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Letters to the editor graphic by Uniting Communications.
Graphic: Uniting Communications

Letters September 2016

Fundamentalism and progressivism

Last month’s Journey made me thankful for my Trinity Theological education once again. Lecturers like Rev Dr Geoff Thompson helped us navigate the extremes of Christianity exemplified by Ken Ham (fundamentalism) and Val Webb (progressivism).

Both positions are responding to the same perceived problem. Both make the same mistake. Both bow to the idol of the enlightenment—science—mistakenly believing that for something to be true, it must be scientifically true. Thus we either “beef up” our Bible to be “more scientific than science” or we “water down” our Bible so only that which survives the scrutiny of science survives.

Science is not the final arbiter of truth. It is simply one of the important dimensions to truth like history, art, philosophy and even theology. Once we discover Scientism has no clothes, it frees us from these extremes. We can discover again the most profound thing—the truth is a person (John 14:6).

Rev Paul Clark
Redcliffe Uniting Church

Ken Ham

I appreciated the article regarding Ken Ham and the Ark Encounter, and the editor’s comments regarding the very different perspectives on faith.

My own experience is that the further I went down the “liberal” road of interpreting the scriptures, the more I was convinced that it was a dead end; going nowhere and with no real answers. It was only when I got back to accepting the Bible in its entirety as the Word of God that it really opened up to me and brought the revelation, and the answers that we need especially in these times.

As Ken Ham says, you don’t need to believe the Genesis record of Creation to be a Christian. However if you don’t, it will limit the depths to which you can go in understanding the fullness of our redemption.
If you don’t know what was lost at the Fall, you will not understand all that the Cross restored.

It is however, essential to believe in the resurrection. Accepting the Lordship of Christ and believing in his resurrection is necessary for salvation according to the Bible (Romans 10:9).

There is plenty of literature containing evidence for the great worldwide flood. The ark was not some dinky little boat such as on the cover. It was a huge barge three stories high.

Jesus said that God’s word is truth (John 17:17). Thinking that we know better than God is how the world got into this mess: believing God’s word is the way back. Jesus said that he came to bear witness to the truth. That then is what we should be doing; not making people comfortable in unbelief.

Val Pym
Iona West Uniting Church

Partners in Ministry

Congratulations on highlighting Partners in Ministry (PIM) in the August edition of Journey.

You have highlighted some partners who have attended the annual PIM weekend, and this I see as only the tip of the story available. As a PIM who has attended PIM weekends at Margate in the late 1990s it looks like the weekend has changed for the better, most attendees then were “traditional ministers’ wives” who had married into the job.

One item you could take up with partners in a future article is, “Who looks after the spiritual needs of partners in ministry?”

I was either the token male or accompanied by one other at these weekends, and did not see much reason for continuing to go to these weekends. This combined with moving to the north of the Tropic of Capricorn with my wife left me with minimal contact with other partners in ministry.

In the congregations where my wife ministered I did my own thing as a member of the congregation as those highlighted in your article. I still take an active part in the congregation where we worship.

While initially I received invitations personally as a PIM in the mail to both a Synod PIM function and PIM weekend, with the advent of email in later years it has been via communications to my minister wife.

Now that my wife has retired and is not on ministers in placement mailing lists, it is as if I and possibly all other retired ministers spouses no longer exist in the Queensland Synod, although I understand I still appear in Uconnect with my contact details.

Ken Whyte

Capturing the breadth of the church

Journey has improved out of sight in the last few editions! It is possible to read the magazine now and actually believe there is something else worthy of Christian comment other than refugees and asylum seekers. It is possible to discover and imbibe more than one theological standpoint—your juxtaposition of Ken Ham and Val Webb in the August edition being an example of this. It is possible to find both the scriptural and the social in substantial measure; to read the magazine and be better informed about the Word as well as about the contemporary church.

The Uniting Church by its very nature and charter (the Basis of Union) is a broad and inclusive church. One of its great pastoral strengths is the capacity to love and not to excise those with differences of opinion on matters not essential to the faith, for Christ’s sake.

The latest iteration of Journey at least attempts to capture something of that breadth. There is still a way to go and almost by definition you will not always please everyone. But (to use a culinary metaphor) there is now a broader menu for a more diverse range of palates on offer. You may find yourself satisfying an increasing number of diners.

Jim Pearson

Ken Ham and Val Webb

Thank you for an interesting August edition of Journey.

I read with some dismay about a science teacher whose literal interpretation of scripture leads him to suspend the enquiring mind of the scientist in the area of theology.

A couple of pages over, I was delighted to read about another teacher who brought her enquiring mind to other areas of life, including her theology. How refreshing to find an explanation of “contextual theology” that encourages me to look at the context of my life and the lives of others in the 21st century, as I develop a theology that includes my reason and experiences as well as scripture and tradition.

It is indeed liberating to know that I don’t have to stay boxed in by beliefs that belonged to the context of earlier generations and don’t allow for my enquiring and searching mind.

Desley Garnett
New Farm

Val Webb

Thank you Journey for the article on Val Webb. I questioned and doubted. Val Webb gave me permission to doubt. I have returned to the church as a follower of Jesus knowing that questions, doubt, research and life experience have allowed me to continue my life journey being more loving and compassionate, striving always for justice and to endeavor truly to follow the teaching of Jesus.

Barbara Davis
Manly West

Five global issues close to young hearts

Firstly let me say how much I enjoy reading your magazine. The articles are wide ranging and thought provoking.

Reading the first issue in the article “5 Global issues close to young hearts” in the August edition really resonated with me, “We have so much room … we could easily take way more to help.”

I read this in the same week that The Weekend Australian (13–14 August edition) reported that Australia has accepted fewer than 2000 of a promised extra 12 000 Syrian refugees.

In contrast, Canada has welcomed over 29 000 Syrian refugees. In the past month, I have signed two petitions protesting the indefinite detention of Iranian asylum seekers who are justifiably afraid
of returning to a repressive regime.

These young children have captured the essence of Matthew 25:35, “… I was a stranger, and ye took me in”, and Matthew 25:40, “And the King shall answer and say unto them, ‘Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.’”

As church communities and leaders we need to lobby our government with this simple message, “Let them come and let them stay”.

Nell Stetner
Wynnum West

Val Webb

Thank you for last edition’s article, “Outside the comfort zone” with Val Webb.

For me, and for many people I associate with, both inside the church and in self-imposed exile from the church, this recognition of the value of a critically thinking and contemporary literate lay people is taking far too long to be facilitated and normalised.

It is not too late for the church to acknowledge the importance of doubt, experience and reason in each individual’s life and spiritual journey. A church that invests in demythologising Jesus and the gospels and shakes off the stultifying impact of imposed literalism will stand a better chance of receiving acceptance by a well-educated world that is rapidly unpacking the church’s relevance and dismissing it from their lives.

Dr Paul Inglis

All letters must directly address articles and letters from the previous month’s edition of Journey. Opinions expressed are only indicative of the individual writer, not their entire congregation. While direct responses to letters are acceptable, ongoing discussions about an article more than two months old will not be published. Letters should be no longer than 150 words. Full submission guidelines for letters to the editor can be found at journeyonline.com.au/submit

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