Freedom and Order: History, Politics and the English Bible

I’ve just finished reading Freedom and Order by Nick Spencer, who is research director at Theos Think Tank. Some of their output recently on secularism has been excellent, and I also went to hear Nick Spencer do a talk about English politics and the Bible at Westminster Abbey a couple of years ago (about when the book was released – strangely enough I don’t think I blogged about it at the time).

Anyway, I very much enjoyed reading the book. I’d simply never understood before just how big an influence Christianity and the Bible has had on English politics. In short: it’s massive. One story I liked was hearing about one MP who was told by one of his constituents that he wasn’t in parliament to preach – apparently this particular MP had been talking about the Bible too much! Another interesting fact – apparently William Temple (Archbishop of Canterbury 1942-44) came up with the phrase ‘Welfare State’. The number of political groups who have not only been influenced by but explicitly grounded in the Christian message and scripture is staggering.

As someone who isn’t very ‘political’, if that’s the right word, some of the book went into a bit more detail than I really cared for – it’s not a light bedtime read – although I’m sure if you’re into politics and history you would enjoy it much more. I would recommend the book to anyone who had an interest in English political history and religion, I think Nick Spencer has done an excellent job detailing just how British political life has been affected by it.

We seem to be living in an age where people want to cast off the religious roots of the UK, and I believe books like this are important to help us understand why that would not be a good idea – or at least, to ensure that we do it with our eyes open. So much of what we take for granted today has been hard won and fought for by people in the past, often using explicitly Christian arguments.

At the start of the book, Spencer quotes John Locke, which I think sums it up:

He that travels the roads now, applauds his own strength and legs that have carried him so far in such a scantling of time; and ascribes all to his own vigour; little considering how much he owes to their pains, who cleared the woods, drained the bogs, built the bridges, and made the ways possible.

– John Locke, “The Reasonableness of Christianity”

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