Reverend Professor Sir Lloyd Geering Oct 15, 2016 11:22:08 GMT 10
Post by KTJ on Oct 15, 2016 11:22:08 GMT 10
Well....he has certainly outlasted those who put him on trial for heresy back in the 1960s!!
from Fairfax NZ....
National portrait: Lloyd Geering, the honest heretic
WRESTLING WITH GOD
By NIKKI MACDONALD | 5:00AM - Saturday, 15 October 2016
Influential thinker Sir Lloyd Geering faced a heresy trial in 1967 for daring to question
fundamental teachings of the church. — Photograph: Monique Ford/Fairfax NZ.
IT WAS killing off the immortal soul that did it. Questioning the Bible's literal truth was challenging; questioning Christ's resurrection was tricky, but not insurmountable.
But saying man had no immortal soul was a step too far.
Almost 50 years on, Sir Lloyd Geering has no regrets about the bold articles and sermons that saw him face down the church in the country's most famous heresy trial, in 1967.
And at 98 — facing his own mortality — the Presbyterian minister, influential thinker and one of the 20 greatest living New Zealanders remains adamant there is no life after death.
Afternoons are out, Geering says of possible interview times — that's nap time. It's a rare concession to age, which he seems to have shaken off as carelessly as the hate mail and death threats that inevitably followed from accusations of heretical thinking, at a time when religion was so strong the Student Christian Movement was Otago University's largest organisation.
Geering's near-century of experience spans a remarkable cultural revolution marked by the rapid decline of the church as keeper of society's moral code. Geering's thinking has evolved, too, through a depression, a world war, and the sad reality of ageing — losing the ones you love.
Dapper in his stripey socks and fashionable black jumper, Geering settles into an antique armchair in his Wellington apartment, lending me his better ear — the left one. Vases hold wild flowers collected on his daily walks; an “On me bike” artwork marks years of cycling adventures, before biking came with lycra and gears.
Opposite, another artwork reads “Bidden or not bidden God is present”. It seems odd for a man who calls himself a non-theist and once wrote a book entitled “Christianity Without God”.
Victoria University commissioned a portrait to commemorate Geering's role as Professor of
Religious Studies, from 1971 to 1984. Geering turned to academic life after his heresy trial
showed the church was no holy society and could harbour poisonous animosities like any
human community. — Photograph: Martin Hunter/Fairfax NZ.
To Geering, God is a symbolic term for our highest values — honesty, truthfulness, love for ourselves and others. And the looming spectre of death has not sent him clutching for the comfort of a heavenly afterlife.
“Well, I prefer to live. One's got to accept one's mortality. It's not an easy thing to do really. Of course, when you're young it doesn't really worry you much because you believe it's a long way away. Now I know it can't be too far away.”
He's grateful for an interesting life. There are some regrets. Nothing serious — he still feels bad about nicking lollies as an 11-year-old. People and relationships become increasingly important: “Death breaks them of course. I've known that.”
Geering has been widowed twice over — his first wife Nancy died of tuberculosis in 1949. His second wife, Elaine, died in 2001, after 50 years of marriage. His approach to the two deaths charts the change in his thinking — from clinging to the traditional belief of life after death, to an acceptance the soul is not immortal. Perhaps surprisingly, Geering found heavenly thoughts no comfort at all.
“In fact, it was a comfort to realise that my second wife no longer existed, except in me. Whereas after the death of my first wife I used to imagine her in some sort of heavenly place, and we were separated.”
Geering was not born into religion. His parents met while working at Kaiapoi Woollen Mill. There were Sunday school sessions and a temperance vow at age seven. Both lapsed — Geering enjoys his nightly red wine.
His was a loner childhood — constantly moving as his father chased work, then farmed, then lost the farm in an economic downturn. So the community of the church appealed to Geering. It's the same reason he still attends liberal St Andrew's down the road, where he's helped run lectures for 25 years.
There was no road to Damascus conversion. No slaying in the Holy Spirit. And if he were born today there's no way he would seek religion. It was, he says, the equivalent of the modern “finding yourself” — looking for purpose.
Governor-General Anand Satyanand makes Geering a member of the Order of New Zealand,
in 2007, in recognition of his contribution to public debate.
Within a year of embracing Christianity, he was offering himself to be a minister. His father hoped it would lead to a political career. His brother warned the church would die in 30 years.
Geering himself was not unquestioning. A mathematics student, he checked before signing on that he would not have to believe “that stuff about Adam and Eve”. The minister assured him no-one believed that any more. He was not, Geering says, quite truthful.
So he became a parish minister and learned to drink tea. While his brothers went to war, he preached pacifism at soldiers' farewell services. And as he taught as principal of Dunedin's Knox Theological College, he read and adopted more of the era's liberal thinking.
Geering says there was nothing new in the views that provoked his heresy trial. The challenge emerged from fundamentalism's rise in the face of increasingly liberal Christian belief; the pitting of a canon of unchangeable beliefs against a faith that evolves with time and society.
Fundamentalism is a swear word in Geering's lexicon. It's idolatry, the opposite of good religion. And it's impossible to counter. Look at the United States. He's been following the presidential election, which he finds both funny and terribly alarming.
He never did get into politics, instead becoming a religious studies professor at Victoria University. He worries about the Earth and growing inequality and ditched Labour for the Greens after Roger Douglas ruined everything.
At 98, Geering still drives. He still writes, the 21st-birthday typewriter traded for a computer. There's another book at the publisher — “Portholes to the Past”. His heresy accusers, meanwhile, are long since forgotten.
Traditional religion, too, is dead, he says. But its ideals must live on.
“We have to learn in the modern secular world to be responsible for ourselves, our neighbours and now, of course, the Earth and to carry the values that came out of the Christian tradition.”