‘CICCU does not seek to indoctrinate’

2 March 2008

Charlie Butler

Liz Davis’ article presents an unflattering comparison between Rowan Williams’ patient, subtle, individualistic faith and the CICCU’s dogmatic, arrogant, herd-like mentality that is both “patronising and offensive”. I think the picture is a little more complicated than she suggests.

CICCU’s “perpetual lunch-time talks” may not attract such well-known speakers as Rowan Williams or John Sentamu, but we provide them in a similar spirit – as an arena for public discussion and intelligent engagement with people’s questions.

We do not seek to indoctrinate or patronize and are sorry when it comes across this way. As Dr. Williams’ talks were structured, so with ours we try and leave plenty of time for people to ask questions and challenge the speakers on any or all of what they say. This is a far cry from “ask you to be one of a homogenous mass, unquestioningly swallowing the dogma with your free lunch”.

What seems to offend Miss Davis most, though, and indeed what seems to be the nub of the issue, is CICCU’s “patronising and unshakeable belief that they, and they alone, are right”, set against the tolerant, liberal-minded approach of Dr. Williams.

Members of the CICCU really do believe that what they’re saying is true, and that, as a consequence, things that contradict what they say are not true.

Furthermore, they think that what people believe matters, and has profound, eternal consequences.

These ideas are not, however, founded on CICCU members’ innate sense of superiority. Jesus Christ himself says that he is the only path to God: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to Father except through me” (John 14:6). This claim has been a core contention of orthodox Christianity since its inception, and is, for example, central to the doctrine of the Church of England, written into her creeds and confessions.

Far from having beliefs that are “staggeringly unclear”, we stand in an historic tradition proclaiming, alongside many others, the truth about Jesus from the Bible: that because of his death on a cross some 2000 years ago, he offers to humanity the only way back into relationship with the God we have all rejected. This means that if Christianity comes across as arrogant or exclusive, it is Jesus who we must take issue with.

And it means that Christians do not need to settle for uncertain, fearful concepts of “faith”. Jesus offers us great certainty about what we believe – if he’s telling the truth.

The claims of Jesus are based on evidence – the testimony of eyewitnesses who saw, heard and got to know him for themselves. Far from asking people to swallow the claims unthinkingly, we seek to show them the evidence, leaving them to make their own minds up; if you like, we invite people to “come and see” what Jesus is all about for themselves.

What drives us as the CICCU, along with many other Christians across the globe, is an understanding that we as a human race have not been left in the dark about what God is like. In Jesus Christ, there is on offer to the world a way to know God personally.

Charlie Butler is a 3rd year History student.