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Tuesday, August 26, 2003

EVANGELICALS RISE IN C OF E Peter Cuthbertson has a post on the rising numbers of evangelicals within the Church of England. It seems that this will mean an increase in churchgoers how are "theologically conservative, viewing sex outside marriage, including homosexuality, as outlawed by Scripture". For some reason Cuthbertson thinks this is news worth celebrating. It isn't. Don't get me wrong, I welcome Anglicans who are more serious about their Christianity than I am; they are the necessary backbone of the Church. However if these evangelicals really are the kind of people that the post seems to indicate that would be bad news indeed. It would suggest that we will have to deal with people who take the Bible literally as God's word instead of using the Bible to discover the God's word. For this it is absolutely necessary to be able to put each Bible story in its proper historical context to truly understand what it really means, rather than to say the word as it appears on the page is the absolute truth and is beyond serious questioning (hello Taliban?). This would also be massive folly as it implies the Bible has always been passed on accurately, which it hasn't. My two favourite anecdotes in this respect are about the "apple" that Adam and Eve are tempted to eat and the commandment that “Thou shalt not kill”. In Latin the words for apple and evil are the same in some cases. At some point in history the opinion settled in that it was an apple that lead humankind astray from God and not, as it actually says in the original, the tree of evil. "Thou shalt not kill" is a more serious matter. In fact this is not what it actually says in the Hebrew original. It states simply "Thou shalt not murder" - a realistic moral injunction and worlds removed from the impossible and ultimately irresponsible "Thou shalt not kill".
One reason why the Conservative Commentator is happy about this development is because it would advance a socially conservative agenda without the Tories having to do so. Given that this is one reason why the Conservatives have had so much difficulty in regaining their electoral fortunes I can see what he's getting at: let the church do the social bit of a conservative comeback and the Tories don't need to bother about it and can win back middle Britain. I'm not sure that would fly and I don't like the idea much of transforming the C of E into something out of line with its traditions just to get Ian Duncan Smith into Downing Street.

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