Flat White

Is the defender of the faith quailing?

30 December 2016

5:48 PM

30 December 2016

5:48 PM

Firstly, let me say in response to that headline, I doubt it. The Queen has spoken frankly throughout her life about her Christian faith, most obviously in her annual televised Christmas messages. In her 2011 message she said:

Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves – from our recklessness or our greed. God sent into the world a unique person – neither a philosopher nor a general, important though they are, but a Saviour, with the power to forgive…

It is my prayer that on this Christmas day we might all find room in our lives for the message of the angels and for the love of God through Christ our Lord.

Sinners in need of salvation. Forgiveness for actions which come from inside ourselves. God incarnate coming not as a worthy, but as a Saviour. What could be more classically Christian? Her Majesty’s message that Christmas was a paraphrase of “the message of the angels” of Luke 2:10-14:

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

This year’s Christmas message was not that, despite Christians and Christian leaders from around the Commonwealth crowing about the sublime joys and divine blessings of living under the glorious reign of such a sovereign. The Bible Society’s Eternity magazine (“a national news service for Australian Christians”) wrote, “The Queen of England [sic] has once again spoke of her belief in Jesus in her annual Christmas address. Perhaps slightly less bold than last year, she still drew attention to the real meaning of Christmas.”

“Perhaps slightly less boldly”? It sounded like an agnostic conservative politician, mindful of the Trumpian necessity of Christmas, wanting to make sure branch members and pre-selectors heard the word “Christ,” but couching it in the universally acceptable language of service. I mean, who can argue with the idea of “following his teaching and finding in him the guiding light for their lives?” Certainly not Christians! Nor Buddhists or Hindus or Oprah disciples, for that matter. Different guiding lights for different folks, right?

Her faith in Christ – or at least her following of his teachings – is, according to this year’s greeting, “because Christ’s example helps me to see the value of doing small things with great love, whoever does them, and whatever they themselves believe.” Small things with great love? Sure. And no matter who does them, or what they believe? Theologians use the term “common grace” to describe God’s providential working in the world for the benefit of all humanity, and frequently through even unbelieving pagans. But that is very different to – in Reformed theology it is the antithesis of – the saving grace of “a Saviour with the power to forgive.” It sounds as if Jesus was just a philosopher after all.

The Queen sums up the “message of Christmas” thus: “inspiration is a gift to be given, as well as received.” What kind of sub-Christian nonsense is this? I received Christmas cards from atheist friends, secular organisations, and craven politicians which get the Christmas message more correct than that!

But whatever. As one of her fans reminded me on Facebook, she is not a theologian or a minister. Indeed, but she is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England though,

Even a layman should know the difference between good advice and the good news of great joy of God’s free grace. And certainly Australia’s national Christian news service should know what is and is not the real meaning of Christmas.

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