In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, sixteenth-century theologian John Calvin maintained that “man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols.” He goes on to make this point: “Man’s mind, full as it is of pride and boldness, dares to imagine a god according to its own capacity; as it sluggishly plods, indeed is overwhelmed with the crassest ignorance, it conceives an unreality and an empty appearance as God” (Institutes of the Christian Religion & 2, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, The Library of Christian Classics [Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011], 1:108.)
Humans continue to rely upon themselves to determine who God is, and ordained ministers, it seems, want to remain in their positions even while denying that a personal God does, in fact, exist. Rather than creating God, ordained clergy may deconstruct God.
The United Church of Canada (UC) was formed in 1925 with the merger of four liberal denominations in that nation. One sees something of the theological location of the UC with the top blog post featured on its website: “Making a Pitch for Trans Awareness.” In other words, anything goes. Well, almost anything.
The Reverence Gretta Vosper may have gone too far even for the UC. According to the Canadian Press and reported in Canada’s CTV News online on June 30, “An avowed atheist fighting to keep her job as a United Church minister is now waiting to hear if a review panel will recommend she be defrocked for violating her ordination vows. In an appearance before the panel this week, Gretta Vosper defended her views, which include a lack of belief in God and the Bible.”
The UC professes to be a body of Christian, asks “new members to profess their faith in the triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – and to commit themselves to faithful conduct in the church and in the world,” according to the denomination’s website. Additionally, the church states: “As members of one body of Christ, we acknowledge our Reformation heritage and the teaching of the creeds of the ancient church, particularly the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds.”
But the words of Scripture and the truths of the Reformation and orthodox creeds evidently mean little to the church as a whole and even less to Rev. Vosper. The minister maintains that she does not believe in God in the traditional sense: “Were I to be given incontrovertible proof that a god does, or gods do, exist, the evidence of the cruel and capricious realities of disparity, tragedy, illness, and anguish in the world, and the truth that our world and our experience of it is wrapped not only in beauty but also in excruciating pain, would prevent me from worshipping it or pledging my allegiance to it.”
And so we have a minister who says that even if deity does exist, the bad things existing in the world would prevent her from worshiping this deity. I will give Rev. Vosper credit for saying what many ministers would like to say but fear the consequences. Unfortunately, Rev. Vosper has chosen the wrong side in this debate. Showing herself to be a fool (Psalm 14:1), she foolishly promotes the world’s wisdom and places herself in opposition to the God who has revealed himself through his creation, his Son, and his Word.
Rev. Vosper and all who deign to create deity in their own image or deconstruct deity according to their own “wisdom” will find themselves confronted by the very One they modify or deny: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me” (Job 38:2–3 [ESV]). What the world lauds as noble will be revealed by God to be terminally foolish.