I believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church, and regret that it is nowhere to be found…
The tagline to my website is “Swimming against the tide,” which I realised was my natural tendency. I take nothing for granted, I look for evidence both of my own beliefs and those of others, and I feel uncomfortable when others present no evidence. In this tendency I seem to be swimming against the tide of the majority of people who tend to accept it what they are told at face value, without evidence, and without any real desire to explore their beliefs further.
Which might seem strange when I say that I am a God-fearing Christian. There are very many people who will tell me that I have no evidence for that belief, and at my core I have to agree with them. But it isn’t an irrational belief, and I am happy to argue it. What gets my goat is where people say, “I don’t believe in God,” or “God doesn’t exist, “or “there is no God” and absolutely refuse either to recognise that they have no more evidence for their belief than I have for mine. By the nature of things, the existence of God is objectively unprovable: but equally the nonexistence of God is unprovable. So where does that leave us?
Over the years it has become clear to me that most objections to the existence of God, the objections to my belief in God, stemmed not from any existential theory but instead from descriptions of the behaviour of other believers, and that includes the Muslim God as well as the Christian God, and indeed all the other gods which are described. “I see Christians acting in a way which I think is unchristian, therefore their belief in God is wrong,” is a summary of the common arguments. “How can there be a God that calls his followers to extreme violence and world domination?” So I say to them that the individual, very human and mortal followers of these gods are humanly fallible: they make mistakes, they misinterpret their holy scriptures, they are human not divine.
So while I intone religiously and frequently that I believe in one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic church, I regret that it is nowhere to be found. Those four marks are the ideal for a church, by which I mean a gathering of people of faith. With very obviously the church has never been one: there have always been those who interpret and experience things differently as evidenced by the letters written by St Paul to the various churches. And it is not unknown for church members to do things which are distinctly unholy: my post entitled “Ouch!” hints at this. The term ‘catholic’ doesn’t apply very often, meaning as it does ‘including a wide variety of things; all-embracing, diverse, open-minded, liberal, tolerant, undogmatic, unsectarian, ecumenical, worldwide, all-inclusive, global.’
And by and large the church is not apostolic if that term necessarily includes sharing the faith with others: the church is, by observation, mostly concerned with being a gathering of believers, and if the sinners want to be saved let them come to us.
Of course it’s very easy to say what the church is not, and it behoves me now to say what I think the church is. That’s a whole essay, even a doctoral thesis in itself, possibly even the book OMG which I have been incubating for many a long year. But like most things in life, my beliefs are not fixed in time, nor like most learning my beliefs complete to the finest detail. One of my purposes in writing OMG and indeed even this short piece is to explore it in my own mind, to put some order to the somewhat disjointed thinking behind it. I need to explore all of these statements and put evidential flesh on them. So if you have been, thank you for reading this. And may your God go with you…