From Tuesday-Saturday of fourth week, the Christian Union will host ’Uncover‘. Uncover is a series of events which at lunchtimes will explore how the Christian faith responds to some of life’s biggest questions; and in the evenings will test some of the claims made by Jesus, particularly his claim that there is an eternal source of hope, satisfaction and meaning available to each of us. It would be easy to caricature this as a week of ‘Bible-bashing’ but I’d like to invite you to consider it a conversation starter.
I want to begin by issuing an apology. I want to apologize that so often Christians have communicated their faith in a matter that is incompatible with the faith itself. Whenever we’ve been rude, crass, violent or unthoughtful, we’ve not been living in line with the faith we profess – a belief system which says that God is a God of love and has called each of us to love our neighbour in the same way that we love ourselves. I hope that this hypocrisy on the part of Christians does not tarnish your view of what Christianity is, or prejudice you against exploring it further.
The reason I make this point is because I am convinced that Christianity offers something unique to add to our conversations about life, something that it would be a shame to ignore.
Each of us has a worldview, a way of seeing life that makes sense to us, shaped by culture, evidence and experience. Our worldviews profoundly shape the way we live, from how we form our opinions and engage with the issues all around us, to how we make decisions, both big and small. Each of these worldviews requires faith. This is not the blind faith that Dawkins likes to parody; but a commitment that the evidence we see points to a greater truth about the universe – whether that is its ultimate incomprehensibility or the existence or non-existence of God. As this faith statement has such an impact upon our lives and actions, it is vital that it is based upon a full examination of the evidence and not just an intuitive hunch or the rhetoric of others.
Are you living an examined life? I have found that as a Christian at Oxford it is almost impossible not to. Living in a society whose prevailing belief system is a sceptical agnosticism, any unthinking dogma is swiftly given the treatment it deserves. Christians at our university study everything from physics to fine art. We wrestle with the same academic questions as everyone else; we think and struggle with issues like science and faith or the problem of evil. Yet, in the face of these questions, we’re persuaded that the Christian faith is actually true. We have found that it stands up to thorough historical examination and makes sense philosophically. We have also found that faith works in our experience. One of the reasons I find the Christian faith so convincing is that I know people whose lives have been transformed: from Oxford students whose anxiety over exams have been quelled to drug addicts who have been set free by what they’ve discovered. I’ve personally caught glimpses of the ‘inexpressible joy’ described in the New Testament, and have found that there’s nothing better.
We’ve put on the ‘Uncover’ week, not as a way of forcing faith on people, but as an invitation into a conversation about a worldview which makes so much sense to us. It is an invitation to hear and engage with two world-class speakers on why they believe Christianity is rational; an invitation to fully examine the evidence, ask questions and begin arguably life’s most important discussion.
We are at a University where we spend most of our lives studying subjects which engage with central questions of meaning, truth and purpose in the world; this is a week of talks on meaning, truth and purpose – presenting a viewpoint which historically and internationally has great power and yet has been marginalized and often ridiculed in our society. We’d love you to come and engage with us as we think about whether it is right that this has been the outcome of our nation’s sceptical historical journey. Does Christianity have anything left to give? Should it be marginalized in our society, as one anachronistic religion amongst many? Or should we be taking the claims it makes seriously? The Christian narrative is a story of homecoming: of a child running home into the embrace of a perfect Father, a father who sacrificed everything so that he might have relationship with his child. If it is true, there is purpose and joy on offer, and a wonderful adventure ahead which goes on for eternity. Such a worldview has resonance and relevance to every society, what matters is whether it is true or not. Have you taken the time to examine it? Would you like to join the conversation?