, is the reality and significance of our life. A view of the world which affirms this reality and significance in personal categories is ipso facto making an affirmation about the ultimacy of personal relationships: it is saying that God, the final truth and reality ‘deep down things’, is love. And the specifically Christian view of the world is asserting that the final definition of this reality, from which ‘nothing can separate us’, since it is the very ground of our being,  is ‘the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord’. (50)

Man and God

God in the Bible

The first step to atheism is always a theology which drags God down to the level of doubtful things. – Paul Tillich, The Shaking of the Foundations

…the deepest groans of suffering of which the Apostle has been speaking, so far from separating us from the source of our being in the love of God are in fact pointers to it, inarticulate sighs too deep for words, which the Spirit can take up and translate into prayer, because ‘the Spirit’ represents the link between the depth of our individual being (however shallow) and the unfathomable abyss of all being in God. God is not outside us, yet his profoundly transcendent. (60)

Whether one has ‘known’ Go is tested by one question only, ‘How deeply have you loved?’–for ‘He who does not love does not know God; for God is love’. (61)

A right relationship to God depended on nothing religious: in fact religion could be the greatest barrier to it. [e.g., Amos 5:21-25)(61)

4 The Man for Others

Christmas and Truth

Chalcedonian Definition and the Athanasian Creed.

But if it is necessary in our thinking about God to move to a position ‘beyond naturalism and supranaturalism’, this is no less important in our thinking about Christ. Otherwise we shall be shut up, as we have been hitherto, to an increasingly sterile choice between the two. (64)

The orthodox ‘answer’ to this problem, as formulated in the Definition of Chalcedon, is within its own terms unexceptionable–except that properly speaking it is not a solution but a statement of the problem. (65)

‘The Christological dogma saved the Church’, says Tillich, ‘but with very inadequate conceptual tools’. To use an analogy, if one had to present the doctrine of the person of Christ as a union of oil and water, then it made the best possible attempt to do so. Or rather it made the only possible attempt, which was to insist against all efforts to ‘confuse the substance’ that there were two distinct natures and against all temptation to break the unity that there was but one indivisible person. It is not surprising, however, that in popular Christianity the oil and water separated, and that one or the other came to the top. (65)

Incarnation almost inevitably suggests that Jesus was really God almighty walking about on earth, dressed up as a man. Jesus was not a man born and bred–he was God for a limited period taking part in a charade. (66)

Indeed, the very word ‘incarnation’ (which, of course, is not a Biblical term) almost inevitably suggests it. It conjures up the idea of a divine substance being plunged in flesh and coated with it like chocolate or silver plating. (66-67)

…’veiled in flesh the Godhead see’. (67)

But we must be able to rad the natiity story without assuming that its truth depends on there being a literal interruption of the natural by the supernatural, that Jesus can only be Emmanuel–God with us–if, as it were, he came through from another world. For as supranaturalism becomes less and less credible, to tie the action of God to such a way of thinking is to banish it for increasing numbers into the preserve of the pagan myths and thereby to sever it from any real connection with history. (68)

If the thing is well said, the man is a genius–and if it is unusually well said, then God said it. – Soren Kierkegaard

And by this Jesus is put ‘on the same level as all those who have no authority, on the same level as geniuses, poets and the thinkers’. He is one of them, albeit the highest of them. (69)

Yet the Liberals were entirely justified in the courage with which they were prepared to abandon the supranaturalistic scaffolding by which hitherto the whole structure had been supported. That house had to collapse, and they had the faith to see that Christianity need not collapse with it. Moreover, however inadequate the Liberal theology may now appear to us, it undoubtedly helped many to hold on to their faith at a time when otherwise they might have thrown it up completely. As the supranaturalistic scheme of things became incredible, a naturalistic theology was all that stood between an entire generation and abandoning the spirit and power of Jesus altogether. And the spirit and power was able in many cases to prove itself greater than the theology. (69)

The Claim of the New Testament

…the New English Bible, I believe, gets the sense pretty exactly with its rendering, ‘And what God was, the Word was’. In other words, if one looked at Jesus, one saw God–for ‘he who has seen me, has seen the Father’. [John 14:9] (71)

In this man, in his life, death and resurrection they had experienced God at work; (71)

There is a paradox running through all the Gospels that Jesus makes no claims for himself in his own right and at the same time makes the most tremendous claims about what God is doing through him and uniquely through him. (73)

It is in Jesus, and Jesus alone, that there is nothing of self to be seen, but solely the ultimate, unconditional love of God. (74)

What is Christ for Us Today?

What do we mean by ‘God’?

Jesus is ‘the man for others’, the one in whom Love has completely taken over, the one who is utterly open to, and united with, the Ground of his being. And this ‘life for others, through participation in the Being of God’, is transcendence. For at this point, of love ‘to the uttermost’, we encounter God, the ultimate ‘depth’ of our being, the unconditional in the conditioned. This is what the New Testament means by saying that ‘God was in Christ’ and that ‘what God was the Word was’. Because Christ was utterly and completely ‘the man for others’, because he was love, he was ‘one with the Father’, because ‘God is love’. (76)

But, even when it is Christian in content, the whole schema of a supernatural Being coming down from heaven to ‘save’ mankind from sin, in the way that a man might put his finger into a glass of water to rescue a struggling insect, is frankly incredible to man ‘come of age,’ who no longer believes in such a deus ex machina. (78)

Most people would genuinely like to believe the Christmas story, but wonder whether it can be true with the world as it is after nearly two thousand years. (78-79)

The state of our whole life is estrangement from others and ourselves, because we are estranged from the Ground of our being, because we are estranged from the origin and aim of our life. And we do not know where we have come from, or where we are going. We are separated from the mystery, the depth, and the greatness of our existence. We hear the voice of that depth; but our ears are closed. We feel that something radical, total, and unconditioned is demanded of us; but we rebel against it, try to escape its urgency, and will not accept its promise.

We cannot escape, however. If that something is the Ground of our being, we are bound to it for all eternity, just as we are bound to ourselves and to all other life. We always remain in the power of that from which we are estranged. That fact brings us to the ultimate depth of sin: separated and yet bound, estranged and yet belonging, destroyed and yet preserved, the state which is called despair. Despair means that there is no escape. Despair is ‘the sickness unto death’. But the terrible thing about the sickness of despair is that we cannot be released, not even through open or hidden suicide. For we all know that we are bound eternally and inescapably to the Ground of our being. The abyss of separation is not always visible. But it has become more visible to our generation than to the preceding generations, because of our feeling of meaninglessness, emptiness, doubt, and cynicism–all expressions of despair, of our separation from the roots and the meaning of our life. Sin in its most profound sense, sin as despair, abounds amongst us. – Paul Tillich,  The Shaking of the Foundations

…’an entirely different mode of living-in-relationship from anything known in the world.’ – J. Wren-Lewis

And the Christian community exists, not to promote a new religion, but simply to be the embodiment of this new being as love. (82)

Christians range themselves with God in his suffering; that is what distinguishes them from the heathen. As Jesus asked in Gethsemane, ‘Could ye not watch with me one hour?’ That is the exact opposite of what the religious man expects from God. Man is challenged to participate in the suferings of God at the hands of a godless world.

He must therefore plunge himself into the life of a godless world, without attempting to gloss over its ungodliness with a veneer of religion or trying to transfigure it. He must live a ‘worldly’ life and so participate in the suffering of God. He may live a worldly life as one emancipated form all false religions and obligations. To be a Christian does not mean to be religious in a particular way, to cultivate some particular form of asceticism (as a sinner, a penitent or a saint), but to be a man. It is not some religious act which makes a Christian what he is, but participation in the suffering of God in the life of the world. – Deitrich Bonhoeffer

5 Worldly Holiness

The Holy in the Common

This is the essence of the religious perversion, when worship becomes a realm into which to withdraw from the world to ‘be with God’–even if it is only in order to receive strength to go back into it. In this case the entire realm of the non-religious (in other words, ‘life’) is relegated to the profane, in the strict sense of that which is outside the fanum or sanctuary. The holy place, where the Christ is met, lies not, as in the parable of the Sheep and the Goats, in the ordinary relationships of life: it lies within the circle of ‘the religious’, from which the worshipper will go out to carry Christ’s love into ‘the secular world’. (86-87)

The purpose of worship is not to retire from the secular into the department of the religious, let alone to escape from ‘this world’ into ‘the other world’, but to open oneself to the meeting of the Christ in the common, to that which has the power to penetrate its superficiality and redeem it from its alienation. The function of worship is to make us more sensitive to these depths; to focus, sharpen and deepen our response to the world and to other people beyond the point of proximate concern (of liking, self-interest, limited commitment, etc.) to that of ultimate concern; to purify and correct our loves in the light of Christ’s love; and in him to find the grace and power to be the reconciled and reconciling community. (87)

The test of worship is how far it makes us more sensitive to ‘the beyond in our midst’, to the Christ in the hungry, the naked, the homeless and the prisoner. Only if we are more likely to recognize him there after attending an act of worship is that worship Christian rather than a piece of religiosity in Christian dress. (90)

Engagement and Disengagement

For I believe the experts have induced in us a deep inferiority complex. They tell us that this is the way we ought to pray, and yet we find that we cannot maintain ourselves for any length of time even on the lowest rungs of the ladder, let alone climb it. If this is the scala sacra, then it seems it is not for us. We are evidently not ‘the praying type’. And so we carry on with an unacknowledged sense of failure and guilt. (93)

I suspect we have got to ask very seriously whether we should even begin our thinking about prayer in terms of the times we ‘set aside’, whether prayer is primarily something we do in the ‘spaces’, in the moments of disengagement from the world. I wonder whether Christian prayer, prayer in the light of the Incarnation, is not to be defined in terms of penetration through the world to God rather than of withdrawal from the world to God. (97)

But, if I am honest, what enlightenment I have had on decisions has almost always come not when I have gone away and stood back from them, but precisely as I have wrestled through all the most practical pros and cons, usually with other people. And this activity, undertaken by a Christian trusting and expecting that God is there, would seem to be prayer. (7)

‘The “heart” in the biblical sense is not the inward life, but the whole man in relation to God.’ (97)

My own experience is that I am really praying for people, agonizing with God for them, precisely as I meet them and really give my soul to them. it is then if ever, in this incarnational relationship, that deep speaks to deep and the Spirit of God is able to take up our inarticulate groans and turn them into prayer. (99)

A ‘Non-religious’ Understanding of Prayer

But to open oneself to another unconditionally in love is to be with him in the presence of God, and that is the heart of intercession. To pray for another is to expose both oneself and him to the common ground of our being; it is to see one’s concern for him in terms of ultimate concern, to let God into the relationship. Intercession is to be with another at that depth, whether in silence or compassion or action. (99)

Prayer is the responsibility to meet others with all I have, to be ready to encounter the unconditional in the conditional, to expect to meet God in the way, not to turn aside from the way. (100)

In fact, if I had the courage, I would start the other end in teaching the discipline of prayer–not from chronos, time set by the clock, but from kairos, waiting for the moment that drives us to our knees. (103)

The words of St Augustine, ‘Love God, and do what you like’, were never safe. But they constitute the heart of Christian prayer–as they do of Christian conduct. (104)

6 ‘The New Morality’

The Revolution in Ethics

Prayer and ethics are simply the inside and outside of the same thing. (105)

…there is no suggestion in the Gospels that the Christian ethic is for ‘the religious’ only. It is for all men: it is based upon the nature of man, and for the foundation of his teaching on marriage Jesus specifically went behind Moses and the Law to creation. It is for all men universally: it is not for homo religiosus. (110)

The Teaching of Jesus

This insistence on the parabolic character of the ethical sayings of Jesus should deliver us from the danger of taking them either as literal injunctions for any situation or as universal principles for every situation. The Sermon on the Mount does not say in advance, ‘This is what in any given circumstances you must do’, but ‘This is the kind of thing which at any moment, if you are open to the absolute, unconditional will of God, the Kingdom (or love) can demand of you’. It is relevant not because it provides us with an infallible guide to the moral life, but because as Martin Dibelius put it, ‘we are able to be transformed by it’. (111)

Nothing Prescribed–Except Love

To the young man asking in his relations with a girl, ‘Why shouldn’t I?’, it is relatively easy to say ‘Because it’s wrong’ or ‘Because it’s a sin’–and then to condemn him when he, or his whole generation, takes no notice. It makes much greater demands to ask, and to answer, the question ‘Do you love her?’ or ‘How much do you love her?’, and then to help him to accept for himself the decision that, if he doesn’t, or doesn’t very deeply, then his action is immoral, or, if he does, then he will respect her far too much to use her or take liberties with her. Chastity is the expression of charity–of caring, enough. And this is the criterion for every form of behavior, inside marriage or out of it, in sexual ethics or in any other field. For nothing else makes a thing right or wrong. (119)

Whatever the pointers of the law to the demands of love, there can for the Christian be no ‘packaged’ moral judgements–for persons are more important even than ‘standards’. (120)

In morals, as in everything else, ‘the secret of our exit’ from the morasses of relativism is not, I believe, a ‘recall to religion’, a reassertion of the sanctions of the supranatural. It is to take our place alongside those who are deep in the search for meaning etsi deus non daretur, even if Go is not ‘there.” It is to join those on the Emmaus road who have no religion left, and there, in, with and under the meeting of man with man and the breaking of our common bread, to encounter the unconditional as the Christ of our lives. (121)

7 Recasting the Mould

The Images Which Can Be Discarded

The continuance of a “religious” interpretation of the gospel in a “nonreligious” world may be at once a misunderstanding of the gospel itself and a default of the Church’s responsibility vis-á-vis the world (124)

And the first thing we must be ready to let go is our image of God himself. (124)

Every new religious truth comes as the destroyer of some other god, as an attack upon that which men hold most sacred. (125)

For the Christian gospel is in perpetual conflict with the images of God set up in the minds of men, even of Christian men, as they seek in each generation to encompass his meaning. (125)

Christianity and Naturalism

Belief is the avowel of a policy, the declaration that love is the supremely valuable quality. And such belief, of course, requires no revelation. (128)

Christianity stands or falls by revelation, by Christ as the disclosure of the final truth not merely about human nature (that we might accept relatively easily) but about all nature and all reality. (128)

Christianity and Supranaturalism

Consequences for the Church

For the last thing the Church exists to be is an organization for the religious. Its charter is to be the servant of the world. (134)

For the true radical is not the man who wants to root out the tares from the wheat so as to make the Church perfect: it is only too easy on these lines to reform the Church into a walled garden. The true radical is the man who continually subjects the Church to the judgement of the Kingdom, to the claims of God in the increasingly non-religious world which the Church exists to serve. (140)

What certainly is true is that there are many men who find traditional religion and spirituality completely meaningless, and that you will find them among those who are completely committed to Christ as well as among those that are not … We have reached a moment in history when these things are at last being said openly and when they are said there i an almost audible gasp of relief from those whose consciences have been wrongly burdened by the religious tradition. – Editor of Prism

 

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