Archbishop of Canterbury says Gospel isn't a cover-up for the powerful

By staff writers
April 18, 2006

Archbishop of Canterbury says Gospel isn't a cover-up for the powerful

-18/04/06

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has dismissed claims that newly-discovered ancient texts and fascinating conspiracy theories can undermine the truth of the Gospel ñ and he says that the message of Jesus is about human transformation, not a cover-up carried out on behalf of the powerful.

In his Easter Sunday sermon, delivered at Canterbury Cathedral, the spiritual head of the worldís 77 million Anglicans ñ himself a noted scholar ñ acknowledged that the discovery of the Coptic text of a ëGospel of Judasí and the excitement generated by the publication of The Da Vinci Code might appeal to people's desire for exciting secrets.

But, when studied closely, such texts don't match up to the real challenges posed by the Gospel of the resurrection or the evidence of transformed lives across the world, he claimed.

ìThe Bible is not the authorised code of a society managed by priests and preachers for their private purposes but the set of human words through which the call of God is still uniquely immediate to human beings today; human words with divine energy behind them,î declared Dr Williams.

He continued: ìThe disciples really meet Jesus as he always was, flesh and blood - yet at first they don't recognise him, and he's something more than just flesh and blood. At the moment of recognition, when bread is broken, when the wounds of crucifixion are displayed, he withdraws again, leaving us floundering for words.î

Conspiracies have their appeal, he says, and people have become used to asking cynical questions:

ìWe have become so suspicious of the power of words Ö the first assumption we make is that we're faced with spin of some kind, with an agenda being forced on us. So that the modern response to the proclamation ëChrist is Risen!í is likely to be, ëAh, but you would say that, wouldn't you? Now what's the real agenda?íî

Said the Archbishop: ìAnything that looks like the official version is automatically suspect. Someone is trying to stop you finding out what ëreallyí happened, because what really happened could upset or challenge the power of officialdom.î

The New Testament account doesn't fit this model he says: ìIt was written by people who, by writing what they did made themselves less powerful, not more. They were walking out into an unmapped territory, away from the safe places of political and religious influence Ö it was written by people who were still trying to find a language that would catch up with a reality bigger than they had expected.î

Emphasising that the Jesus movement developed and spread before the Christendom settlement aligned the Church with power and made people suspicious of its motives and behaviour, Dr Williams said of the Easter message: ìWhatever this is, it is not about cover-ups, not about the secret agenda of power; it may be nonsense to you, it may be unreal to you, but donít be deceived about the nature of the message and those who lived it out in the days when the New Testament was being written.î

Dr Williams added that praying and suffering Christians across the world are a continuing testament to the truth of the resurrection.

He declared: ìIf we want to know what it is about today, we need to turn to the people who are taking the same risks, struggling with the same mystery. We need to look at the martyrs and the mystics. There are still those who tell us about God in Jesus Christ by lives of intense and mostly wordless prayer.î

The Archbishop continued: ìStill more important there are those who tell us about God in Jesus Christ by putting their lives at risk. There are places in our world where conversion to Christianity is literally a matter of putting your life on the line. We have all been following the story of Abdul Rahman in Afghanistan and we know that his story is not unique. We can say with absolute certainty that whatever the gospel means in circumstances like that, it isn't a cover-up for the sake of the powerful."

The theme of Christianity as a subversive peopleís movement is one taken up by the director of the UK Christian think tank Ekklesia, in a book to be published soon called Politics After Christendom.

The Archbishop of Canterburyís full Easter Sermon 2006 is here.

Archbishop of Canterbury says Gospel isn't a cover-up for the powerful

-18/04/06

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has dismissed claims that newly-discovered ancient texts and fascinating conspiracy theories can undermine the truth of the Gospel ñ and he says that the message of Jesus is about human transformation, not a cover-up carried out on behalf of the powerful.

In his Easter Sunday sermon, delivered at Canterbury Cathedral, the spiritual head of the worldís 77 million Anglicans ñ himself a noted scholar ñ acknowledged that the discovery of the Coptic text of a ëGospel of Judasí and the excitement generated by the publication of The Da Vinci Code might appeal to people's desire for exciting secrets.

But, when studied closely, such texts don't match up to the real challenges posed by the Gospel of the resurrection or the evidence of transformed lives across the world, he claimed.

ìThe Bible is not the authorised code of a society managed by priests and preachers for their private purposes but the set of human words through which the call of God is still uniquely immediate to human beings today; human words with divine energy behind them,î declared Dr Williams.

He continued: ìThe disciples really meet Jesus as he always was, flesh and blood - yet at first they don't recognise him, and he's something more than just flesh and blood. At the moment of recognition, when bread is broken, when the wounds of crucifixion are displayed, he withdraws again, leaving us floundering for words.î

Conspiracies have their appeal, he says, and people have become used to asking cynical questions:

ìWe have become so suspicious of the power of words Ö the first assumption we make is that we're faced with spin of some kind, with an agenda being forced on us. So that the modern response to the proclamation ëChrist is Risen!í is likely to be, ëAh, but you would say that, wouldn't you? Now what's the real agenda?íî

Said the Archbishop: ìAnything that looks like the official version is automatically suspect. Someone is trying to stop you finding out what ëreallyí happened, because what really happened could upset or challenge the power of officialdom.î

The New Testament account doesn't fit this model he says: ìIt was written by people who, by writing what they did made themselves less powerful, not more. They were walking out into an unmapped territory, away from the safe places of political and religious influence Ö it was written by people who were still trying to find a language that would catch up with a reality bigger than they had expected.î

Emphasising that the Jesus movement developed and spread before the Christendom settlement aligned the Church with power and made people suspicious of its motives and behaviour, Dr Williams said of the Easter message: ìWhatever this is, it is not about cover-ups, not about the secret agenda of power; it may be nonsense to you, it may be unreal to you, but donít be deceived about the nature of the message and those who lived it out in the days when the New Testament was being written.î

Dr Williams added that praying and suffering Christians across the world are a continuing testament to the truth of the resurrection.

He declared: ìIf we want to know what it is about today, we need to turn to the people who are taking the same risks, struggling with the same mystery. We need to look at the martyrs and the mystics. There are still those who tell us about God in Jesus Christ by lives of intense and mostly wordless prayer.î

The Archbishop continued: ìStill more important there are those who tell us about God in Jesus Christ by putting their lives at risk. There are places in our world where conversion to Christianity is literally a matter of putting your life on the line. We have all been following the story of Abdul Rahman in Afghanistan and we know that his story is not unique. We can say with absolute certainty that whatever the gospel means in circumstances like that, it isn't a cover-up for the sake of the powerful."

The theme of Christianity as a subversive peopleís movement is one taken up by the director of the UK Christian think tank Ekklesia, in a book to be published soon called Politics After Christendom.

The Archbishop of Canterburyís full Easter Sermon 2006 is here.

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.