I attend a church that is opened minded enough to accept me regardless of my lack of faith, and small enough that the pastor can target his sermons to individuals. In a recent Sunday sermon, he spoke of Teilhard de Chardin and the anthropic principle. He talked of the convergence of Christian philosophy and its version of the coming of heaven with secular progress towards a more peaceful world. He said that to be a Christian, it is not necessary to believe in the details of the bodily resurrection of a man. It is enough to accept the moral of the story and find meaning in the symbolism. Ten minutes later, we were reading the ceremony for welcoming a new family of members and asking them to claim to believe that very thing. I’m sure the children in that family understood the consequence of answering “I will” to:
“Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior,
put your whole trust in his grace,
and promise to serve him as your Lord,”
much better than the historical significance of Chardin or discussions of a singularity. The second part of this proclamation of faith contains the contradiction of modern monotheism
“in union with the Church which Christ has opened
to people of all ages, nations, and races”
It is a proclamation that declares it is open to all people, but if you want to be in the club, you need to serve the right Lord. Any belief has this same cost. If you know someone who believes that George Bush was involved with planning the attacks on the World Trade Center on 9/11/2001, try to discuss the facts and respond to their logic and you will quickly understand the cost of belief. Try to discuss neuroscience with someone who believes they have traveled outside of their body, and you will see the cost of belief. Root for the wrong team at a soccer game and you will feel the cost of belief.
This is the dilemma that modern Churches find themselves in. They have dropped requirements to believe in most of the miracles or the historical truth of some of the events, they acknowledge contradictions in the gospels, they have re-interpreted long standing moral statements based on modern psychology, but they can’t drop the confession to Christ. If they did, what reason would they have for existing?