THE STRANGE CASE OF THE ATHEIST PASTOR

In Toronto, there is presently a case of an atheist pastor who is facing a church trial in her suitability for ministry with the United Church of Canada. Rev. Gretta Vosper[1] is the minister of West Hill United Church. Here is a quote from their website.



In order to gain insight and wisdom, we actively seek out diverse resources that may inspire us or challenge our perspectives. We find inspiration in ancient and contemporary sources drawn from the arts, sciences and humanities. We regard all explanations of life and historical claims as human and, so, fallible, understanding that all ideas are formed in particular historical, cultural and personal contexts.  Therefore, we consider no text, tradition, organization or person to be inherently authoritative, assessing all resources on their own merit.[2]

While the UCC is generally recognized for its inclusion, often-liberal theology and a good emphasis on social justice, Gretta Vosper, the self-identified atheist presents a challenge for those in their ranks who believe that a church should be led by a Christ follower.

It would appear that Gretta’s congregation and many others of a similar mind may see the value of what the Scriptures bring to the table, but certainly not as a foundation on which to build their lives. They would see many philosophies and ideas from which to gain wisdom and that one should not be imposed over another. At its core, this is humanism placing humanity as the pinnacle of truth, not the God revealed in the Bible and in the person of Jesus.

Gretta Vosper has appealed the charges against her (though not renouncing her atheism.)

Atheists and agnostics do not share our high view of the Scriptures. While they may have respect for it as ancient literature or a moral treatise, they certainly bail out on viewing it as an indicator of God’s existence. Their minds settled that God does not exist (or is not likely to exist); the book becomes just a book. Our experience is simply circular reasoning in their minds. If however, they are wrong about God, their superior sense of reasoning will be a futile and a costly error in judgment.

If we as Christ followers are to believe in the God that Scripture reveals, we will hold a high view of the Scriptures through which our God is revealed. In discussing the idea of Christian meditation, we have stressed the importance of the Scriptures as the reservoir of Truth from which we fill our minds.

John Stott writes:

“We must allow the Word of God to confront us, to disturb our security, to undermine our complacency and to overthrow our patterns of thought and behaviour.” [3]

Does the Word of God do that in your life? Scripture cannot really confront us or change our mind unless we have a high view of its authority to speak to our condition. If it is just another idea to play with, then it will decrease in its usefulness for guiding us to God. We will wander every road as a tourist and never find a spiritual home.





[3] John R.W. Stott, The Westminster Collection of Christian Quotations, Westminster John Knox Press, p.19

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