Monday, September 9, 2013

Looking Forward to September 15, 2013 -- 17th After Pentecost, Proper 19C

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • Psalm 14
  • 1 Timothy 1:12-17

The Sermon Title is Who is the Fool?

Early Thoughts: Why believe in God? Who is the foolish one, the believer or the unbeliever?
The psalmist makes a bold statement when he says Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”. Richard Dawkins got a lot of press a few years ago for saying the exact opposite in his book The God Delusion. 

Many years ago Blaise Pascal laid out Pascal's Wager, a statement that said the safest bet was to believe. Pascal argued that if you believed and there was no God, then you lost nothing. But if you didn't believe and there was a God judging you at the end of life then you lost everything. That would be a reason to believe (not necessarily a good one but it is a reason). So why believe in something which, in the end, can not ever be actually proved?

In some ways this is a question that has plagued the church for years. There have always been atheists and agnostics who challenge the concept of faith. In the last century however the challenge has become more strident. Likely this is due to a number of things: the end of Christendom as a socio-political force, the continuing development of thought started in the Enlightenment period, the development of scientific theories and knowledge that directly challenged a literal view of Scripture, and horrific events such as the World Wars and the Holocaust. In fact in April of 1966 Time Magazine's cover story announced that "God is Dead"

And yet we still believe. Some believe experientially, that is we have experienced God's presence in our lives. Some believe "genetically", that is we have been raised in a believing family. Some of us have believed, have not believed, and have come back to believing. Are we deluded? Have we been indoctrinated (a charge used by some atheists regarding faith formation activities for children and youth)? Are we just following Pascal's wager and playing it safe?

In the end charges of foolishness where faith (or no faith) are concerned are probably not helpful. So are words like delusion. In the end we each come to our own decision on whether and why (not) we believe. And that is as it should be. On Sunday we will explore a bit about our "God Delusion". Want to come and join in the foolishness of faith?

UPDATE: while the TIME story from 1966 is (sadly) no longer available without a subscription (as of 6 years ago it was available) here is a NEWSWEEK cover story from 2009 on a similar topic, the article title is "The End of Christian America"

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