Part 1 of this book is an exploration of some selected phrases from the Apostles’ Creed, one of the classic summaries of Christian faith, but by someone who no longer believes that most of what it says is true – hence the witty title! (I’m amazed that no-one seems to have used it before).
Part 2 is a series of reflections; the ‘virtual’ sermons I would have preached if anyone had asked me to. They are a response to the Common Lectionary passages set during June to August 2019. My aim, as a non-Theist, is to find something positive to say from within the Jesus story, even if they’re not the usual sermons you’d expect to hear in most churches.
After an explanation of my somewhat ambiguous personal context and the rather labyrinthine ‘spiritual’ path that has brought me to here, there follows a brief historical scene-setter. Where did the Apostles’ Creed come from? Books about what it means to believe it often miss this element out entirely. But the orthodox doctrines were defined a very long time ago by statements such as these. That’s part of my problem with them. So my first task is to try to understand what the compilers of this and other Creeds thought they were doing, before I try to apply their claims to the C21st.
However, this is not an academic or scholarly work. You won’t find footnotes or lengthy quotations from the Church Fathers. It is a thoughtful tract; perhaps sometimes a rant in places, but not an objective investigation. It is meant to stimulate, even to provoke. So I begin with the initial setting for the Apostles’ Creed, as far as we know much about it. But then I want to take its statements on into whether they can still mean anything to people like me today who are in search of a new kind of ‘humanist spirituality’, if still within the Christian tradition.
This life is all we get and we each have to make some sense of it. There is no underlying pre-determined meaning to be discovered, it has to be created. I come from an essentially rationalist perspective which sees all religion as a human language about life, not as a door into a greater truth that is ‘outside’ of us. If such a reality exists, we cannot, by definition, know it. I am faced with many of the same questions that religions claim to answer, but I am seeking new answers and new ways of understanding them. Much re-interpreting will be in store but I will try not to confuse my own ideas with those who came before me.
I hope that I can still keep a slender hold on my heritage, but this is a personal pilgrimage beyond belief as traditionally understood. The ‘God’ we have created, and the religion Christians have built upon ‘Him’, both strike me as unhelpful. In that sense, I am, and I am sure I will remain, a Non-Theist. The doctrines I am asked to believe do not answer the questions that I and many others are asking about how to be fully human. Perhaps they even get in the way and make it more difficult to walk in ‘the Way’ of Jesus. So can there still be a meaningful conversation about all this? Is there any point in still bothering? Many would say not, but the reader is welcome to travel with me for a while. Maybe we can explore these ideas together and discover something new along the way that will encourage us both.
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The Jesus story is a 'myth' for our times which, if looked at differently, can still tell us a deeper truth about life and how to live it well. The Christian 'religion', however, is a set of doctrinal claims based on pre-scientific assumptions that no longer fit with modern knowledge. No wonder most people have rejected it. It may be best to leave a 'God' out of it and move on.
In Study Resources you'll find a PowerPoint (with audio) on 'Who Wrote the Bible'? This is so important and so often ignored. And some Discussion Notes on the classic book from the 1960s, ''Honest to God' which still raises so many key questions that have never been answered.
Book Reviews suggests some reading which I've found helpful.
Friendly Feedback is always very welcome. Please let me know if you have found my ideas interesting.