Books of the Rectors – Part 3 – Thomas Faulkner

Faulkner’s book, Gospel for the 21st Century of 96 pages, published in 1996 is in two parts – spiritual autobiography and then a treatise on 12 religious topics. The treatise is the result of a 20 year “spiritual journey.” “In the process I have seen in the crucified Christ a window into the character and depth of God’s love that I had never seen before.”

Faulkner’s social calling was formed by certain vignettes in his life:

1 He remembered his grandfather’s home in Boydton Va. where his family spent Christmas an African-American family, Holloways, the cooks for their Christmas celebration “Although at the time I never gave it a thought, the Holloways had sacrificed all of their Christmas day to make ours special and fun” “It was not until many years later that God touched my heart through his African-American people and in the process changed my life.”

2. The injustice done his father, the Rev. Thomas Green Faulkner who was displaced as teacher at the Chatham Episcopal Institute in Chatham Va. so a man he was cultivating became head of the Institute while his father was assigned to another church from Chatham and then to server additional rural parishes to supplement his income

3. Pausing to let an African-American lady go in front of him at a post office in 1942 just before Thanksgiving.

It taught him that everyone was to be treated equal in his church and to have a certain distrust of religious bureaucracies. These experiences let him ride out the 1954 issues with the Vestry

He describes several beliefs that he is not comfortable with
1. Science and religion at odds. However, he provides an example from his son Tom of how science can enhance the creation story of Genesis
2. God of judgment and not love
3. Atonement – required sacrifice of Jesus

Some of his ideas:
-Sin is the self-centered nature and we need to ask God’s help to subdue.
-Atonement -“Jesus death on cross did not bridge any gap between God and humankind. The gap never existed. The cross was simply a means for humans to find a way into the very heart of God.”
– God’s unconditional love despite man’s “painful physical death of Jesus.” It is the worst case of our “lack of love” and sinfulness impacts others.
– Our separation from God lasts only as long as we permit it. “Once we truly desire this union with God, and once we deplore our separation from him, we are then no longer separated from him.” “To keep ourselves in the perpetual cycle of a sinner being continually forgiven is to live in harmony with both God and all men and women.”
– “..We must be conscious of our need for God’s love and confirm our acceptance of it by seeking to show forth the same kind of love and concern to others and God’s creation.” “When we make concern for others and the rest of God’s creation our top priority, we shall discover a whole new set of values as we go about our daily living. We shall Jesus in the eyes of the prostitute, the beggar and the oppressed.”
– “The deeper our perception of God’s love for us, the more dominant, but yet at the same time subservient will be our love in response..Humans can only live the Christian life in their response to God’s love.”
Church – “Being members of the church in order to be better men and women is commendable, but if a congregation’s primary objective is not to be better witnesses for God in the world, for the sake of the world, then the congregation has never really become part of Christ’s church.” He sees more small groups as doing this in some cases outside of the institutionalized church. “We must return to the models of community which the early Christians developed by utilizing small groups in which to share our lives and our dreams; to study the history of God’s chosen people through biblical study and the sharing of our own stories.”
– “In the future, we must also face the fact that our God has communicated his love to people of faith who are not Christians.”


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