June 2006 letter

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Researching the Truth

I would have liked to get a good photograph of all the various plants that are maturing in my small garden - red hot pokers, fuchsias, geranium - but there is a significant lack of sunshine at the moment. However, the picture of the dwarf geranium by the front door may suffice to show that things are moving here in this northern outpost of Cambridge city.

Down in the city there is an unaccustomed hush in all the colleges as undergraduates steam away at revision for the exams that have now started. A mass of acquired facts, information and synthesis is being distilled into shapes that might fit the as yet unknown fields of the probing questions of the exam papers. It is one of the joys of moving on in life that such hazardous and often emotional experiences become a thing of the past. And yet the incentive given one to move ahead in wisdom and in search for the truth is a precious thing not to be lightly allowed to decay in the dusty corners of modern life.

This has always been one of the temptations of the religious mind. To sit quietly to the 'deposit of faith' as a collection of unquestioned statements of a revered, former generation, must inevitably appear to a new generation as a de-personalising of any living relationship with Christ. It is to opt to live in a museum where the former glories of the past bear no relationship to the challenges of the present.

Perhaps 'challenge' is an over-used word, reminiscent of examinations. It would be better to say that as Christians we need the eager looking forward to re-searching the truth, which characterised us as students. The spirit of the New Testament writers was a sustained attempt to understand what had happened to them in their relationship with the risen Lord Jesus. As Tim said in a memorable phrase in the 2002 Annual Letter,

'Many of the writings hum like a high tension power cable. Jesus of Nazareth was the source and ongoing cause of their excitement. This person, who walked amongst them in Palestine, was now known and spoken of as the living Lord. He is seen as the turning point of history and meaning, and yet also as known in the lives of his people.'

While the truth of faith cannot be in constant change, the relationship with a person must always be revealing new aspects, new and deeper understanding, and eventually a more profound commitment to him as Lord. As in examinations, there is really no safe place to be when one is confronted with the realities of the present moment. The whole mind and understanding need to be continually dedicated afresh as one enters into life in Christ.

© Aelred Arnesen

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