Archbishop: ‘Young are keen to learn about religion’
THE Archbishop of Canterbury claimed that young people’s hostility towards faith is not as extreme as society perceives.
In his last Easter sermon as leader of the Church of England,
In his last Easter sermon as leader of the Church of England, Dr Rowan Williams told the congregation at Canterbury Cathedral that a number of youngsters appreciated the role religion played in shaping and sustaining human existence and were keen to learn about it.
“There is plenty to suggest that younger people, while still statistically deeply unlikely to be churchgoers, don’t have the hostility to faith that one might expect, but at least share some sense that there is something here to take seriously – when they have a chance to learn about it,” he said.
“It is about the worst possible moment to downgrade the status and professional excellence of religious education in secondary schools. But that’s another sermon.”
Dr Williams, who will resign as Archbishop of Canterbury at the end of the year to take up a post at Cambridge University, also told followers the ultimate test of the Christian religion was not whether it was useful, beneficial or helpful to the human race, but whether or not its central claim – the resurrection of Jesus Christ – actually happened.
“Easter makes a claim not just about a potentially illuminating set of human activities, but about an event in history and its relation to the action of God,” he said.
“Very simply, in the words of this morning’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we are told that ‘God raised Jesus to life’.”
He said any understanding of the significance of the resurrection that fell short of this truth would be to misunderstand it.
Dr Williams added: “We are not told that Jesus ‘survived death’; we are not told that the story of the empty tomb is a beautiful imaginative creation that offers inspiration to all sorts of people; we are not told that the message of Jesus lives on. We are told that God did something.”
He said that Easter raised the “uncomfortable and unavoidable” question that religion might be more useful than the “passing generation of gurus thought”.
He told the congregation that the answer would not be found in instant scientific analysis, but in a longer measure of the effect of belief in the lives of believers.
Dr Williams went on: “When all’s said and done about the newly acknowledged social value of religion, we mustn’t forget that what we ultimately have to speak about isn’t this, but God: the God who raised Jesus and, as St Paul repeatedly says, will raise us also with Him.”
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