First comes a bit of history, that the King James Bible language was old even when it was produced. He doesn't quite say that, but he says it was different. The point was, whereas Shakespeare expanded the language, the King James Bible economised on it for effect and built up its rhythms. It gives us, as a whole package:
...the story of a world broken and out of control - but still a world God loved fiercely; the story of God promising to be there for the people he had made, in good times and bad; of his promise being kept in the most dramatic way you could think of, when God himself lives a human life in Jesus Christ. And woven into all this were the records of how individuals – very like us in their confusions and failings – had got caught up in this great story of God's promises, and how it had changed them.
What he is telling us is that the Bible is a story, and our lives are a story. This is, on the one hand, the classical liberal Christian position that the Bible is used as a validation and a criticism of our lives; it is used as a means of working out our own individual lives.
So reading the King James Bible told you that your life story was set within the biggest of pictures, the story of the whole universe.
There is a potential problem with this, on this four centuries anniversary:
Four hundred years on, that can feel quite remote. You may be the sort of person who feels that you can make sense of your own story in your own terms. Or you may feel that there's only one big story and that's about money and whether I've got a job tomorrow or whether my children can afford higher education.
So there is the possibility that it is irrelevant as a story. However, that wouldn't be good enough, so it's themes are big themes that must still be relevant:
But the trouble is that we so often don't have the kind of big picture that simply tells us that we matter, never mind what happens, that tells us there is something quite outside ourselves that can eventually make sense of things – even if, like some of the writers of the Bible, specially the Psalms, there are moments where all we can do is shout out in protest.
So even the shouting out in protest is to be biblical. All very clever.
So we've had the classical subjective appeal as in a liberal Christian use: your life and its life. But then, the postliberal side of this, or Radical Orthodox, possibly, is that the book just is its standard of performance for the Christian, and therefore if in another religion or none the individual will want another big vision, or another big picture. For example, the Big Society notion needs a view of humankind.
Whether you're a Christian or belong to another religion or whether you have nothing you'd want to call a religion at all, some kind of big picture matters. If we 're going to talk about a 'big society', that'll need a big picture, a picture of what human beings are really like and why they're so unique and precious. This year's anniversary is a chance to stop and think about the big picture – and to celebrate the astonishing contribution made by that book four hundred years ago.
So he says, as a sort of underplayed evangelism, do acquire a big vision. It's not that his big vision is necessarily the best, because a postliberal cannot make any such objective view. Not when it is a story. You just have visions as packages.
A lot of people, though, muddle through. What is wrong with muddling through and asking questions; why not build up your own vision? Because postliberals believe in packages, and usually they are delivered whole, frozen from some past culture, to be performed again and again.
May the New Year be a time to discover something of this vision in your life; a time to discover more of the meaning of another of the King James Bible's great words – the 'loving kindness' we all need to give and to receive. A very happy New Year to you all.Loving kindness I recognise as a core element in Western Buddhism (and I am sure key in other expressions of Buddhism) in that it is the behavioural product of spiritual practice. That's an orthopraxis, and eastern orthopraxy carries a different philosophy that already has aspects the West discovered in postmodernism and postliberalism, but has its own relationship of transience and realism that doesn't fit into the Western objective-subjective collapse that is involved in postliberalism.
Nothing said in this more direct piece (the first link is where I discovered the video) has contradicted what I have written above. You wouldn't expect Rowan Williams to be so inconsistent - though, of course, I could have misinterpreted him. The clue is where he states: "is made real in this community." And it is "not a textbook". He says that the Holy Spirit breathes through the pages of the Bible as the Bible itself says. And so on.