Norwich Cathedral Who is Jesus?
Mission

Why is Norwich Cathedral ashamed of Jesus Christ?

The Rev’d Marcus Walker went to Norwich for a short little August break. “Never been before but it seems lovely so far”, he tweeted. And then he entered Norwich Cathedral, where he was “rather excited to see a stand inviting people to ask what Christianity is…”

He ventured to pick up a leaflet and open it. It presented the reader with two questions: ‘Who is Jesus?’, and ‘What do Christians believe?’

Norwich Cathedral Who is Jesus?

He mused a little, and tweeted:

Chaps, there have been historical figures who were outstanding teachers, wise storytellers, compassionate healers, and inspiring leaders in every culture and every age.

Only one of them was God Incarnate.

That’s the thing there. That’s the reason the Cathedral was built.

“Why any man should have troubled to crucify the Christ of liberal Protestantism has always been a mystery” ~ William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury.

And he is right, of course. Norwich Cathedral have reduced the Son of God to the Buddha: there is nothing to distinguish him from Abraham, Brahma, Zoroaster, Confucius, Mohammed, Guru Nanak, Joseph Smith or Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

“It’s almost as though they were afraid to tell us that God became a human being, lived on earth, died for our sins and rose from the dead”, tweeted the former Bishop of Willesden Pete Broadbent. “What a scandalous message!”

Scandalous is the right word for the omission of certain key words: incarnation, miracles, crucifixion, resurrection, sanctification, salvation, atonement. Even if the words are difficult for some, the concepts are totally missing from this leaflet. There is no gospel, or any need for the gospel. Even if you’re content with passing mentions of “death on the cross” and “risen from the dead”, there is absolutely nothing which points the reader to the central fact of Christianity, that God became man.

Jesus did not come to just to teach, tell stories, heal and inspire, but to bring new life. People flock to cathedrals (and they do, by their thousands) not to hear about a therapeutic Jesus meek and mild who came to validate our lives, but to be awed by the presence of God and challenged by the Holy Spirit at the deepest levels of spirituality. If people are to respond to God in Christ, they need to know who he is, and he is not just one in the pantheon of outstanding teachers, wise storytellers, compassionate healers and inspiring leaders, but the only one who brings salvation through repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation.

Cathedrals weren’t built to convey religiosity or perpetuate theism for psychological or sociological purposes, but to glorify the one true God and the divinity and humanity of Jesus. They are dedicated to God’s Kingdom, not to affirm our emotional state by the lighting of candles with petitions, wishes and dreams of angels. Why would Norwich Cathedral omit the core theological truth of Christology? Why would it omit doing any theology at all? We know there is a certain ‘unpleasantness’ in the Christian faith, but it isn’t an optional extra: there is sin, suffering, judgment, salvation and life after death. The choices we make and the things we do in this life affect eternity. The mission of a cathedral should at the very least challenge people’s assumptions about Jesus and presuppositions of what the Church is for and what it does.

But God forbid they might cause offence to visitors by exposing unpleasant truths about themselves. God forbid they might be seen as proselytising or engaging with people effectively and prophetically. God forbid that their desire might be dismantling, reconstructing and renewing society, culture and the individual at the most profound levels of their being. Far better to patronise people, rewrite their experiences in terms they find comforting, and let them walk through the door back into the world having found a safe haven, where there is no risk, no challenge, and no discomfiting truth.

Christianity: the comfortable faith.