This isn’t about teaching elder John Shuck or his progressive skepticism as he writes a reply to moderator Heath K Rada’s request for thoughts on how the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) can change to better meet the twenty-first century.
But Shuck’s words set off a train of thoughts that I want to write about. It was this paragraph written by Shuck in the Voices of Justice Fall Newsletter that prompted my writing:
“The world has changed and we need to talk about it. I can’t be sure exactly what “rapid and profound change” Moderator Rada has in mind, but I think it has to do with theology. I think our theology is still in the 17t century while we live in the 21st century. The dogmas of our religious heritage do not meet the challenges of the world presented to us by science and by social science. All of the beliefs we are supposed to affirm such as Creation, Virgin Birth, Resurrection of the body of Jesus, miracles, original sin, atonement, heaven and hell, and a supernatural interventionist god called God are metaphors. At least that’s what I think. I also think many church members and teaching elders think like I do even as for various reasons they are not able to say it clearly.”
I look beyond the 17th century to Christians who have faced and lived through dire circumstances in modern and post-modern eras. They include both Catholics and Protestants, men and women. None of the great heroes of faith were skeptics in the sense that they no longer believed the teachings of the Apostles. Two groups in Germany during the Nazi era held faithful to the biblical teachings of the church. A Catholic group of mostly young people called the White Rose and the Confessing Church. Dietrich Bonhoeffer who went to his death as did members of the White Rose never laid aside his theology to accommodate the cultural immorality of society.
When Bonhoeffer knew that the officers who came for him, came to take him to his death, he told Payne Best another prisoner, “This is the end” “For me the beginning of life.”
I still remember when an Anglican, Archbishop Janani Luwum, in Uganda, was killed, because of his faith, by Idi Omin. Another Ugandan bishop wrote a small booklet, Why I love Idi Omin. His basis for love was that Omin needed Jesus; that Jesus died for him.
But there is no need to stay in the twentieth century, the twenty-first century is full of Christian Martyrs who did not toss away their faith. Old people and children who professed their faith despite the enemy’s promise of death. Little children who were beheaded because they love Jesus. They held on to the One who holds death in his hands and gives life to his saints. How poor and musty with the 19th century has the progressives become. God displays his faithful children before their eyes and they look away to find some new way to be a Christian.
“Do not be afraid: I am the first and the last and the living One; and I was dead and behold, I am alive for evermore; and I have the keys of death and of Hades.”