Sunday, July 22, 2007

Deconstructing a Credal Faith

So as I proceed through my existential crisis I decided to stop and take stock of what I do and do not believe. I decided that the great litmus test of faith for the orthodox church, "The Apostles' Creed," would be an interesting place to start. To understand the enormous changes I have undergone in my faith journey you need to understand that three months ago I stood in a pulpit and not only recited these words with conviction but led others to make the same statements of faith. Incidentally, I completed this exercise just a few days before beginning Spong's Why Christianity Must Change Or Die" which has an excellent chapter which goes through a very similar deconstruction.

Note: these are my opinions and only my opinions and I claim the right to be wrong about everything I say and the right for these opinions to change as I continue my journey.

"I believe in God, "
Yes, I do believe in God. I do not know exactly what I believe about God, but I do believe that there is something larger than me. I believe there is something guiding the creative forces responsible for human existence.

"the Father Almighty,"
I think Father is a limiting way of understanding God. Father was the best term for people in the biblical and early Christian period, but we no longer live in a patriarchal word. God in many ways is also mother. I am not entirely comfortable with feminine language for God- because God is no more female than God is male. I think I prefer gender neutral language unless discussing the ways in which God is both like Father and Mother. However, God is not an it. Our current gender language falls woefully short of describing God.

Is God Almighty? I don't think the traditional understanding of this fits for me. If God is all powerful as understood to mean capable of doing anything- I have to wonder why God allows the world to exist in such chaos and is full of so much suffering. Insert my "cruel God" argument. I feel that there are some things that limit God, they may be self limited out of love for God's creation, but limited none the less.

"the Creator of heaven and earth,"
I believe that God was present in and responsible for the creation of our world and the solar systems beyond. Do I believe that this happened in six 24 hour days- that would be a no. Evolution is not contradictory to my belief in God. God seems to be the divine spark that set the evolutionary process into motion.

"and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:"
This is where stuff starts getting tough... I believe that there was a man named Jesus Christ who walked on the face of the earth, had revolutionary teachings and unique ethical and spiritual insights, and perhaps even had a special and significant connection to God. I am not so sure I believe that Jesus was the literal Son of God. The evidence that the term Son of God was much more widespread than the traditional trinitarian suggests seems compelling to me.
This makes the question of Lordship even more challenging. If Jesus was just an excellent teacher then Lordship does not seem to follow. If he was the actual Son of God then it does. On its own merits the language of Lord and servitude do not sit well with me right now. Lord is an archaic term which we don't understand very well anyway. In a modern democracy what does lordship mean?

"Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary"
No, I don't believe this. I suspect that Mary was the mother of Jesus, but I do not buy the divine parenting. I think Joseph was probably the conceiving agent. I do not think Mary was a virgin. I think that Jesus was a result of consensual sexual intercourse between a man and a woman.

"suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried."
This seems very historically plausible.

"The third day He arose again from the dead."
Probably not. I won't say it couldn't happen, but it does not seem likely. What is wrong with accepting that Jesus lived and died? Why must death be skirted? If the events told in Resurrection account had truly happened (sky turning black in midday, dead people rising from their graves, etc.) I think someone would have noticed and commented on it in other historical texts.

"He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,
whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead."
If there is a heaven Jesus is there, but I do not think he necessarily had to rise bodily from the earth to get there. If resurrection were God's intended response to death why are there a billions of dead and rotting corpses?
As you can guess the idea of Jesus sitting in a chair beside God condemning people to hell or heaven is not up my alley. Are we as humanity judged for our actions? You bet, but it just may be summed up in the natural consequences that follow from our actions. We are judged today not at the end of life. Life is not a pass/fail course.

"I believe in the Holy Spirit, "
I am not sure what to make of the Trinity and especially the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit is the name for the presence of God on earth then I definitely believe in the Holy Spirit.

"the holy catholic church,"
Yes I believe that God mourns the broken nature of the Church and many violence's that have resulted from our attempts to make one manifestation of the church more right than any others.

"the communion of saints,"
Yes, I believe that all of humanity- past, present, and future are somehow linked.

"the forgiveness of sins,"
I believe that we need forgiveness for our sins. However I believe seeking out forgiveness from the ones that we have wronged is as important as receiving absolution from God.

"the resurrection of the body,"
Nope not real sure about this one. What happens to bodies that are mangled, decomposed, or drowned at sea etc.? If there is resurrection then it seems more plausible to speak of the soul continuing in existence than the body that houses it.

"and life everlasting."
I do not know. There are many reasons that I would want to be believe in this. No one wants to say that death is the end- but it just might be.

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