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The Freedom of the Truth

It's a week of renewed wintry weather in the UK and a time of interlacing events here - electioneering for a new Parliament in the British Isles, the huge popularity shown for Pope John Paul II at his funeral rites in Rome and the wedding of Prince Charles. In the 16th-17th centuries, politics, monarchy and religion was a prescription for anarchy and chaos while the future of Europe was being hammered out by various power groups. It was also a time of awakening to new ideas, the reformers rejecting the acquisition of the previous three centuries in the West of the Greek philosophers such as Aristotle. Today we are the heirs of those bloody times when our ancestors fought for what they saw as truth, and freedom from tyrannical regimes. That we eventually learned to come to compromise and so to take the heat out of the power struggles is also the legacy of the West to our world today.

This is particularly so of the British Isles where our history in these small islands continually reminds us of our present strengths and weaknesses. It has been said that we are, however, less concerned about faith in God than anywhere else in Europe! Be that as it may, in common with all Europeans, it is likely to be the case that for all of us, the search for truth must surely, in the near future, be our great concern.

In the past half century large sections of the population have sloughed off inherited myths in their understanding both of life and religion. The huge upheaval made by the philosophers and scientists since the 17th century have affected us all. As our lives have been improved, however, religious understanding has hardly moved forward into reasonable faith. Outwardly, religious rites have changed, but inwardly, where truth must be accepted, there have been few, if any, new connections made between Christianity and our life today in the 21st century. Where there has been an upsurge of religious faith it has been, in most places in the West, a denial of the freedom to think and a return to literalisms of various kinds - such as biblicism and ecclesiasticisms old and new.

Paul lived in a culture remote as can be from us today, but his call to the Galatian churches, aimed at a particular set of circumstances, remains a challenge to all civilisations seeking Christian faith -

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

© Aelred Arnesen

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