The perverted ‘preaching’ of Rowan Williams

On Tuesday 1st November 2005 a service of remembrance was held in St Paul’s Cathedral in London in memory of those who died when Islamic suicide bombers detonated their devices in four locations in London on 7th July 2005.

In the course of the service, a ‘sermon’ was ‘preached’ by the current Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. The following is a transcript of a section of what he said –

‘The last few months have seen many people trying to respond to this widespread fear, trying to calm and reassure us. One reaction is through security provisions and new legislation [TV camera focuses on Prime Minister, Tony Blair]; another has been in the powerful and consistent response of all our faith communities [TV camera focuses on 6 young people representing Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism and Buddhism who will later each light a wick in a large communal ‘candle of hope’]. As it happens, today’s commemoration falls at a time when several of us are marking [Muslim ‘Eid’ and Hindu ‘D’wali’] or approaching [‘Christian Christmas’] very significant festivals in our religious calendars. So we face the tragedy together today, drawing on our most important resources.

But when we are aware of a deep bond with the departed, it sometimes helps us to see that death in itself is not the thing most to be feared. We acknowledge the awful hurt of bereavement, especially a violent bereavement and yet we have some abiding sense that death, even violent and untimely death, cannot destroy our relationships at the most important level, some sense that love is indeed, as the Bible says, “Strong as death”.

No, it is not death itself that should be the focus of fear; rather we should be afraid of losing just that passionate conviction about the beauty and dignity of each unique person that brings us here today. We should be afraid of losing the thing that above all else sets faith, humanity, civilisation apart from the mind and the world of the terrorist.

Jesus tells us ‘not to fear those who can destroy the body but THOSE who can destroy body and soul’ and part of the sickness of spirit we feel when confronted with terrorism is that we face people whose souls are damaged, almost destroyed. It shows us what we can rightly fear, a world, a mind caught up in a terrible untruth, in a rejection of God’s creation of diversity and unique beauty; and to say that this is a tragic and pitiable fate is not at all to take away from the condemnation that terrorist violence deserves. But today is not an occasion for us to focus on fear…’

Why have I referred to “the perverted ‘preaching’ of Rowan Williams? Well, in this section of his ‘sermon’ he has taken a portion of scripture [Matthew 10:28] and he has both misquoted and mishandled it. You will note that in the portion of scripture that he quoted and that I have underlined I have put the word ‘THOSE’ in capital letters.

Let me quote what God’s word actually says Jesus said to His disciples “And fear not them who kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul, but rather fear HIM who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell”.

The Lord Jesus is teaching His disciples that ‘there is a fate worse than death’ and that the ‘worse fate’ is to be consigned to hell for all eternity after death.  The Lord also refers to “HIM” who has such power to consign people to hell. The “HIM” is of course God. However, in his misquote and explanation, Rowan Williams ascribes power to ‘THOSE’ and the ‘THOSE’ he has in mind are terrorists. He also ascribes to ‘THOSE’ a power that relates to this life and not to the hereafter. What a wicked perversion of God’s truth.

Why have I coloured in red and blue some portions of what Mr Williams said? Well like any “false apostle” [2 Corinthians 11:13] who speaks for that “angel of light” [2 Corinthians 11:14] there is usually a mix of both truth and error in what they say.

Mr Williams, in the context of [mis]quoting Matthew 10:28 refers rightly to the Lord’s teaching that a person’s greatest fear should not be death itself. The Lord identifies being consigned by God to ‘eternity in hell’ as being what people should fear most. However Mr Williams falsely substitutes his own idea for what people should fear most in these words – ‘we should be afraid of losing just that passionate conviction about the beauty and dignity of each unique person’.

Confronted by such a large gathering of people [some 2500 souls] Rowan Williams went to a portion of scripture [Matthew 10:28] and failed to expound the truth contained in it. In doing so he failed “to declare unto [the congregation] all the counsel of God” [Acts 20:27]. He stands guilty of declaring “the wisdom of the wise” [1 Corinthians 1:19] and how does God treat such “wisdom” – we read in 1 Corinthians 1:20 “Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world”. In the eyes of God, Rowan Williams and his ‘preaching’ are “foolish”.

In closing, let me quote the wise words of a former Bishop of Liverpool from a bygone era, J C Ryle, who in his ‘Expository Thoughts on Matthew’ said this concerning Matthew 10:28 –

‘Man can hurt the body, but there his enmity must stop; he can go no further. God “is able to destroy both soul and body in hell”…The anger of man may be hard to bear, but the anger of God is much harder’.

The portion underlined would have been a faithful Christian message to have been brought to the remembrance service but then, such a message can only be preached, with conviction, by faithful, truly Christian disciples of the unique Saviour of men, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Cecil Andrews – ‘Take Heed’ Ministries – 2nd November 2005