2013 was the 50th anniversary of the publication of John Robinson’s Honest to God, a best-selling book, announced by a headline in the Observer declaring that ‘Our image of God must go’.
Robinson’s central point was that the way people thought about God did not fit modern science, so it needed to change. A lot else needed to change too: Christianity’s understanding of prayer, worship, ethics and Jesus.
It sold over a million copies and had an immense impact. Some claimed that it undermined their faith, others that it helped them retain their faith.
There were meetings and conferences in many parts of the UK marking the 50th anniversary. Modern Church was involved in events in Bristol, Cambridge, London, Canterbury and Swanwick. They were almost entirely positive.
The 25th and 40th anniversary events were on the whole more critical. On those occasions it had seemed as if Honest to God expressed the mood of a brief phase, the permissive 1960s, and had little lasting value.
Now it looks different.
It may have been a brief phase then, but it is just what we are looking for today: an approach which accepts that if Christianity is to be meaningful today our language and concepts must change in keeping with modern understandings of reality.
Here are some of the talks given at the various anniversary events: