On September 30th in Morgan Hall, the Rev. Al Gephart will lead a workshop/discussion titled “God in You, Me, Hummingbirds, and Marigolds: Rethinking Christianity Today.” It’s a long title! The first part sounds sweet and innocuous. Who doesn’t love hummingbirds and marigolds? But the second portion of the title gets a little dicey. Rethinking Christianity? Why would I rethink my faith? Doesn’t that open the door to doubt and the questioning of God? The answer is…well, possibly. My experience is that it is only the fragile parts of our faith that crumble under scrutiny. And when that happens it makes room for new growth. Even though examining our assumptions can be challenging in the short term, it can prove to be the salvation of our faith in the long run.
I think one reason it is necessary to “rethink Christianity” is that a changing world often reveals flaws in our collective understanding of it. For example, Genesis 1:26 says “Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle…etc.” The word “dominion” has been interpreted in Western thought as granting unlimited license to exploit nature for our own use. We are now paying the price for that thinking. In light of the current environmental crisis, we might revisit that passage and wonder about how one who is made in God’s image would exercise their dominion. We might also consider it side by side with Genesis 2:7 “and the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground.” In this passage, a human is made from the earth for the purpose of tending and caring for it. Adam (who is a farmer) is of the earth, not over it.
Rethinking Christianity means looking around at the world today with all of our discoveries—scientific, psychological, and anthropological—and asking the question “what does this new understanding reveal about our faith, about the Bible, and about God? This is a question that Al Gephart has been wrestling with for years (I’ve been witness to his process). I am looking forward to a day dedicated to curiosity and wonder as we live up to our Presbyterian motto “reformed and always reforming.”