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God, England, and the language of kingship

by
05 December 2014

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From Mr Stephen York

Sir, - In his article on the festival of Christ the King (Comment, 21 November), the Revd Dr Richard Lindley comments on a spontaneous negative reaction, displayed by some lay Anglicans in a small survey, to the image of God the King. He goes on to conclude that the "analogy" of kingship no longer works.

It is obvious from other remarks in the article that kingship for the respondents evokes the notion of a modern constitutional monarch. Surely this is simply an example of the historical illiteracy generally prevalent today. The sort of king implied in the phrase "Kingdom of God" would have been understood, from the earliest period of history until (in England and Scotland, at least) the trial and execution of King Charles I, as an all-powerful figure whose word was law and whose decisions were binding on all his subjects - something very different from a modern constitutional monarch.

Further, the English notion of kingship has always contained the principle of a covenant between the king and his subjects, with mutual obligations (freely entered into on the part of the monarch). Doesn't that have a biblical resonance?

On another point, why did the very short list of English monarchs (cited with the implication of "bad" monarchs) include poor old Richard III? There is no shortage of aggressive, vainglorious psychopaths to choose from among the Kings of England; so why pick on a king whose ill-advised clemency towards defeated enemies and insistence on equal justice for all led to his betrayal and early death?

Possibly the writer is one of those who still convict Richard III of the murder of the "Princes in the Tower" on not much more than the evidence of Shakespeare's play. STEPHEN YORK

Hawthorn Cottage, Holywell
St Ives, Cambridgeshire PE27 4TQ

 

From Dr Christopher Scarf

Sir, - Your thoughtful article asks whether the "relatively new festival of Christ the King might be", perhaps, already "out of date". Canon Rosalind Brown (Sunday's Readings, same issue), emphasises, rather, the questions "Where do we meet Jesus?" and "Who do we say that he is?" The nature of the kingship of Christ has been discussed ever since Pilate asked his own pertinent questions.

I was fortunate enough some time ago to have the opportunity to study the considered opinions of the three central Oxford Inklings with Stephen Medcalf, who had himself known them; and my doctoral thesis, The Ideal of Kingship in the Writings of Charles Williams, C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, was published by James Clarke (Lutterworth Press) in a shortened version as a book.

I mention this not out of a misplaced spirit of self-aggrandisement, but rather because I truly believe that their individual and overlapping ideals are, indeed, very relevant to today's better understanding of the kingship of Christ.

CHRISTOPHER SCARF
39 Bradley Park Road
St Marychurch TQ1 4RD

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