During the continued lock down I am forced to spend time tidying up the study. (Yes times are becoming desperate!). Whilst doing this I came across some old yellowing paper and realised that they were not the Dead Sea Scrolls but my old lecture notes and so looking for any excuse to stop cleaning I sat down and began to read them. One of the course I took was called ‘Philosophy and Religion’ where I read once again the words of the 19th Century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche who statement “God is dead” is much quoted, however that is not the full quote. Nietzsche puts the words into the mouth of a madman who is searching for God and when ridiculed by his fellow citizens says “God is dead and we have killed him!”
The sound bite that gets most people’s attention is “God is dead.” But Nietzsche’s riveting and strikingly relevant claim is this: “We have killed him!”
Nietzsche is not suggesting that human beings have somehow murdered the Supreme Being. And yet neither is he merely making a pitch for atheism in contrast to belief in God.
Instead, he is challenging those who profess the Christian faith but in practice live out a form of atheism that diminishes the God they claim to believe in. In the everyday lives of some people who insist on the authority of scripture, the eternal truth of traditional dogmas, or the universality of the unchanging moral law, God does not actually matter. Their lives are grounded on what they take to be a religious principle—or at least a principle to which they are passionately committed—rather than the felt presence of God.
True Christian faith begins and ever returns to a growing, frequently surprising, and continually soul-stretching sacred relationship with the risen Christ. However, it is all too common to meet Christians for whom a theological principle or a moral commitment has become their non-negotiable.
Recent studies suggest that a distressingly large number of self-identified Christians—white Protestants in particular—equate Christianity with a social order that grants them a privileged position. Christianity functions in their lives like an ideology in competition with other ideologies. Their fundamental commitment is to power and status, not to the person of Jesus as life-transforming friend.
Jesus taught us a different way. On the night before Roman authorities murdered him on the cross, Jesus explicitly told his friends that he would not abandon them.
His teachings about the Holy Spirit say that God is perpetually in, around, and between us. God is here. Right here. Right now. Always. Reaching out to be the centre of our lives. (John 14:18, 15:5-7)
The spiritual challenge is to become aware of God’s presence with such vulnerability and humility and yearning that God’s love for us transforms who we are. That love shapes our way of being in this world into the way of love. Love of God. Love of self. Love of neighbour.The christian commentator Wiman says that God is like music. For many people however he has become ‘muzac’, that background music played in shops and hotel lifts that you can’t quite hear properly. It is annoying and at times becomes extremely unpleasant. Why? Because the music that is God is a magnificent symphony that demands we listen and it is only when we stop and listen that we appreciate it’s true beauty.
God created us with the gift of reason. It is both good and natural that we develop concepts to articulate our faith and and that we devise moral principles to illuminate faithful living.
But our doctrines and our moral codes do not save us. They do not restore the shattered creation. The risen Christ does that. And that is why genuine faith begins and ends in that sacred relationship with God.
God bless and stay safe,