I'm a clergyman being interviewed by the Ugley Vicar (one day I will draw him again). Here are my answers to his revival of the Thirty-nine Articles statements about which I, as interviewee, am supposed to comment...
1. “Christ ... truly suffered, was crucified, dead and buried, to reconcile his Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for all actual sins of people.”
At the edge of empire the Romans could not subdue the Scots but they just about managed to exert power over the Jews, but only by a ruthless display of violence that peaked in actual wars. People significant and insignificant were picked up by the authorities and were disposed, and that's what happened to Jesus as the head of his small, probably seen as insignificant, movement. A theology that relies on a violent regime to create a deity-sacrifice creates a repugnant God, and therefore I reject all notions of an intended, sufficient and once for all sacrifice. It is better to see Jesus as acting selflessly for the purposes of healing, love and the final act of history (as he saw it); however, if he used the suffering servant as his model to bring about the end time (either he becoming the Messiah, or calling God to send another transformed being) then he was acting in folly. He, of course, within that subculture of supernatural expectation, had little other outlook, but even then sometimes you achieve more by being less of a martyr. Whilst living your principles is very important, it is the principles, or the ideas, that matter: to pass them on.
2. “Original Sin ... is the fault and corruption of the Nature of every man ... whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil ... and therefore in every person born into this world, it deserveth God’s wrath and damnation.”
We all have our faults, and we all have our good sides, and that's about it. We are sometimes motivated by greed, and Adam Smith saw that this could have a good outcome by a different kind of invisible hand. We are social animals thanks to our evolved inheritance, and that matters far more than notions of original sin. Otherwise we'd better start teaching bonobos Christianity, so the joke goes.
3. “We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings: Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only is a most wholesome Doctrine.”
No. If we do something good, we do something good. The value of what is done is situational. What we believe may be good or bad, but it is of no effect unless something is actually done - by their fruits they are known. The question is: can you do something good with the least motivation?
4. “Holy Scripture doth set out to us only the Name of Jesus Christ, whereby men must be saved.”
It might do in the New Testament but it's not good enough. Once we consider what salvation is, then it might be brought about by less attachment and a more detached loving of one another. Prophetic figures in religions and philosophies can help, but in the end it is down to each person to reflect, contemplate and develop their selves towards themselves and others - perhaps to lose the self and to accept all transience. The Buddhists have it better, because it is more practical and based on practical steps.
5. “It is not lawful for the Church to ordain any thing that is contrary to God’s Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another.”
There are many scriptures and many philosophies, all of which offer insight into the pluriform nature of truths, and we can learn from them all. So what if they contradict: the situations can be different, and, anyway, the Christian scriptures have contradictory philosophies, and these scriptures were artificially limited. There are no boundaries regarding inspirational texts.
Have I got the job?