A Non Theistic Christian Priest?

The new dean of Washington’s National Cathedral identifies himself here as a “non theistic Christian.” I came across some of these agnostic or atheist priests while I was an Anglican. I remember one of them preaching this long winded sermon comparing his own agnosticism to the dark night of the soul.

The problem I have is that I can see their point. If religion is no more than being good, why have a God? Why is God necessary? If you’ve removed all the miraculous from religion, weeded out all that Son of God, Virgin Mary stuff and relegated Jesus to “just a very, very good person” then why bother with God?

This is the end point of liberal Protestantism: atheism. Long ago they got rid of the authority of the church. About 100 years ago they began to get rid of the authority of the Sacred Scriptures. Along with that they got rid of the supernatural. What was left? Only feeble good works and subjective spirituality, and if religion is no more than good works and subjective spirituality why bother with the subjective spirituality except to make oneself feel good? For that matter, why bother with the good works except to make oneself feel good?

“Oh! The good works are good in and of themselves!” Are they? Who says so and why? Why should it necessarily be “good” to help another person? You see where we’re going with this. The end point of liberal Protestantism is atheism.

The only reason why they all don’t take the same view of Dean Hall is because they won’t think their position through completely or they are unable to.

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  • http://aaronreefman.com/ Aaron Reefman

    Freaky stuff. There was a priest in Brisbane AUS who took a whole congregation that way a few years back.

  • tomo

    That’s a nice concrete way of presenting a real problem in modern Christianity. Does Christianity fulfill itself by eliminating itself? I certainly do not believe so, but to some it can seem that way. When we have wonderful technology and social programs–these perfections of divine love–to take care of (many of) us, why do we need something else? We figured out the “be good” thing, so what is left? Gustatory, aesthetic, and erotic pleasures; then death; then nothing. No need for “God” or “grace” or supernatural anything in all of that. I can see how some well-intentioned, non-snarky people could adopt this bourgeois-epicurean view as the best thing given the circumstances, but I also do not see how it could ever quite satisfy. There is a kind of sad cynicism hidden away at the heart of it, and a whole dimension of human experience that is left dormant.

  • OneTimothyThreeFifteen

    I know you’re merely using a turn of phrase, so I assume you’d probably go further and say we can’t actually ‘get rid’ of the authority of the Church or Scripture, neither can we get rid of the supernatural. Rather, it seems we simply go into denial and substitute our own ruminations for reality, as young children think reality goes away when they put their hands over their eyes.

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    I just read a story in my local paper that rivals that one, though I’m not sure it beats it. The headline is”

    Staten Island’s Congregation Om Shalom blends Judaism with yoga, meditation, Buddhism and Hinduism

    I almost rolled over in laughter. Here’s the article if you want to do a face palm:


  • Chesire11

    The possibility of an Islamicized Europe is perhaps a bit over-hyped in the popular imagination…


  • Jim Carroll

    I just read an essay about this subject. The Presbyterians (PCUSA) have decided to remove the hymn “In Christ Alone” from the new edition of their hymnal, because the composers wouldn’t give them permission to remove a line about “the wrath of God” and replace it with a touchy-feely feel-good line:

    PCUSA rejects popular hymn “In Christ Alone”

  • http://suscipesanctepater.blogspot.com/ Matt Roth

    Flannery O’Connor wrote a whole book about this.

  • Gail Finke

    That article made me incredibly sad. To think that the Episcopalians would pick the Dean of the NATIONAL CATHEDRAL because of his positions on gun control and gay marriage, as he suggests… I guess they really have given up any pretense at actually being a church. A church teaches people right from wrong, because it is based on truth. Tt doesn’t teach people whatever positions happen to be faddish at the moment.

  • Mike Lutz

    This also means that religious services, including Episcopalian mass, are little more than social gatherings. Might as well go all the way and become Unitarian Universalist, where there isn’t even a hint of orthodox belief. Perhaps even join the Rotary and at least make some business contacts while doing good works.

  • Howard

    “The only reason why they all don’t take the same view of Dean Hall is because they won’t think their position through completely or they are unable to.”

    There’s another reason: it could cost them their cushy jobs. It’s a tough job market, especially for someone with no experience outside church ministry.

    Yet I think there is some merit in those who “won’t think their position through completely”. There are many people whose ideas, if taken to the logical extremes, would make them absolute monsters, but they know by instinct not to push the idea that far. Who knows? You and I may well be part of this group. It’s best to recognize and correct the false ideas, of course, but in the meantime I’m all in favor of people doing the right thing, even if they can’t give a good explanation for why it’s the right thing.

  • athelstane

    And another fine exemplar of Johnson’s First Law of Episcopal Thermodynamics: “Every joke you make about the Episcopal Organization eventually comes true.”

  • Christopher Range

    When I was about 18 I had a conversation with an Episcopalian minister that I will never forget. I asked him some very earnest questions about God and scripture. His answer was that the Bible is “True myth.” I expected that this was a lead in for framing something deeper. I asked him to continue. That would have been a great moment to point a young man towards some serious reading. Instead he replied again that it was all just “true myth”. My response was disrespectful but honest. I snarked “This is your job.”