Introduction to Lloyd Geering by Robert W. Funk

The World to Come: From Christian Past to Global Future
by Lloyd Geering

Introduction to Lloyd Geering by Robert W. Funk

It gives me great pleasure to introduce Lloyd Geering to American readers for the first time. It is unfortunate that his pioneering spirit and theological genius have been confined largely to New Zealand, his home, to Australia, where he taught theology for a time, and to Great Britain, where he is known as a friend of the Sea of Faith movement initiated by Don Cupitt. With the publication of this book, we hope North Americans will discover why he enjoys the high reputation he does elsewhere in the world.

Professor Geering is a forerunner of the Jesus Seminar. Back in 1966, long before the Seminar was organized, he published an article on the resurrection of Jesus that anticipated many of the findings of the Seminar twenty years later. In 1967, he published a second article on the immortality of the soul that stirred many Presbyterians in New Zealand to take action. He was charged with doctrinal error and disturbing the peace of the church, of which he is an ordained minister. A two-day televised trial before the Assembly led to his exoneration and contributed to his fame. Yet the experience was perhaps what moved Lloyd Geering to enter on the next phase of his career, which was to become the theological pied piper of New Zealand.

In 1971, he resigned as Principal of Theological Hall, Knox College, Dunedin, to become Foundation Professor of Religious Studies, Victoria University in Wellington. As has so often been the case in the twentieth century, the church attempted to silence one of its truly prophetic voices only to find that it had depleted its own treasury of wisdom by so doing. Lloyd Geering served as Professor in Victoria University until 1984, when he retired. Meanwhile, he was much in demand as lecturer and commentator on religion on both radio and television. In 1988 he was made a Companion of the British Empire.

In 1998, I was privileged to tour New Zealand in the Jesus Seminar on-the-Road programs organized by James Veitch. On that occasion, I appeared with Professor Geering and found, much to my delight, a precursor of such wit and wisdom that we immediately became friends. Subsequently, I invited him to the United States to be a featured lecturer in our Once and Future Jesus series (October 1999) and we offered to publish his new book, The World to Come. From Christian Past to Global Future, which you now have before you.

In his previous book, Tomorrow’s God (1994), Professor Geering argues that in the past we created our gods and religions by means of our stories, stories that no longer function they way they once did. We have passed through several revolutions -- the cosmological, the biological, and the anthropological -- that have created a radical shift in human consciousness. The old mythic certainties have died as a result. The loss of meaning has resulted in greater personal freedom, but it has brought with it new challenges. The future was once encompassed by the future of the tribe (in the ethnic age), then human beings looked to a personal future in heaven (or hell) (in the transethnic age), now (in the global age) they must begin to think of their future in terms of stewardship for the planet and care for each other. Jesus is not coming back to help us. In place of that hope, we must now think of creating a new global spirituality that will serve us in the centuries to come. In The World to Come Professor Geering announces the end of the millennium, of Christendom, of Christian orthodoxy, of old mythic certainties, while sketching his vision of a new global spirituality that incorporates the best of our legacy from the past and promotes care for all living creatures and the earth itself.

I am certain you will find Lloyd Geering’s clear thinking and lucid writing as stimulating and enlightening as I have.

Robert W Funk

Director, Westar Institute

Founder, Jesus Seminar