One of the failures of mainstream Churches in modern times is articulating its beliefs and ideas about God in a way that makes sense to ordinary people in the street. All too often people are fed cliches wrapped in abstract theological language that no longer carries the meaning it once did. It sometimes seems as if priests, vicars, and bishops live in another world.
But Dr Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, has shown that it is possible to talk about God in simple language. When a six-year-old Scottish girl named Lulu wrote a letter to God: “To God, How did you get invented?” her father, who is not a believer, sent it to Dr Williams, who sent the following letter in reply:
Your dad has sent on your letter and asked if I have any answers. It’s a difficult one! But I think God might reply a bit like this –
‘Dear Lulu – Nobody invented me – but lots of people discovered me and were quite surprised. They discovered me when they looked round at the world and thought it was really beautiful or really mysterious and wondered where it came from. They discovered me when they were very very quiet on their own and felt a sort of peace and love they hadn’t expected. Then they invented ideas about me – some of them sensible and some of them not very sensible. From time to time I sent them some hints – specially in the life of Jesus – to help them get closer to what I’m really like. But there was nothing and nobody around before me to invent me. Rather like somebody who writes a story in a book, I started making up the story of the world and eventually invented human beings like you who could ask me awkward questions!’
And then he’d send you lots of love and sign off. I know he doesn’t usually write letters, so I have to do the best I can on his behalf. Lots of love from me too.
What a brilliant – and profound – response! And from someone who is regarded as a heavyweight theologian. It’s very much in line with the way Jesus talked. He told stories (the sower, the good Samaritan, the prodigal son) and didn’t resort to complex theological arguments.
If the Churches want to people to listen to what they have to say about human existence and its divine origin and end, then those whose job it is to talk about God could learn a lot by studying Dr Williams’ letter.