The Russian writer, Dostoyevsky, was sometimes very critical of western culture, of our attempt to secure ourselves behind our knowledge, behind our technology, and we could add another word, that Dostoyevsky didn’t know: behind our ”˜growth’ ”“ are we planting seeds for growth or merely weeds? He thought that we had lost our feeling for Christ. He claimed that we no longer, as he put it, ’asked the heart for advice’.
Here at the start of the 21st century we should listen to that criticism. There is no doubt that even only 30 years ago many people thought that religion would soon be a thing of the past ”“ we would outgrow it. Like a scorched plant it would wither and die as we moved into a post-secular existence. There are many things on the move at present in the thoughts and lives of modern man. But we must also acknowledge and accept our history ”“ as well as one another’s histories, for then the walls come tumbling down, as we learn to listen and live alongside our neighbours ”“ including our new, strange, neighbours.
Not for one second do I believe that there is any point in going back and finding cover behind the thick walls of dogmatic church teachings. Nor can we further any understanding of faith or the church by hiding behind an anxious defence of the Bible, and outdated view of gender roles or an unrealistic view of freer sexual morals. We must not make faith into a ghetto. We must not withdraw and just sit and talk among ourselves! We must be the seed that falls on fertile ground. not the seed that has no root and lasts only a short time.