I commend you all to read the Prime Minister's speech to theologians and church leaders on the occasion of the commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the King James' Bible.
Read the text here.
It contains many fine words and quotes but I can't help leaving with the feeling that I have read a speech that was both completely right and completely wrong at the same time. Fully God and fully man?
I think it was this quote, nailing his colours firmly to the fence, that set the tone:
I am a committed – but I have to say vaguely practising – Church of England Christian, who will stand up for the values and principles of my faith…
Maybe he has simply picked up the vibe of the average Englander today - committed but vague. In what other walk of life could you claim a firm commitment allied with vague practice?
He goes on to praise, rightly, the exquisite language of the King James Bible yet finds within it an authority for everything including a constitutional monarchy, something which, on my reading of the Bible, earned God's disapproval and strong discouragement.
There are pot shots at modern translations, failing to understand that these are to help people access God's word as living and active rather than literature and archive.
He insists that the Bible sets our moral framework but wrestles with his own theological issues. There is an inherent danger in seeing the Bible as a finishing point rather than an agreed starting point. It doesn't give us the last word on divorce, sex, abortion or warfare. Indeed the Bible's own theology of these things develops through its pages.
There is a certain amount of cherry-picking:
Indeed, as Margaret Thatcher once said, 'We are a nation whose ideals are founded on the Bible.'
Responsibility, hard work, charity, compassion, humility, self-sacrifice, love…
…pride in working for the common good and honouring the social obligations we have to one another, to our families and our communities…
These are all good but why no mention of prayer, receiving the Holy Spirit, putting Jesus first, witnessing - these are every bit as much the Bible's values yet I suspect slightly less popular.
I rejoice that we have a Prime Minister who will, unlike Tony Blair 'do God'. I hope he understands that there will be some who feel it is rude not to do God properly.