Julian Baggini, writing the Guardian UK, is upset at those Anglicans who think that the Anglican Church would lose its soul if it were to so inclusive as to exclude Jesus. Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FOCA) is the voice of members of the worldwide Anglican communion who think that the train is coming off the tracks. They met at All Souls in London to discuss these issues. Mr. Baggini stumbled upon their meeting and did not like what he heard.
Yesterday’s meeting was about the creation of what is in effect a church within a church … The most obvious issue behind this near schism is homosexuality. In its founding statement, Foca criticised the growth of a false gospel in the church which “claims God’s blessing for same-sex unions over against the biblical teaching on holy matrimony”.
However, the broader theological issue is the rejection of pluralism: the idea that there is more than one right way to live. Christian proponents of this view, Foca says, “claim that all religions offer equal access to God and that Jesus is only a way, not the way, the truth and the life”, a reference to the evangelicals’ favourite biblical passage, John 14:6, in which Jesus says “no one comes to the father expect through me”.
If you think about it, that’s a terrifying verse. If you really believe that salvation can only come by following Christ, then you think that the vast majority of all people who have ever lived are damned.
Terrifying indeed. This is probably doubly true for Atheists, like Mr. Baggini, who reject God altogether. Mr. Baggini attempts to give himself some hope that he can avoid this fate by cozying to a Chrisitianity more suited to his tastes. He then has some choice words for those reactionary Christians who actually believe in God.
Although an atheist, I can see that in its more thoughtful corners, religion has worthwhile things to say, and even good ways to live. That’s why I went to All Souls, with a member of the Evangelical Alliance I’m in ongoing collaboration with, and it’s also why on Saturday I debated secularism in east London in front of a wholly Muslim audience.
But at All Souls, I saw a side of Christianity that I don’t like. They all seemed obsessed by salvation and glorifying Jesus. [There is an atheist money quote if I ever heard one!] You would not have guessed that the only prayer their messiah gave was directed at God, not himself, and that he repeatedly told people not to worship him, but the father. You would not have guessed that he spent much of this time telling people to be good neighbours, irrespective of what other people believed or who they slept with. The very human moral teacher of Matthew, Mark and Luke was eclipsed by the more ethereal Christ of John.
The hubris of athiests knows no bounds. They believe in nothing other than the absolute certainty of their own opinion through a mysterious (but not supernatural) infused knowledge that comes to them through methods yet unknown. Yet, will all his certainly. Baggini is left scratching his head. No matter, he has a plan!
Yet which denominations are thriving today? Those that focus on the authority of the Bible and the message of salivation[sic].
Why does this matter to non-believers or the “vaguely spiritual”…Because it shows that religion is much more diverse than crude attacks on it as a “delusion” suggest. Belief is not going to go away, and if we want those churches that thrive to be inclusive and, yes, pluralist in their approaches, we have to give support to those resisting the fundamentalist urge and not simply lump them together with evangelicals.
Athiests and the self absorbed “vaguely spiritual” will create an alliance with inclusive churches. This is great news for the inclusive churches, since they are losing members faster than Jeremiah Wright. They can fill up their empty pews with atheists. Hey, maybe they can have Sheer Pot Luck dinners and serve primordial soup! That should be fun.