I have almost finished C J Sansom’s Revelation. It has thrown up a few intriguing questions about non-conformist belief.
For those unaware. The series, of which this is the fourth, is set in late 1530’s and early 1540’s during the reign of Henry VIII and the reformation of the church in England. He manages to bring Tudor England and the religious turmoil very well.
What sets this book apart is that it deals with a serial killer who is following Revelation’s story of the angel with the 7 vials. This is a pre-cursor to the end of the Whore of Babylon and Armageddon. Thus the beginning of the Second Coming.
The other thing that this deals with is the way people at the time were struggling to come to terms with the change in the uprising of Protestant belief and the downfall of the primacy of the Catholic church. The people are divided between past forms of belief, the new form that is beginning to spring forth and a king who let the genie out of the bottle, and struggles to put the lid partially back on.
We also encounter people who were former reformers but are no longer certain of their faith. The writer sees the good and bad in Christianity and shows that they are uncomfortable with present fundamentalism.
Christianity was changing in ways that people have still not come to terms with. The Christianity of the Catholic church was ordered and had a basis of theology that was regimented and known to all. Then came the Protestant form. Here anyone can claim their own theology and interpretation of scripture. They also have a get out of jail free card, in the form of the Holy Spirit.
Any fool can claim that they can interpret scripture, wihout any theological training, just by claiming that the Spirit spoke to them; for example, the Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses etc. There is no way that you can disprove their claims totally so Christianity is weakened and divided.
One of the things highlighted is that many fundamentalists believe that they are the elect of God – the chosen who are predestined to be saved. This is a Calvinist trait that I’ve always had problems with. If God created with free will then we choose to belief or not. Equally, Christ’s sacrifice is belittled because God has already chosen who will and will not be saved. So why did he sacrifice Himself on the cross, the deed was unnecessary?
Neither am I saying that the Catholic church is right in all its teachings. Neither am I saying that Protestant belief is any more accurate or wrong. In addition we do not have the right to reinterpret the scriptures and bend their teachings to fit our own time and place in history.
I think that Christians need to discuss their beliefs, to see where there is common ground and also where there is poor, and non scriptual, theology. We should be working together to unify our faith but seem to be happy to remain entrenched in our own particular denominational ghettoes.
Then again, if we did this then people may actually become more interested in Christianity. Then where would the world be? Better to muddy the waters, and argue over obscure theological points, than actually do the work that Christians are here for.