The Fulcrum blog was, until a little while ago, carrying links to Adam Rutherford’s Guardian ‘Comment is Free’ diary of doing an Alpha Course — not least, I’m sure, because he was doing it at St Mary’s Islington, until recently home of the now Bishop of Sherborne, Graham Kings.
I’m not sure the latest updates have been linked, but the diary is well worth reading, not least to see how a Guardianista approaches the faith. One thing that seems clear to me is that Rutherford has a fixed view that Christianity is essentially a moral philosophy propagated by a man called Jesus which, if we could strip it of its ‘miraculous’ accretions, would reveal something worth living by, if not necessarily dying for. It all sounds wonderfully reminiscent of the Enlightenment. Take this summary of ‘the story so far’, for example:
What I have learnt so far is that Christianity does not lend itself well to hard rational and factual analysis. No great revelation there. But what appears to be a theology of atonement via penal substitution relies on the physical truths of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. My sense from this course is that our latent cultural Christianity, particularly amongst us, the de-churched, means we are prone to relinquishing critical faculties out of apathy. Barbara, of whom I am growing fond, doesn’t buy into the resurrection myth and is unmoved by this session. But she’s not bothered enough to let it shake her belief that there is something divine to inspire her faith. It strikes me this might be a key to Christianity’s success: give them enough to believe, but not enough to tear it apart.
Now I am not a great fan of the Alpha Course (though I’m pleased to see it means penal substitutionary atonement is alive and kicking at the heart of Open Evangelicalism), but I will endeavour to keep following this to see how it turns out. I will be particularly interested in the ‘Holy Spirit weekend’ (if they did it — I gather the diary is well after the event).
Meanwhile, I commend it to you for consideration as to how you would handle the same issues, and how you would talk to Mr Rutherford if you met him at a dinner party.
10 August 2009
Week 1: From AA to Alpha
Week 2: A Matter of Facts, not Faith
Week 3: Why did Jesus die?
Week 4: Resurrecting Doubt
Week 5: The Good, Sexist, Beautiful, Violent Book
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