At the beginning of the chapter Religion Kills, he defined religion as follows:
Imagine that you can perform a feat of which I am incapable. Imagine, in other words, that you can picture an infinitely benign and all-powerful creator, who conceived of you, then made and shaped you, brought you into the world that he had made for you, and now supervises and cares for you even while you sleep. Imagine, further, that if you obey the rules and commandments that he has lovingly prescribed, you will qualify for an eternity of bliss and repose.
Whilst it is absurd to claim that the abolition of this religion would eradicate the nastiness of which we human beings are capable, there is no question that if the 9/11 and July 7th bombers had not got into their heads the notion that they could earn a place in paradise by their suicides, those atrocities would not have happened.
So, who can dispute the fact that that kind of religion killed and continues to kill?
But we Anglican Evangelicals don’t believe in that kind of religion. We don’t believe that people can earn a place in heaven, whether by suicide-bombing or by feeding the poor.
In common with the other churches of the Reformation, the Church of England, in its 39 Articles of Religion, holds to the biblical doctrine of ‘justification by faith alone’.
To quote Article XI, Of the Justification of Man:
We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works and deservings.
In the New Testament, this doctrine of justification by faith alone is beautifully expressed in Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector:
Two men went up to the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself, God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted (Luke 18v10-14 – King James Version).
In abhorring the religion of the Pharisee, it is odd to be in agreement with such a public atheist, who incidentally writes like an angel.
But that does not alter the fact that the title of his book could not be more wrong if applied to the God and Father of Jesus Christ. The true and almighty God, who saves depraved mankind by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, is great.
This piece featuring the Revd Jonathan Fletcher's outstanding letter in the Church Times about the impact of women bishops first appeared on the US-based orthodox Anglican news service VirtueOnline.