*** DEBUG END ***

Love is his Meaning by Keith Ward

15 September 2017

Philip Welsh considers an interpretation of the ministry of Christ

IN A short book for the general reader, Keith Ward makes a clear case for the impossibility of taking the Bible literally, and for the integrity of understanding the Bible and the teaching of Jesus in a figurative or symbolic way, and he is quite unapologetic: “to take Jesus’ sayings only in a literal sense is to miss their meaning.”

He focuses on the ostensibly impossible moral teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, which he understands to be hyperbolic statements that challenge disciples with a set of ideals for life in the Kingdom of God, which they must now work out how to apply in the world as it is. He takes time to look at just what is meant by the Kingdom of God, and does not ignore eschatology: “I think Christians need to face up to this problem of ‘the time of the end’.

His rejection of biblical inerrancy concludes that there is no eternal hell; that Jesus left no specific moral rules; there is no imminent end of the universe; and salvation is not exclusive to Christians — “And I believe everything truly important about Christian faith will remain.” He ends with words that also provides his title (leaving the reader to recognise their originator): “Love is his meaning.”

This will be a very helpful introduction for a new Christian or enquirer with no background in biblical study, who is seeking an understanding of the Christian faith which is compatible with the modern thought-world without feeling watered down.

My one quibble is Ward’s recurrent use of “allegorical” as a virtual synonym for metaphorical or poetic, when in common use it refers more narrowly to the kind of extended point-for-point correspondence found in Pilgrim’s Progress or the interpretation of the Parable of the Sower.

And when, as a theological populariser, Ward writes that “Spiritual things are not unreal; they are more real than physical things,” I should love to know what Professor Ward, as distinguished philosopher and theologian, would have to say about almost every word in that sentence.


The Revd Philip Welsh is a retired priest in the diocese of London. He was formerly Vicar of St Stephen’s, Rochester Row, Westminster.


Love is his Meaning: Understanding the teaching of Jesus

Keith Ward

SPCK £9.99


Church Times Bookshop £9



Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Church Times Bookshop

Save money on books reviewed or featured in the Church Times. To get your reader discount:

> Click on the “Church Times Bookshop” link at the end of the review.

> Call 0845 017 6965 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm).

The reader discount is valid for two months after the review publication date. E&OE

Forthcoming Events

Green Church Awards

Awards Ceremony: 6 September 2024

Read more details about the awards


Festival of Preaching

15-17 September 2024

The festival moves to Cambridge along with a sparkling selection of expert speakers

tickets available


Inspiration: The Influences That Have Shaped My Life

September - November 2024

St Martin in the Fields Autumn Lecture Series 2024

tickets available



Festival of Faith and Literature

28 February - 2 March 2025

The festival programme is soon to be announced sign up to our newsletter to stay informed about all festival news.

Festival website


Visit our Events page for upcoming and past events 

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)