Anglican minister almost gets it right Shock


There was controversy last week over the appointment of Dr John Shepherd as the Archbishop of Canterbury’s new ambassador to the Vatican. The controversy wasn’t about the fact one branch of Made-up Beliefs was mingling its Sacred Truths™ with the Sacred Truths™ of another (which was upsetting enough for some of the faithful) but that Dr Shepherd has previously declared Jesus did not rise physically from the grave. In his 2008 Easter sermon, he said:

The resurrection of Jesus ought not to be seen in physical terms, but as a new spiritual reality. It is important for Christians to be set free from the idea that the resurrection was an extraordinary physical event which restored to life Jesus’ original earthly body.

Well, heaven forbid Christians should be compelled to accept reality! Needless to say, many of them didn’t like being made to do so. Undaunted, however, Shepherd went on to explain how the belief in Jesus’ resurrection came about:

…Jesus’ early followers felt His presence after His death as strongly as if it were a physical presence and incorporated this sense of a resurrection experience into their gospel accounts.

Yes, absolutely! This is precisely what happened. I’ve written about it here. This guy’s good. Until we get to his conclusion, anyway:

But (the gospels) are not historical records as we would expect history to be written today; they are symbolic images of the breaking through of the resurrection spirit into human lives.

He’s right about he nature of the gospels, of course. They’re not historical, nor are they eye-witness accounts or even second-hand reports of eye-witness accounts; they’re propaganda, written ‘so that you may believe’ as the fourth gospel  puts it.

But what’s this ‘symbolic images of the breaking through of the resurrection spirit into human lives’, Shepherd talks about? Having a good grasp of how the stories of Jesus’ ‘resurrection’ came about, he wants, for some reason, to continue promote the underlying fantasy – it’s his livelihood, after all – so he has to dress it up as something relevant to people today. He goes for ‘images of the breaking through of the resurrection spirit into human lives’, whatever that means. Breaking through from where? And what’s a ‘resurrection spirit’ when it’s at home?

Why bother though with the Jesus stuff at all? Plenty of people have life-changing experiences without having to hitch them to an ancient cult. My advice to Dr Shepherd would be to dump the ‘breaking through of the resurrection spirit’ hokum and he’ll be pretty much there. Then he can work on getting a real job.

Would you walk by on the other side?


Earlier this week, Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, signed into law draconian measures designed to combat homosexuality in the country. Two days ago, 12 men – 11 Muslims and 1 Christian – were arrested for being gay and could face up to 10 years imprisonment and maybe even the death penalty. The 11 Muslim men will be tried by an Islamic court and could be stoned to death if found guilty – which looks to be a forgone conclusion. Richard Branson and the secretary general of the UN have both protested.

Guess who hasn’t?

The Church of England has a significant presence in Nigeria, its largest ‘province’ outside the UK. It has protested neither the new law nor the arrest of the twelve men. Former Archbishop George Carey, who regularly complains that Christians are ‘marginalised’ and even persecuted in the UK (when they’ve been mildly slighted or offended) hasn’t said a word about the Nigerian situation. The two current Archbishops in the UK, John Sentamu of York and Justin Welby of Canterbury have remained similarly quiet, while the Anglican Church in Nigeria has itself been conspicuously silent.

It all brings to mind Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan. You know, the one where church leaders see a man in need by the side of the road and pass by swiftly on the other side.