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Still a place for religion in the Church’s life?

by
10 January 2014

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From the Revd Dr Thomas Plant

Sir, - The Revd Dr Hugh Rayment-Pickard (Comment, 3 January) may be right that "for Hegel, Jesus is essentially an ethical and political prophet." But for a Christian, Jesus is essentially God Incarnate. This is a religious doctrine that entails certain religious demands, demands that Jesus himself made: repent, be baptised, and, most importantly, continue to realise his sacrifice throughout time by celebrating the eucharist.

The last is the only form of worship that Jesus personally mandates. Its Jewish paschal context is incontrovertibly "religious", despite Dr Rayment-Pickard's assertion that Jesus was unconcerned with such things.

Jesus did not read Hegel, and it is probably for the best, since Hegel naïvely believed that Jesus was part of a plan of inexorable progress, not only from past to present, but also from East to West. Western liberalism would represent the apogee of history. Not much space for the end of the days or the Second Coming, then, or really even for Jesus, who was, after all, the product and proponent of an Eastern religion.

The Church is the vehicle through which God works if we rely on him in faith, through fitting worship. Only by attention to spiritual growth, through the sacraments that Jesus our God himself ordained, will the Church be resourced to make any lasting change on the world. Christian ethics and politics derive from our encounter with God in religion, not the other way round.

THOMAS PLANT
15 Bourne Road, Berkhamsted
Hertfordshire HP4 3JY

 

From the Revd Paul Hunter

Sir, - I was glad that I took time to read the Revd Dr Hugh Rayment-Pickard's article on the Church of England's need to refocus outwardly in 2014.

While I wholeheartedly agree with his argument, that we should put the Kingdom of God back at the centre of our mission, is it not true that many churches, where they take the lead from God's Spirit and not the human agenda, have already been wrestling with this for decades?

We have much to learn from those "newer churches", and those Christians from other nations, who have sought to follow the words of scripture, "not by power nor by might but by my Spirit, says the Lord". Such radical New Testament and Early Church Christianity, where God is at the centre, naturally looks at this world from God's perspective. The mission statement of the Church is always then the one Jesus spoke of, "to bring good news to the poor". This is always the interface between religion and politics.

It appears that he is drawing different parts of his Bride around this central focus of mission to the poor.

PAUL HUNTER
3 Taylor's Avenue
Cleethorpes
Lincolnshire DN35 0LF

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