Contemporary Creed: Reasonable Pathways Through the Problems of Christian Beliefs and Ethics
Morris (John)
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Amazon Product Description

  1. Unlike Richard Dawkins, the Contemporary Creed (revised edition) sees no conflict between evolution1 and God, faith and modern science. But what sort of God creates a violent universe with a Big Bang almost 14 billion years ago and appears to do little or nothing to prevent built-in suffering and natural disasters like earthquakes, famines, disabled children and cancers? The Christian God leaves a lot unexplained. Some writers give superficial answers whereas Morris, who helps care for his own handicapped grandson, gets to the root of difficulties and succeeds in finding credible pathways through sixty problems of Christian beliefs and ethics. He writes for believers and unbelievers: for Christians like himself who admit their doubts, and for atheists and agnostics interested in big questions. His unusual format of 90% prose and 10% original poetry is entertaining, and the style straightforward everyday language, offering conclusions that are often open-ended, undogmatic. His systematic theology becomes a brief A-Z that may be read in any order for individual Bible study, or by house groups that want a provocative structure for lively discussion.
  2. John Morris, MA, M.Ed, PhD, taught and lectured for 35 years before becoming an Anglican clergyman. His royalties go to charity.
  3. We need books to bridge the gap between belief and unbelief, between the Church and the enquirer who cannot find the entrance and between the pulpit and the pew. This book does it.
    Most Revd Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York.
  4. My problem with most books on God by believers is that they treat theology as though it were a science. It’s not - and John Morris doesn’t try to pretend that it is. Most refreshing!
    John Humphrys, BBC Today, Mastermind, In God We Doubt.
  5. John Morris addresses many significant questions about Christian belief in a careful and truth-seeking manner. His book should be helpful to many enquirers.
    Revd Dr John Polkinghorne, KBE, FRS, physicist, theologian, author.
  6. In this admirable and cogently-written book, John Morris explains how he sustains a life-changing faith while being fully mindful of all the intellectual challenges and perplexities this entails. Even those of us who cannot share his beliefs will be stimulated by his arguments and enlightened by his perspective.
    Lord (Martin) Rees, OM, Kt, FRS, Astronomer Royal, author.
  7. A brilliant, honest, contemporary restatement of orthodox Christianity. It tackles 60 of the toughest objections to Christian faith with deep thoughtfulness, in well-organised topics and clear prose. His 100-word creed is a masterpiece, his poems a joy, and his profound handling of difficult issues will help many, atheists and believers alike.
    Canon Dr Michael Green, theologian, university speaker worldwide, author.

Amazon Customer Review
    I read the first edition of Contemporary Creed several years ago and really liked the analytical/logical approach to thinking about faith. This version (new formula with extra whitening) gives a lot more. The commentaries are more accessible and more than anything, it brings out the relevance of the thinking to us today: 21st century values, 21st century rules, 21st century challenges. Here are four things I liked in the new version.
  1. Ethics and how Christianity helps in this space: The book has an excellent twenty-page discussion on ethics. It gives different lenses through which an activity can be looked at to see whether it is right or wrong. It addresses topical items such as failed marriages, assisted suicide, contraception, homosexuality rather than issues that might have appealed to fishermen around the Sea of Galilee rather a long time ago. The argument goes that religious people traditionally start their ethics with their scriptures, but we need to accept that these are imperfect - some writing based on outdated cultural practices, some based on some rather dubious historical figures. But ultimately they come together in the principles that we accept in modern democracies today: compassion, forgiveness, generosity, non-violence. But ethics today also needs the lenses of a conscience, a duty to act sometimes, the right motives, and cooperation for the common good. John Morris doesn't try to provide answers because he recognizes that they are sometimes contradictory. But he suggests the kind of things you should think through.
  2. Some of the tricky ‘facts' in the bible: John doesn't shy away from talking about the inconvenient and sometimes scary parts of the bible - the slightly bizarre cannibalistic communion rites, the rather unlikely virgin birth, the ghostly resurrection and the other miracles. His thoughts are interesting for a Christian doubter and for those just fascinated by the literature. Often he seems to come to the conclusion that the details don't matter. For example that the virgin birth shouldn't get in the way of believing as even some of the primary sources such as Paul are not clear on it. And that miracles are not that important to the faith of most Christians. Whether John reassures you that the resurrection happened, you will need to read and decide for yourself.
  3. Faith as filling in the gaps: John shares a new poem `Wobblers' with a thought provoking commentary about faith. I think John is saying that faith is not about blind belief in a magic trick. Rather that there are some facts we know, that the framework is rational, and that faith helps to fill in some of the gaps. This idea reminds me of one of the key leadership challenges that you see in business and politics, where you have to take decisions based on incomplete data, or where you can only guess at the motives of the people you are dealing with. A good leader has to set a vision or a direction and convince people to come along with him. Even if he doesn't know all the answers. But without the vision, you get nowhere. So Christian faith helps to provide this vision / direction. And all this from a four line poem called Wobblers about riding a bike.
  4. Coping with trouble: There's an intriguing section on our personal responses to disasters - based on the poem ‘God saw that it was good'. John starts with that bit in Genesis after God has created the world and is having a celebratory glass of sherry. The discussion goes in a surprising direction and John talks about all the things that are patently not good - natural disaster, illness, accidents, human evil. He talks about a choice God has made to let us learn, like a mother who initially protects her little child from a sharp toy, but gradually lets the older child take more risks. The mother and son image is quite comforting, especially for those of us who are facing difficult times. Quite a convincing pathway through the problem of suffering that John has personally been through with his grandson Daniel.
  5. So? The clear message in this book is that you don't have to ‘just believe'. That you can question. And that faith is not necessarily irrational. Definitely worth a read.


Circle Books; Revised Edition (25 May 2012); Link.

"Morris (John) - Contemporary Creed: Introductory Material"

Source: Morris (John) - Contemporary Creed: Reasonable Pathways Through the Problems of Christian Beliefs and Ethics

  • Acknowledgements – 12
  • Foreword – The Reverend Professor C. F. D. Moule – 13
  • Commendation – Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York – 14
  • Introduction – 15
  • My Creed – 20
  • Endpiece – 209
  • Index of Poems – 210

"Morris (John) - God and Creation"

Source: Morris (John) - Contemporary Creed: Reasonable Pathways Through the Problems of Christian Beliefs and Ethics

God And Creation: Does God exist and what does he do?

    1. How can I define God? 22
    2. Is creation predetermined by its Creator from start to finish, or is there a degree of exploration and running repairs? 26
    3. Can a God of love be a controlling God? 28
    4. Is the activity of God best described as intervention or interaction? 30
    5. What is the meaning of Adam and Eve today? 34
    6. In what sense is God always dependable? 40
    7. Is freedom divisible, so we can pick and choose when we want it? 42
    8. Does the Earth and its inhabitants matter? 44

"Morris (John) - God and Ethics"

Source: Morris (John) - Contemporary Creed: Reasonable Pathways Through the Problems of Christian Beliefs and Ethics

God And Ethics: How do we decide what is right and wrong, and overcome the ethical problem of suffering in natural disasters created by a good God?

    9. What was good about God's six days of creation? 46
    10. What would be the consequences on the evolution1 of homo sapiens had God been on tap to rescue man in danger? 50
    11. Can evil serve any useful function? 52
    12. Is our sense of right and wrong just relative to where we live, or a timeless absolute; and where does it come from? 54
    13. Ethics — how do we decide what is good or bad? 62

"Morris (John) - The Incarnation"

Source: Morris (John) - Contemporary Creed: Reasonable Pathways Through the Problems of Christian Beliefs and Ethics

The Incarnation: How can God visit Earth?

    14. How could a personal God express himself in any other way than through a person, and if Joseph were the natural father of Jesus, would that undermine Christ's uniqueness? 76
    15. Jesus was clearly God-conscious, but was he also conscious of actually being God, for if he were, how could he have been completely human? 78
    16. To become a man, was the Lord's self-emptying an isolated one-off, or a permanent characteristic of adventurous Being? 80
    17. How much of God was embodied in Jesus? — was he God, or the divine Son of God, or a son of God? 84

"Morris (John) - The Ministry Of Jesus"

Source: Morris (John) - Contemporary Creed: Reasonable Pathways Through the Problems of Christian Beliefs and Ethics

The Ministry Of Jesus: What was his message and how is it still relevant?

    18. Why was Jesus baptised? 88
    19. When Jesus preached, was his main emphasis on God or on calling people to follow his own example? 90
    20. What was distinctive about the prayers of Jesus and about his relationship with the God of the Jews? 94
    21. In his radical Sermon on the Mount, what did Jesus mean by saying hunger is good for us? 96
    22. If a picture that Jesus used is less relevant today, can we update it successfully? 98
    23. Was Jesus a reformer or supporter of the Mosaic law? 100
    24. Is Christ's style of leadership relevant today? 102
    25. What choices are open to us in deciding who Jesus was? 104

"Morris (John) - The Death Of Jesus And The Atonement"

Source: Morris (John) - Contemporary Creed: Reasonable Pathways Through the Problems of Christian Beliefs and Ethics

The Death Of Jesus And The Atonement: Why did Jesus die and did his death achieve anything?

    26. In the world as we know it, are casualties inevitable, so life cannot be anything other than a mix of joy and pain? 106
    27. Are we seeing the cross the right way round, as an event that transforms God's attitude, or one that changes us? 108
    28. Does the New Testament make Jesus the victim and object of God's justice whereby sin must be punished, or does it portray a unity of purpose between Father and Son? 110
    29. Pilate gave Jesus the death penalty, but are there also other senses in which his death was a penalty? 114
    30. If God is Love, would he do nothing to save man? 118
    31. What is good about Good Friday? 120
    32. Was death by crucifixion important to Christianity or would another method of execution have been equally powerful? 122
    33. Did Jesus achieve anything objective by his death, or do we have to save ourselves with the help of his example? 124

"Morris (John) - The Resurrection of Jesus"

Source: Morris (John) - Contemporary Creed: Reasonable Pathways Through the Problems of Christian Beliefs and Ethics

The Resurrection Of Jesus: Is it a fairy tale or fact?

    34. Is it reasonable to believe in the resurrection of Jesus and did he rise bodily or spiritually? 130
    35. What is the most revolutionary event in human history? 140
    36. Has Christ's resurrection any parallels, or is it unique? 142
    37. Can all of Christ's miracles be explained away today? 144

"Morris (John) - The Trinity"

Source: Morris (John) - Contemporary Creed: Reasonable Pathways Through the Problems of Christian Beliefs and Ethics

The Trinity: How can God be three in one?

    38. What is the meaning of the ascension and how does it help us? 150
    39. What experiences made monotheistic Jews revise their thinking and start the beginnings of Trinitarian language? 152
    40. Can a personal God who is supreme Love exist alone, or are relationships, company and dialogue implied? 154

"Morris (John) - The Scriptures"

Source: Morris (John) - Contemporary Creed: Reasonable Pathways Through the Problems of Christian Beliefs and Ethics

The Scriptures: What is God's word today?

    41. Did Jesus believe the Old Testament scriptures were God's word, without error? 158
    42. Is the word of God the text of the Bible, or is Jesus the living word of God who speaks through the scriptures by his Spirit, or is it both of these? 162
    43. Jesus was the founder of Christianity so is it fair to say that Paul was not only the great founder of churches, but also the founder of some beliefs Jesus would not recognize? 164

"Morris (John) - Christian Living"

Source: Morris (John) - Contemporary Creed: Reasonable Pathways Through the Problems of Christian Beliefs and Ethics

Christian Living: In what ways is it a distinctive and healthy lifestyle, that is worth recommending?

  • Beginning:
      44. How does one start to be a Christian? 168
      45. Can one be a Christian and a frequent doubter? 170
  • Witnessing:
      46. What is our job as disciples and what help do we get? 172
  • Worshipping:
      47. What do the sacraments of bread and wine mean? 174
  • Praying:
      48. Is the God we pray to, one who knows all, and controls events? 176
      49. In a crisis, what kind of prayers can God be relied on to answer? 178
      50. Does God guide people and how does he do it? 184
  • Forgiving:
      51. Why is forgiveness hard and good for our health? 1863
      52. Is forgiveness fair and can it be earned? 188
  • Soul-making:
      53. Can the structure of DNA be turned into a useful parable of the soul and its growth? 192
      54. What is the soul and is it immortal? 194
      55. Is anything secure? 196
  • Ending:
      56. Apart from Christ's resurrection, what other reason might be given for thinking that death is not the end? 198
      57. Should the Christian live in fear of the Last Judgement? 200
      58. At death, are Christians at once conscious of being with their Lord, or is there a time-lapse spent in peaceful sleep1, awaiting a more general resurrection? 202
      59. What is the meaning of "He shall come again with glory" in the Nicene Creed? 204
      60. Is Christ the only Saviour? 206

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