It’s time for the next revolution

A little revolution now and then is a healthy thing, don’t you think? Captain Marko Ramius, The Hunt For Red October [1]

I hold it, that a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical. – Thomas Jefferson [2]

The church has faced many changes throughout history and they have come in many forms. In the 1600’s, the church came up against scientific evidence in the form of Galileo’s findings that the earth did in fact move. He was continuing the work started by Copernicus and others before him. The church of the time did not take too kindly to this affront on the Bible and in a letter by Cardinal Bellarmine stated; ….that the doctrine attributed to Copernicus (that the earth moves around the sun and the sun stands at the center of the world without moving from east to west) is contrary to Holy Scripture and therefore cannot be defended or held.[3]

It should be noted that Galileo was also up against other scientists of the day since the church was pretty much in bed with the Aristotle philosophers. As history has shown, Galileo was right and the church eventually moved from the then traditional interpretations of passages like Ecclesiastes 1:5. Doesn’t seem like much now but at the time, it was a massive revolution in approaching the Bible. In a report compiled for the church

Proposition to be assessed:

(1) The sun is the center of the world and completely devoid of local motion.

Assessment: All said that this proposition is foolish and absurd in philosophy, and formally heretical since it explicitly contradicts many places the sense of Holy Scripture, according to the literal meaning of the words and according to the common interpretation and understanding of the Holy Fathers and the doctors of theology.

(2) The earth is not the center of the world, nor motionless, but it moves as a whole and also with diurnal motion.

Assessment: All said that this proposition receives the same judgement in philosophy and that in regard to theological truth it is at least erroneous in faith.[4]

To go from every passage is to be taken literally to the possibility that even some of it may not be was a massive shock to the system to them (some still haven’t gotten over it but that’s another matter).  It was a revolution for the church in how they treated scripture. The church has had a torrid history of clinging onto traditions whilst other Christians step out and push for change. William Wilberforce, one of the leading figures in abolishing slavery, found himself up against traditional views. Like Galileo, he too was also up against massive opposition. In May 1788, Wilberforce introduced a 12-point motion to Parliament to abolish the slave trade. The motion was defeated as planters, businessmen, ship owners, traditionalists, MPs and the Crown opposed him [5]. Wilberforce cited his Christian faith as motivation, he had a desire to put his Christian principles into action and to serve God in public life [6]. The church did not see it that way and once again, the church seemed to be at war with itself. Abolishing slavery was a revolution for the world and for how the church handled passages in the Bible.

Thing is, there’s always been diversity within the church and the Christian faith; the Bible itself is a testament to that. The church has been able to adapt but it now faces another two; women bishops and same sex marriage. With more countries and states passing laws to include same sex couples in the definition of marriage, the traditional stance of the church has come under heavy scrutiny. Views on sexuality have changed over the years; huge strides are being made in not excluding LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender) from society. The American Boy Scouts is the most recent example with a motion passed to accept gay members. The same is true about women, with discussions raging about pay discrepancies. People are looking to the church for guidance but many see it as needing to catch up first.  I’m not saying that the church should alter its views just because society thinks it should, but many Christians are tired of how the traditional interpretation is rigorously (and dare I say viciously) held onto. Indeed, looking at the examples above it seems changes came about, not because the church went against culture (it seemed very much aligned with it) but because Christians went against the church; but that’s an entire blog in itself.

Women bishops has slipped under the radar somewhat due to the issue of same sex marriage; as the latter isn’t just about the church but the law which affects everyone. It’s this fact that is causing so much uproar with the church seemingly trying to dictate to the rest of the world what it can and can’t do. Within the church, the old discussions of interpretation are being played out. With 24 hour news and instant access, these debates have been played out very publicly and everyone chiming in on it. Like with Galileo and WIlberforce, the church (or probably more accurately, the traditionalists) has dug its heals in and if it changes its views, it will be dragged kicking and screaming. The church though, should be at the forefront of social change and combating against social injustice, not hanging onto the coat tails of it. That’s not to say the churches current beliefs are not beneficial. The belief that life is sacred can help inform and contribute to the debate regarding topics like abortion and euthanasia. Admitting you might be wrong is not weak but it is healthy.

These 2 issues of women bishops and same sex marriage are the new revolution regarding approach to the Bible and approach to society. Not just with what they say but how they act. My Twitter feed is awash with updates from the Leadership Conference [7] about the inspirational leaders and speakers, I couldn’t help but respond with With all these wonderful statements coming from #LC13, the cynic in me can’t help but say “I’ve had enough of talk, back it up with actions” Jesus did not come with political aspirations or power, as he categorically told Pilate after being arrested. He didn’t stand and debate endlessly with the Pharisees. He spent more time going out to those who have been outcast, to heal the sick and comfort the grieving; no one was excluded. Wilberforce saw this, many Christians today are seeing this, are you listening church?

 

References:

[1] http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/The_Hunt_for_Red_October_(film)

[2] http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Thomas_Jefferson

[3] http://www.tc.umn.edu/~allch001/galileo/library/1616docs.htm#certificate

[4] http://www.tc.umn.edu/~allch001/galileo/library/1616docs.htm#conreport

[5] http://www.gci.org/history/wilberforce

[6] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Wilberforce#Abolition_of_the_slave_trade

[7] http://leadershipconference.htb.org.uk/

 

First published 9th June 2013

Advertisements

One thought on “It’s time for the next revolution

  1. […] I feel like I’m waging many wars at the moment, not least between what I believe the Bible to be and what I know about it; and I can’t ignore what I know. It is inspired by God and the historical evidence Jesus’s life death and resurrection have helped me have some degree of confidence as to the truthfulness of my faith, but similar accounts of the flood in other ancient documents, ending of Mark being added to, differing resurrection accounts, 200,000 textual variants in the manuscripts, not having the original autographs, the use of other (now lost) sources; have all raised questions regarding what does all this mean for inerrancy of the Bible. Any half-decent apologist will be able to give an explanation for these and why the overall reliability isn’t affected, but it doesn’t change the above facts and doesn’t really address inerrancy.  All this is before we even get into science and evolution, and their relationship with Christianity and the Bible. On the one hand, evolution is a process and God is a designer; 2 different types of explanation that are not in conflict. On the other hand, why would a good loving God use a method that relies on death? I’ve been taking a course on human evolution run by John Hawks who is a paleoanthropologist from the University of Wisconsin to help better understand this process and the evidence. Regardless of whether you believe the evolution theory to be true or false, it helps to know a little bit about it.  Its not the first time science has thrown up facts about the universe that forced Christians to re-think the Bible. The idea that the earth moved signified a massive shift in how certain passages were interpreted. […]

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s