Modern Scholars Fail to Shake Faith

By McAteer, Michael | Anglican Journal, April 1997 | Go to article overview

Modern Scholars Fail to Shake Faith


McAteer, Michael, Anglican Journal


IT'S A TUESDAY morning at St. Aidan's Anglican Church in Toronto's east end and a group of people are meeting in a back room for an ecumenical bible study class.

The group members are from diverse Christian backgrounds. Most are long-time church-goers who will attend Easter Sunday services to celebrate Jesus' resurrection from the dead.

They are meeting at a time when the very tenets of the Christian faith are being publicly discussed, debated and challenged as never before.

A controversial group of biblical scholars known as the Jesus Seminar concludes that less than 20 per cent of the words attributed to Jesus in the Gospels are authentic. An Anglican bishop dismisses the Gospel accounts of the resurrection as pious myths.

How does all of this affect the people in the pew? Does it shake or undermine their faith?

Rev. Vince Goring, a retired Anglican priest who leads the Bible study group, can't speak for the "people in the pew." But he does say that what the controversy has done is to introduce his study group to critical scholarship.

"The people in my group have been introduced to that critical scholarship and I don't think that anyone has even remotely had their faith affected," he says.

Mr. Goring welcomes critical scholarship even when he disagrees with some of its conclusions. Although more public these days, it is not new. And it hasn't shaken his faith.

His belief in the resurrection is not just a matter of faith. "After a vast amount of thought and critical analysis that has been an on-going process for 50 years, I still maintain that there was a physical resurrection. It makes sense in my theology," he says.

Mr. Goring notes that Honest to God, a controversial book published in 1963 by the English bishop John Robinson, raises almost all the same theological questions that are being debated by contemporary scholars about events in Jesus' life.

"That book did produce shock waves in the church," he says. "But the church has survived."

Study group member David Clark is aware of what's being said these days about some of Christianity's most cherished beliefs. …

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