Simple and Intelligible Redux

September 24, 2007

A while ago, I (mis)used an academic paper online at the Unitarian Christian Colloqium by Andrew Brown from the beautiful Cambridge Unitarian called ‘God, Jesus, Christ & Holy Spirit’ as a starting point for some comments of mine on the need for a simple and intelligible presentation of liberal faith. Andrew was nice enough to leave an excellent comment, which is worth highlighting:

[…] I think it is right to point out that liberal Christianity should be simple – at least in its everyday practice (whether in prayer or in social action). However, this does not mean we need to be simple minded when we reflect upon our faith. I think it is vital to explore how sound, intellectually and philosophically, liberal Christianity is. Liberal Christians got caught out after the First World War simply because many of them simply hadn’t done enough hard thinking and it left the door open for people like Karl Barth to set the theological agenda for the rest of the century (and beyond). Let’s not get caught out again. I don’t claim for one minute my own theology is good and sound enough to do the job but I am keen to encourage us all to think as deeply as we can. In between times as a regular kind of pastor I try to practice Christianity in its most simple and intelligble terms just by following the example of Jesus.

The older types of liberal protestantism, such as the Universalists’, with their belief in the perfectability of human society (one 1935 creed endorsing “the power of men of good will and sacrificial spirit to overcome all evil and progressively establish the kingdom of God”) were plainly inadequate in the face of the first half of the 20C – failing Rabbi Greenberg’s post-Shoah test that we should make no theological statement that could not be made in the presence of burning children.

We certainly should not forget that lesson.

So hard thinking is certainly needed. And clear words, too.


3 Responses to “Simple and Intelligible Redux”

  1. Andrew Brown Says:

    Dear Demas,
    Thanks for this post. Your additional comments are spot on. However, I think your original point – from memory – about my essay being a little complicated 🙂 was actually an important one to make. The reason is that you highlit a real problem liberal Christianity has, namely that its faith cannot be expressed in snappy soundbites. Instead it is a living and unfolding faith that must grow and develop over a a whole lifetime. It recognises that there are depths and complexities in life that need to be carefully unfolded in words of more than one syllable! I guess that is one of the crosses that we must bear.
    Anyway thanks. An interesting blog. Go well.

  2. Subbasement Says:

    Somehow i missed the point. Probably lost in translation 🙂 Anyway … nice blog to visit.

    cheers, Subbasement.

  3. carmenmy16 Says:

    Very recently started fresh occupation:

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