Saturday, March 21, 2009

Credible theology is truth-full theology

Continuing from a post a couple of days back.

One of the difficulties with creationists and anti-contraceptionists, as I see it, is that their approach suffers from lack of engagement with (what could be called) the reality of truth.

Creationists, for example, deny the reality that a vast number of people, believers and non-believers, believe evolution to be true, and do so on the basis of evidence provided by science, that is by that body of discovery and learning which provides a whole lot of truth which we rely on in daily life. Creationists attempt to deny what is 'plain truth' in the name of 'biblical truth' rather than to expand 'biblical truth' to incorporate 'plain truth'. The result may be a small gain for creationist church membership, but it is also a loss for the credibility of Christianity across the world.

Anti-contraceptionists (as in the Pope in recent days, speaking during a visit to Africa, denying the usefulness of condoms in the fight against AIDS), denies the reality of the usefulness of condoms in the general fight against AIDS across diverse populations in the name of a particular truth, that married couples should be open to the conception of new life as the fruit of their love for each other. But even that particular truth should be subject to the reality that sexual intercourse is not only a means to produce life but also a means, celebrated in Scripture, to express and to deepen covenanted love. To employ human discovery to make responsible choices about the consequence of sexual intercourse such as remaining open to expression of love but closed to conception of more children is not an action against truth. (Indeed the Roman Catholic option of so-called natural methods of controlling fertility between a couple underlines this point). In sum: anti-contraceptionists lack engagement with the reality of truth.* In the process of this lack of engagement working itself out in the world's public discourse, the credibility of the Christian faith suffers.

In our search for a credible theology for the 21st century, it may be very important to allow into the search a quest for truth, that otherwise sidelined concept of post-modernism!! But the quest should be for a theology which is full of truth, unafraid of any truth, and horrified at the thought of suppression or denial of truth.

*I have no doubt that the vast majority of Roman Catholic worshippers, at least in the Western world, are not anti-contraceptionists. The variance between practice and papal pronouncement is one of the great unaddressed issues of modern Roman Catholicism. It could be that the sad gaffes of Benedict XVI in recent weeks has a very good outcome, namely leading the College of Cardinals to face the reality that they need an Honest Reformer to lead the Catholic church in succession to Benedict, one who will close the gap between rhetoric and reality. All Christians should pray for such an outcome, as the credibility of Christianity is the concern of all churches but can be damaged by just one of them. All this is said by one who is a great admirer of Catholicism and thinks Protestants have much to learn from Rome. If you think I am being a bit tough on the current Pope, try this!

On a different aspect of this issue, the Pope speaks truthfully, and for the vast majority of Christians when he asserts that the most effective means of AIDS prevention is abstinence. But that message can (and should) be promoted by the church, by all churches, without the associated message that it is wrong to promote condom usage. The Pope could also reasonably draw attention to the folly of relying on condoms as a means of AIDS prevention (since the use of condoms is likely to increase the incidence of casual sexual contacts and thus the possibility of AIDS infection which can not be prevented by condoms); and could do this in support of the promotion of abstinence. Again, this does not require opposition to condom usage per se.

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