Mr Frank Field is Labour MP for Birkenhead and chairman of the 2011 Trust, set up to celebrate 400 years of the Bible in English since the publication of the Authorised Version (King James Version) in 1611.
Dear Mr Field,
‘You sound like one the Trots in my constituency’ was your effective reply to an impertinent line of questioning from an adolescent Julian Mann when you came to do a talk at the London school I attended in the early 1980s.
Nearly 30 years later and following conversion to Christianity shortly after I left school, I find myself as an Anglican Evangelical vicar in the north of England gravely concerned about the threats to Christian freedom of expression in the United Kingdom.
It is not that freedom of speech has declined in our country since we last met. Freedom of bad speech has increased hugely. The tolerance of obscenity, discourtesy, verbal bullying and smear is very high in our society in both public and private discourse.
What is declining in our country very rapidly is the freedom of good speech, what might be called the discourse of Christian salvation. It is now becoming increasingly socially, morally and legislatively unacceptable in the Britain of the new Millennium to express biblical truths, with their corresponding negatives, that are clearly and unequivocally stated in the Authorised Version of the Bible in the English language.
Consider this statement in the AV: ‘Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4v12).
That is a statement by the Apostle Peter before the Jewish Sanhedrin, ruling out the possibility of eternal salvation apart from faith in the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ.
Consider another statement in the AV: ‘Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind’ (1 Corinthians 6v9).
That is a statement by the Apostle Paul upholding the teaching of Holy Scripture that heterosexual marriage is the only right context for the expression of sexual love with its corresponding negative truth that sex outside of heterosexual marriage, both straight and gay, is morally wrong.
This discourse of salvation is becoming increasingly proscribed in public discourse, in the workplace, in schools and colleges and even in the decreasing private space the politically-correct establishment is allowing the Christian Church to express its biblical convictions.
The problem with our Christian private space for those who oppose Christian freedom of expression is that it is not particularly private. We meet in churches and so the concern for the politically-correct establishment is that secular visitors to our churches will be exposed to our views.
Furthermore, many orthodox churches in both the Evangelical and Catholic traditions where biblical truths are being proclaimed have thriving children’s and young people's ministry. The PC establishment is therefore concerned about the ideological purity of the next generation.
It is surely not inconceivable, given the trajectory of our culture expressing itself in legislation, that in my life-time or else in that of my sons orthodox Christians in the United Kingdom will be imprisoned for expressing biblical statements contained in the Authorised Version of the Bible.
Under such circumstances, I wonder whether the Gideons or indeed your 2011 Trust will be allowed to place English Bibles in our prison cells.
If not, will we be allowed to bring our own?
With all Christian good wishes,
The Parish Church of the Ascension,