In 1966 David Jenkins, Bishop of Durham from 1984 to 1994, wrote a brief Guide to the Debate about God, exploring the historical perspective as well as appraising developments following the publication of Honest to God in 1963. Jenkins admits that there has always been a debate about God, not only about what He is like but about whether He exists at all. He wanted to explore whether theism really is on the way out and whether any hope of believing in God has to be abandoned as a result of the ‘new theology’. I have returned to David Jenkins’ Guide to the Debate about God this week because he identifies core issues of faith and the ‘experience’ of God with which I have been engaging for over five decades and which I believe are now essential for the Church of England to re-engage with if it is ever to recapture people’s imagination and open hearts and minds to the experience of unconditional love.
This morning, I began to re-read Jesus: The Unanswered Questions by John Bowden, published by SCM Press in 1988. The Preface by David Jenkins, then Bishop of Durham, were immediately prophetic. David Jenkins writes that John Bowden “has a passionate faith in God which is concerned with Jesus, truth, freedom and the possibilities of the future. The whole book is an expression of pilgrimage, a pilgrimage which is clearly embarked on in faith and to be pursued in hope.” David Jenkins concludes with this appeal, a mantra that the bishops of the Church of England would do well to have at the forefront of their minds as they meet next week: “So the future of a true Christian faith must lie with an exploration that persuades, a love that serves and a vision that combines an ever expanding realism with unquenchable hope.”