I’ve been reading about Magna Carta and its Christian roots

The 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta was on Monday, 15 June.


I was reading an article by the EA’s David Landrum and he noted that even though the anniversary was extensively covered by the news media he noted that there was a deafening silence on the Christian roots of Magna Carta amongst our secular, liberal elites. He said this represents nothing less than historical deconstruction, an attempt to re-write history to suit their own worldviews and therein shape the future.

Landrum said: Be honest: how aware are you about the Christian roots of this historic document? Who do you think wrote it? Who do you think convened the meeting when it was signed? And whose demands are stated at the beginning and at the conclusion of it? Maybe it was the barons or nobles? No. It was the Church that wrote it. More specifically, it’s highly likely that it was the Archbishop of Canterbury Stephen Langton. Once exiled by King John – the truly awful king who was forced to sign Magna Carta – Langton was a theological genius with a particular interest in what the book of Deuteronomy had to say about equality before the law, even for kings. This was pretty radical thinking for the time, but imagine how it sounded to Moses and the Israelites. To the bishops gathered at Runnymede in 1215, the signing of Magna Carta represented nothing less than the culmination of a centuries-long war between the pagan and the Christian concepts of law and power.

David posed the question whether, as we debate British values and consider a British Bill of Rights, and the possibility at some point of a written constitution, will the debates display an embarrassment about God in public life. This would be to ignore the pivotal role that the Church, across the denominations, has played in contributing to the common good in the past and it would be a squandering of this resource in the present.

The story behind Magna Carta

King John murdered those who stood in his way. He seized property and twisted the law to suit his own ends. He imposed taxes without justification and he ignored legitimate authority and law to rule as a tyrant.

In May 1215 the barons rebelled and with an army they gathered and confronted the king. John knew he could not win so at Runnymede he signed the peace treaty known as Magna Carta. It only remained in force for ten weeks but was then replaced by others which built upon that foundation (it was reissued in 1216, 1217, 1225 and 1297). Its influence has remained for 800 years.

Clauses 39 and 40 are particularly relevant to our age, the age of Guantanamo Bay detention camp and illegal renditions (state kidnap).

Clause 39: “No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.”

Clause 40: “To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.”

36 Things Worth Knowing About Magna Carta

The Origins of ISIS

I read a very good article in the Guardian today by Seumas Milne entitled “Now the truth emerges: how the US fuelled the rise of Isis in Syria and Iraq”.

I find it especially interesting that these things have not been said more often and from more sources. After all, anyone who follows coverage of the news will have accumulated much of this information over time. Haven’t we all? Perhaps one problem is the short term memory that comes from world news overload. We forget what we have already heard and then it is easy to fail to join the dots and see the bigger picture.

It was just yesterday that I watched the video in a post with the long title of “Someone Finally Explained How ISIS Was Created, and it Will Make You Question Everything” that chimes with the contents of the article in the Guardian.

In the video Ben Swann explores the origin of ISIS and takes a particularly USA viewpoint that he claims has already been long forgotten by American media. Swann takes on the central issue of whether or not ISIS was created by “inaction” by the United States government or by “direct” action. Watch it and make up your own mind.

Exile Stage 2 a new church era?

I recently listened to a report from a local Christian charily that works in schools. They reported that in the question times they often have they have noticed a change in tone recently. They said that they have noticed an increase in questions that are openly antagonistic to the Christian faith.

That comment was in mind when I read the text of Archbishop of Canterbury’s address to the Cinnamon Network launch of the Faith Action Audit. He said, “The public view of religion among young people, according to a YouGov poll – well, alright it’s a poll, but … the reputation of religion among young people is actually more negative than neutral: 41% – this was a poll in 2013, when they still got them right – 41% of 18-24 year olds agreed that “religion is more often the cause of evil in the world” and only 14% say it is a cause for good.

I am horrified to hear that levels of faith literacy is so poor that so many young people can think “religion is more often the cause of evil in the world”. Such ignorance of the facts of history!

I then had this article by Stephen McAlpine recommended to me . It certainly resonates with what I have been thinking as I feel a change in climate here in the UK towards Christians. He speaks of the last season we have been in as a time when the church has been trying to engage with an uninformed outside world he calls ‘exile stage 1’, compared to the new season he calls ‘exile stage 2’.

Exile Stage 2 is where we are now and a feature of it is the increasing intolerance of the outside world to the Christian faith. Many of us will have already noted that the only politically correct intolerance seems to be that which is aimed at the Christian faith and at Christian believers. This even seems to distort news reporting when covering the current innumerable deaths of Christians across the globe by Muslims.

Some of the article I felt a bit concerned about as I was wondering if it contradicted the position Christians should hold on the subject of Kingdom. After all we are to pray “Thy kingdom come…” as well as work for its realisation.

Bits I particularly liked in this article:

Simply put we assume that we can have more impact on culture than it can have on us. That is dangerously naive thinking. Jesus never said the culture will misunderstand you, he said the world will hate you. He did not say to his disciples, “Display reckless abandon and go out there and change culture,”, he said “fear not, I have overcome the world.”(John 16:33).

I have watched as what began as a series of questions beginning with “What if we changed the perspective on how we look at this traditional issue?” to “Did God really say?”. And painful though it is to say, the post-evangelical Sexuality Gospel has simply replaced the Boomer Prosperity Gospel for a generation that idolises the comfort that experience offers, rather than the comfort that money offers.

Stephen’s follow up article to this one is worth reading too where he likens exile stage 1 to fencing with the outside culture, compared to exile stage 2 which he likens to cage fighting. Whether he is correct or not, we are living in interesting times.

Book recommendation – Ancient Christian Devotional: A Year of Weekly Readings

I’ve just had this book recommended by a friend. I’ve ordered it online straight away.


What influenced me? This quote from Hilary of Poitiers, a French bishop of the fourth century, and a great defender of Trinitarian orthodoxy:

‘If the soul has not breathed in the gift of the Spirit through faith, even though it will continue to possess the faculty for understanding, it will not have the light of knowledge. The one gift, which is in Christ, is available to everyone in its entirety. What is present in every place is given insofar as we desire to become worthy of it. This gift is with us even to the consummation of the world. This is the consolation of our expectation. This, through the efficacy of the gifts, is the pledge of our future hope. This is the light of the mind, the splendour of the soul. For this reason we must pray for this Holy Spirit.’

If I am going to get more of that, I want the book!


Demystifying mysticism by Richard Rohr

This is an excellent meditation sent to me today. It is by Richard Rohr, who is a Roman Catholic priest, and is adapted from his book Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi.

I like the way he promotes the need for an experience of God for the ordinary Christian, often feared by Protestants (Methodists were called, as an insult, “enthusiasts”) or seen as undermining the church hierarchy by the Church of Roman.


Trust Your Own Experience. Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The most unfortunate thing about the concept of mysticism is that the word itself has become mystified—and relegated to a “misty” and distant realm that implies it is only available to a very few. For me, the word simply means experiential knowledge of spiritual things, as opposed to book knowledge, second hand knowledge, or even church knowledge.

Most of organized religion, without meaning to, has actually discouraged us from taking the mystical path by telling us almost exclusively to trust outer authority, Scripture, tradition, or various kinds of experts (what I call the “containers”)—instead of telling us the value and importance of inner experience itself (which is the actual “content” the containers were made to hold). In fact, most of us were strongly warned against ever trusting ourselves. Roman Catholics were told to trust the church hierarchy first and last, while mainline Protestants were often warned that inner experience was dangerous, unscriptural, or even unnecessary.

Both were ways of discouraging actual experience of God and often created passive (and passive aggressive) people and, more sadly, a lot of people who concluded that there was no God to be experienced. We were taught to mistrust our own souls—and thus the Holy Spirit! Contrast that with Jesus’ common phrase, “Go in peace, your faith has made you whole!” He said this to people who had made no dogmatic affirmations, did not think he was “God,” did not pass any moral checklist, and often did not belong to the “correct” group! They were simply people who trustfully affirmed, with open hearts, the grace of their own hungry experience—in that moment—and that God could or would even care about it!

Of course I would place Francis of Assisi in the long line of pentecostal or charismatic Christians before either term was used.

Great art and the Apple watch


I am sitting in the cafe of the Met (Metropolitan Museum of Art) and I am taking a break over a coffee.

At the next table is a chap who has spent a long time, wearing a pair of noise cancelling headphones, reading on his ipad all about the soon to be released Apple watch.

Now I like my gadgets, and I suppose he is free to spend his time any way he likes, but it just seems odd that though he surrounded by the exceptional he is still mastered by his gadgets.