My new book will be available to order, only via this website, from Spring 2022
'The future will almost certainly be far less ‘Christian’ than before, but that need not mean the end of the journey'.
This is not a book of serious-minded Theology or Bible Study; there are already plenty of those and I’m not qualified to write yet another, despite my postgraduate degree from a proper University. It is a book about human life and what it means to live it, which recognises and explores my Christian inheritance but which also aims to keep both feet on the ground. It is anecdotal, opinionated, in places irreverent and partial but also, I hope, friendly and stimulating. It is about a journey that didn’t start from here and which won’t last for ever.
I have self-published two short books and two longer ones since 2011 in search of a ‘humanist spirituality’ within the Christian tradition, though, to be honest, apart from the last one, not many people noticed:
Walking Without God: Reflections on selected psalms (2011)
Finding the Way: Reflections on selected parables (2011)
Updating the Map: A humanist journey through the Bible (2012)
The Apostate’s Creed: Rethinking Christianity for the C21st (2019)
I have now brought the first three together into a revised and updated Collection. I have not ‘found my faith’ again while writing these books - perhaps I never had one in the first place. I did find that I still had a fascination with the Jesus story and that, like it or not, Christianity continues to be an integral part of my identity. But I am an observer, not a believer. I do not believe in any kind of supernatural ‘Being’ or ‘Other’ who in some way influences life on earth. All ‘religious’ experiences are solely human experiences; they cannot be anything else. We create our religions; their values and their doctrines. We decide what they contain and the rules required for following them. The Church of England website says that its beliefs are not of human origin but of course they are. You only have to look at its history to see how they have come about.
The Bible is no different; people like us wrote it. To complement my previous focus on the Apostles’ Creed, this Collection is substantially about the Bible, but as entirely human literature. What kinds of writings are these? And can I create new answers to the questions confronting the original authors that make sense in my own context; recognising where they had reached but not tied to it? I have tried to include some helpful background information, but I will often end up with a meaning that would never have occurred to them. My University tutors might have had some problem with this approach but I am using the text as a springboard, not as a final authority. That was their journey; this is mine. What might we have to say to each other as we walk along together?
I am convinced that Jeshua of Nazareth had no intention of founding a new religion focused on himself. But what seems to have been his prophetic desire to reveal the ‘God-ness’ in this world still has value. His story is a ‘myth’, not in the sense that he did not exist, but in the sense that there are truths to be found here, perhaps deeper and more lasting truths than those formulated by those who turned him into a Divine Saviour etc.
This is an urgent issue for Christians in the UK to address. Christianity as previously understood is dying, even though most of its dwindling adherents seem unwilling to face up to why that is. The future is likely to see the closure of many more churches plus a narrow fundamentalism at the margins. Both options sadden me. The traditional beliefs may still work for a few but they are clearly failing to address the issues posed by our modern context. Most people see it all as entirely irrelevant to their lives.
What lies 'beyond Christianity'? If anything is to change we need a theological revolution to match the Copernican revolution of the C16thCE. There are, I believe, many good people who have abandoned the Church and Christianity because they cannot share its antiquated doctrinal basis. Others are hanging on but don’t feel able to say what they really think. They will soon be lost too. So is there another way to engage with the Bible and our Christian heritage before it virtually disappears? I genuinely hope so.
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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.