Perhaps no church has much by way of intellectual credibility in the 21st Century. Clinging to pre-scientific views of the world, Christians continue to assert a faith that is increasingly detached from the reality in which believers live. Complex theological works explain the doctrines of a God who goes unacknowledged by most of the world’s population. Unless one lives in a pre-modern African society where everything is attributable to ‘spirits’, the divine presence seems mostly notable by its absence.
On the day before the General Synod, the programme for Trinity Week 2009 arrived. Tuesday’s lectures, in the Schroedinger Theatre, follow the theme, “From a Bang to a Whimper: Celebrating Differing Views of the Universe.” If one is a conservative Christian, or an adherent of one of the numerous new churches, the whole day is mistaken – it does not accord with traditional theology, therefore it must be wrong.
On Tuesday afternoon, supernovae are examined. The notes on Professor Stephen Smartt’s lecture read:
Supernovae are some of the most exotic and explosive events that the Universe has to offer, providing an insight into the evolution of stars, the birth of black holes and Gamma Ray Bursters. As well as providing insight into the high energy physics involved in their eruption, supernovae also shed light on the evolution and death of stars, as well as how the elements that make up new generations of stars, planets, and life itself are created. In addition, the high luminosity of supernovae enables them to be used as signposts in the high redshift Universe, indicating how the Universe has evolved and continues to evolve.
The notes are explicit, supernovae shed light on how “life itself” is created. This contradicts Scripture and a consistent conservative would have to reject such teaching; one cannot uphold Scriptural authority and allow the teaching of such an understanding of the universe.
But the conservatives keep their heads down. They would be pilloried if they were to attempt to argue against elementary astronomy. So when it comes to General Synod, the conservatives stay in their own safe territory. Much better to re-fight 16th Century battles about the teachings of the Papacy than to attempt a painful engagement; let’s focus on upholding the Thirty Nine articles, let’s not acknowledge that no-one but ourselves has the slightest interest in these things.
‘Evangelical’ is supposed to mean committed to ‘good news’. One wonders what good news there is in the proclamation of a faith ill equipped to survive in contemporary society. Twenty years ago, one local ‘evangelical’ church used to be full on a Sunday evening, in Dublin of the 21st Century it no longer has an evening service at all; ten years ago an ‘evangelical’ group established a presence in the village, they have long since disappeared. What future can there be in people having to live in a constant state of schizophrenia?
Maybe holding on to one’s ecclesiastical ‘party’ line is more important than an honest attempt at engagement with uncomfortable realities, but it is hard to believe that Jesus would not expect more from his followers than a lazy anti-intellectualism.