Knowing what I believe and believing what I know

You may have noticed the controversy about the poll from the Richard Dawkins Foundation

Basically the premise is that many of those who self-identify as Christian lack even a basic knowledge of the faith they claim to hold. Giles Fraser on Radio 4 Today did as good a job as anyone has in dealing with Dawkins when he showed that he in turn was unable to quote the full title of the Origin of Species.

So I thought a bit about gaps in my knowledge …

Anything to do with accounts, cash flow projections, balance sheets, etc. I sign them trusting to the integrity and professionalism of those who prepare them. But I have no intuitive ability to understand them


The doctrine of the Atonement

Most things to do with feelings and human relationships

But more seriously, the conversation reminded me of something which I learnt early on in ministry. People in congregations may not have degrees in theology. But they have an instant and intuitive recognition of two things. They know if you are ‘going through the motions’ – if the embers aren’t glowing as they should. And they know if you are preaching – well not heresy – but just stuff which is not orthodox.

And there’s more. Any pastor who has spent time with people at crisis moments of their lives will know that what matters is whether one is sustained by faith – not that one is articulate about it.

Walking across the rubble

I’m off to take part in a Walk of Witness in Edinburgh tomorrow – marking the 10th Anniversary of 9/11. Part of me wonders if there is anything more to be said or done about this most terrible of atrocities. But distance gives perspective

Have you read any of Professor Alistair McGrath’s writing about the links between 9/11 and the rise of the New Atheism, Dawkins et al. If the planes were flown by religious fanatics, all religion must be dangerous. If all religion is dangerous, then it can’t just be regarded as a matter of personal choice in an otherwise secular society .. it becomes something which should be attacked and destroyed.

Meanwhile I turned to Rowan Williams’ little book, ‘Writing in the Dust’ in which he reflects on what it was like to be there as it happened. His most chastening words are at the beginning:

Something of the chill of 11 September 2001 lies in the contrast, The religious words are, in the cold light of day, the words that murderers are saying to themselves to make a martyr’s drama out of a crime. The non-religious words are testimony to what religious language is supposed to be about – the triumph of pointless, gratuitous lovel, the affirming of faithfulness even when there is nothing to be done or salvaged