An Act of Faith: AD2000 after 25 years

An Act of Faith: AD2000 after 25 years

B.A. Santamaria

This last month has seen AD2000 reach a significant milestone: 25 years in print. In celebrating this silver anniversary, we reprint and reflect on the words of AD2000's founder, B.A. Santamaria, in that first edition of April 1988.

In an age of accelerating secularisation and watered-down belief, the maintenance of a publication like AD2000 is surely not a folly, as Santamaria asked, but rather a grave necessity. Indeed, to have survived into the digital age - an age of social media and the dreaded 'sound bite' - the initiative that is AD2000 is an Act of Faith which must be sustained, relying on Providence and its loyal readership across Australia and the world.

An Act of Folly or an Act of Faith?

The establishment of a new monthly magazine of religious opinion, centring on the most critical religious issue of the day - the struggle around issues of moral and doctrinal orthodoxy understood primarily in Christian terms would seem to be either an act of faith or an act of folly.

The perceptible decline in practice within all Christian religious denominations has led to an equally rapid decline in the circulation of ordinary diocesan newspapers and to the extinction of some. It would seem that the time has come to close down existing religious magazines and newspapers rather than to begin a new one. In that view - especially as it has no capital behind it - the publication of AD2000 would appear to be an act of folly.

If, however, the case for religious orthodoxy is, in Australia, going largely by default and if religious orthodoxy is both defensible and deserving of defence, then the challenge transforms an act of folly into act of faith - faith that there are sufficient competent writers of Christian persuasion within Australia with the ability to produce a magazine of adequate intellectual standard, and a larger group, sufficient in number, to ensure its financial stability.

Religious conflict

The religious conflict of the day is commonly represented as one between "progressives" and "conservatives", "optimists" and "pessimists". That is unacceptable language, used by those who are determined to change the content of what, for two thousand years, has been understood to be central to the Christian faith.

As far as the central religious truths are concerned, argument cannot finally reduce itself to what is "progressive" or "conservative", "optimistic" or "pessimistic". It can only be as to what is true or false; as to what is faithful or unfaithful to the essential doctrines and teachings; as to what are the outer parameters of those essential beliefs, beyond which one may quite conceivably achieve sanctity, but cannot claim to be a Christian.

As Michael Dummett, Wykeham Professor of Logic at Oxford University - admitted by his antagonist Professor Nicholas Lash to be one of the senior Catholic scholars in the English-speaking world - states in the concluding article of their current controversy in Blackfriars (December 1987): "I do not want to revive the Inquisition or the anti-Modernist oath: I only want an authoritative pronouncement of the limits of the admissible reinterpretation of the articles of the Creed."

It would be foolish to deny that there are and always have been rational reasons which might lead an honest and thoughtful person to reject Christianity. The arguments in favour of an agnostic position are not without weight. The force of these arguments is merely accentuated when the Christian position is presented illogically or shrouded in intellectual confusion. One who follows the course of ultimate rejection of beliefs, which have been embedded in the Creeds since the establishment of the Church, cannot with any sense of logic call himself a Christian. To do so, as Professor Dummett rightly says, is to perpetrate a fraud.

Outer parameters

The outer parameters beyond which it is fraudulent to attach the name of Christianity to a complex of religious beliefs will be the focal point of the investigation which AD2000 aspires to undertake with charity, but without beating around the bush. It hopes to discuss this central question not only in terms of abstract ideas, but by the reporting of national and international events which relate to it directly and indirectly.

To the question of whether this is worth all the risks of establishing a new religious monthly, only time will tell.

Whether in its news reports or in its larger articles dealing with particular issues, AD2000 will describe what is orthodox as orthodoxy, what is modernist as modernism. It will support the former and oppose the latter.

Worldly wisdom counsels "No!" A sense of duty and responsibility counsels "Yes!" Faced with that dilemma without any particular optimism as to the result, a number of concerned people have decided to "give it a go". In twelve months they should know the answer. In the light of that answer, AD2000 will either continue - becoming, perhaps, a fortnightly - or it will "fold". But at least the attempt would have been made.

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