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News and views from St. Mary's Woodbridge
Issue 6 Summer 2008
stephen cole

Cot, coasting or in collision?

We who are cot Christians never enjoy the Damascene conversion. Born once in love, we are never to be reborn in faith.

Throughout my childhood and teenage years in south London I went to church. I did the church thing: Sunday School, choir (sixpence for weddings), AYPA, sidesman. There are a hundred million Christians and the faith of each one is personal, differing imperceptibly in detail from that of his or her fellows. Just like our relationship with God.

Relationships need hard work. From both parties. God worked hard with me. I didnt reciprocate. From cot Christian, I gradually became a coasting Christian. Spiritually in cruise control, foot off accelerator or brake, enjoying the secure and familiar liturgy of the passing year.

Oxford and a physics degree collided me face to face with my apathy. Christ knew and loved children. The innocence of their behaviour. And the enquiring nature of their minds. His words Come to me as little children mean just that. In innocence. In the powerful words of the hymn, no guilt in life, no fear in death. Enquiring. Shaking off apathy. Making deliberate detours to discover the different and to dig deeper into the complex paradoxes of our Faith.

Oxford threw at me every colour of Christian approach. Each Sunday was different and the over-certain religious confidence of the evangelicals almost certainly embedded in me a deep suspicion that only recently I have overcome. I reverted to my roots as a High Church Anglican.

An awful lot of tosh is written about the incompatibility of science and religion. Almost none of it by those who are both scientists and Christians. Cambridge research scientist Roger Pilkington in his 1960 World without end identifies the common ground. Given that Id get St Paul through the Bible, its the book Id take to a desert island.

Good science is based on evidence. Christianity is based on personal faith. Neither is a done deal. Science continues to develop. So does our Christian faith. How does the concept of free will sit alongside the predestined strong, weak, gravitational and electrostatic force and Heisenbergs uncertainty principle? When does a group of probability waves become an atom? How could you identify a soul in the molecular chains of which we are all constructed? My faith now does have a certainty. A security in the liturgy. But it needs to ask questions.