November 2013

Challenging stuff

We recently had a meeting of the Book Club (not, by the way, an exclusive organisation: anyone is welcome to attend). We were talking about a book about Heaven, full of weird things like thrones of God, Angels, Cherubim, Seraphim – not, perhaps, the stuff of the usual conversations at The Cornewall Arms (or The Crown or the Bridge Inn either, for that matter).

There were those – very few, it would have to be admitted – who really liked it: there others – quite a few others, to be honest – who found it very frustrating. The important thing, however, is that in everybody, it provoked a reaction and it stimulated discussion – a very good discussion, in fact.

At the very least, everyone found the book challenging, and that, if nothing else, justifies its choice. For I feel that we should always find our faith and our beliefs challenging and that we should always respond to the challenge. There may be those who find the fundamental beliefs of Christianity – that God created the world, that he lived here as a human being in the person of Jesus Christ, that he died a human death and rose again from the dead and that he lives on among us in the form of the Holy Spirit – something which requires no thought and not even any reflection on how such beliefs affect the way we live our lives, but I must confess that I am not one of them. I certainly the relish the opportunity of challenging my own beliefs and find that reading and discussion are among the most fertile ways of so doing. Some of you know that St Thomas is my favourite among the disciples because on all occasions – not just the famous post-Resurrection one – he would never accept an idea or thought without challenging, investigating and clarifying it. I actually think that doubts are good, provided that one addresses them with prayer, thought, reading and, yes, discussion: that way, faith ends up being even stronger.

The next meeting of our Book Club – details on the website http://www.bmgparishes.org.uk/what-we-do/our-book-club.php– asks us to look at the world through the eyes of Islam. Too see the world as others see it is a real challenge, but one to which we need to rise if we are fully to understand with whom we are called upon the share this planet.