Theological education: some autobiographical reflections: Childhood

Apparently this is what Guardian Angels look like. (Photo by anslatadams)

It’s a wonder my faith survived (at least until now) the processes and adventures of my theological education.  Perhaps it is a tribute to sovereign and prevenient grace.

I was brought up in a Christian family. At first we were Brethren, then when the local hall closed (lease expired and a carpet seller wanted to move in) my parents having no car, we became Baptist. The church was middle of the roadish for Baptists in the UK at the time. So I remembered later (when I came to read John Robinson’s Honest to God for myself, and thought “how sensible, but surely everyone understands that God – being the creator of everything – can hardly live somewhere in the sky”) a blistering sermon one evening against Robinson and any notion of being “honest to God” about our faith.

However, the big crunch issue for me was Science. From almost as soon as I could read serious books (age 7 or 8 I guess) I was a huge fan of Science. Evolution and its more up to date, and excitingly still being discovered, cousin stellar evolution and the possible Big Bang enthralled me. These ideas made so much good sense, and they were based on evidence and open to discussion.

[Big bangs especially enthralled me, and each Guy Fawkes’ Day my friends and I tried for bigger and bigger ones, using cigar tubes and the gunpowder from fireworks. But that’s another story.]

At church, it seemed to me, I was expected to believe that God made the universe in one week (working on Saturday because making a universe with untold millions of stellar systems was a big job even for God). God even apparently planted fossils and other artworks so as to mislead us into believing that the whole process had taken him many many millions of years. I never understood why God did not want us to know what a big job it had really been, so my first niggles of doubt were born.

It was Religious Education (the only compulsory subject in the UK education system at the time) that planted the deepest questions though. We had an ardent but not very pastoral Anglican priest. He taught us all about some strange characters called J, E D and P  who apparently did Moses out of a job by writing the Pentateuch (but not being God, it took the four of them much more than a week). It was dull stuff, and I did not hear much of it. But one day somehow it got interesting. He spoke warmly about how God gave each of us our very own “Guardian Angel” when we were baptised. That stirred me up, I knew many of my friends were already baptised, and were even soon to be “confirmed”, but I was a Baptist, and not yet legally or in the eyes of the church an adult and so not baptised, yet. (Actually I was still not biologically an adult, but that is another story.)

So I asked the obvious question. “What happens to people who have not been baptised as Anglicans, but who go to other churches?” The reply shocked me. “I suppose God makes some sort of provision for people like that!”  Not that I really expected or wanted my own Guardian Angel, such imaginary creatures hardly fitted into my chrome-plated scientific worldview. But to be called, scornfully “people like that” and in front of a entire class of my peers!

That was it, I was at war with the Anglican Church, and all other forms of superstitious nonsense from that very day.

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