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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars not radical enough?
I first read this book as a teenager when it was serialised in The Sunday Mirror. I was aged twelve and that was the only Sunday paper we had in my family. Can you imagine a national newspaper doing that today? How things have moved on. Apart from little articles by the likes of Giles Fraser in The Guardian, there is little serious discussion in the media, merely...
Published 9 months ago by Mr. D. P. Jay

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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars when people stop believing in god, they do not believe in nothing, they believe in anything
A more disingenuous title can hardly be imagined . So far, by page 46, God hardly seems to figure, him being so obsolete and all, and honesty only seems to mean that he admits to being bewildered by Christianity; yet he refuses to simply resign his job as bishop as an honest man would do. Anglicanism seems to consist for him as something without Christianity. Pictures of...
Published 7 months ago by Cjbevan


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars not radical enough?, 22 Sep 2013
By 
Mr. D. P. Jay (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Honest to God - 50th anniversary edition (Paperback)
I first read this book as a teenager when it was serialised in The Sunday Mirror. I was aged twelve and that was the only Sunday paper we had in my family. Can you imagine a national newspaper doing that today? How things have moved on. Apart from little articles by the likes of Giles Fraser in The Guardian, there is little serious discussion in the media, merely soundbites. Working class people are still able to read thought-provoking stuff if it is in everyday language it's been my lifelong career to introduce their children to it ass a schoolmaster) but today's press short-changes and patronises them.

It was written in the momentous year of 1963, the year which also saw John F. Kennedy was assassinated, The Beatles released their first record, the Profumo scandal, the `I have a dream' speech, Pope John 23rd died and the great train robbery

I encountered it again when it was a set text in my first year as an undergraduate in Philosophy of religion.

Just like S. Ignatius of Loyola was laid up in hospital with time for reflection, which led to his popular Spiritual Exercises, so Robinson was in hospital with time to catch up on his reading and to produce this book.

Although there is little that is original in this book, it did introduce us, in a popular way, to people that I and many others later went on to read: Tillich, Bultmann and Bonhoeffer. There were other writers, who Robinson didn't mention. There was the `Death of God theology' of the likes of Thomas Altizer. This was later taken up by Don Cupitt and in the later works of John (Jack) Spong and Richard Holloway. It's a blind alley as far as I am concerned (just because I don't believe in the sort of god that Cupitt doesn't believe in doesn't mean there isn't a God) and it is evident that Robinson didn't either, judging by his moving sermon after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. There was also the stuff about `The Secular City' by Harvey Cox.

I hadn't realised how much this book influenced me until I went on a conference, yesterday, called `Honest to God; Fifty Years On.'

It was held in the neighbouring parish to the one where Robinson went as a curate: S. Matthew Moorfields, now closed. A lady was present who knew Robinson all those years ago. Although he was shy and bookish, this working class community was his home and he related well pastorally. He touched this woman's life, as he touched those of millions worldwide by his writing.

The book argued that 'God up there' is also an outdated simplification and that Christians need to consider God to be 'the ground of our being'. Also that religion-less Christianity is needed for secular man, that God's continuing revelation to humanity is one brought about in culture at large, not merely within the confines of "religion" or "church." It introduced the idea of situational ethics to an English speaking audience.

The great thing about this is that God engages us in the depths of our own lives and we can engage with him/her and with each other. That's the opposite Karl Bath reckoned. His God was totally `other' and we could only apprehend him by whatever he revealed to us. Our intimations of divinity are liable to be warped. I can understand that in the context of Barth's day when the Third Reich had infiltrated the German; Lutheran Church but I have never liked Barth because his views condemn all I have stood for during my life's work and vocation. It saddens and confuses me when many younger friends and colleagues of mine quote Barth endlessly.

Apart from a few books like those of Mark Gibbs' `God's Frozen People', the idea of `worldly holiness' of the vocation of lay people in secular, has never really caught on in the Church of England. Vicars want their layfolk helping with church stuff as treasurers, flower arrangers or whatever and the role of lay Reader is particularly dangerous when it attracts people who have `failed' selection conferences for ordination and who seek a consolation prize that takes them out of secular concerns. It comes as a surprise for many that it is the Roman Catholic Church who has the most highly developed theology of lay ministry flowing from Vatican Two's Gaudeam et Spes. Fr. Herbert McCabe, O.P. lauds Robinson on his concern for `worldly holiness'.

The book's title was given by the SCM editor, David Edwards and The Observer gave the provocative headline "Our Image of God Must Go.

That the Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, normally an astute scholar, condemned this book led to its worldwide fame. There is nothing like trying to ban something that boosts sales.

Another reason for its popularity was because the author had achieved notoriety by defending D. H. Lawrence's `Lady Chatterley's lover' at its obscenity trial. To hear a suffragan bishop of the established church describe Holy Communion as being like sex was an irresistible headline (though if Communion was like sex, then I reckoned that Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament must be like voyeurism and masturbation - but then I WAS a teenager then.)

At our conference, the group that I chaired offered the following reflections: some became so excited by this theology that they went on to become ordained of to be teachers of Religious education teachers, one who had lost his (evangelical) faith was converted to a deeper faith, once which asked questions instead of seeking certainties, an exploratory relationship. Indeed, we should reclaim the term `conversion' from the evangelicals. Are we `kingdom people' instead of merely church people? Faith is for the whole of life, not just the church bit. The gap between university and pew needs to be bridged. Instead of preaching bland sermons so as not to put people off, we need challenging sermons. Many will thank you for it and say that `I am glad you said that. I thought I was the only one and felt guilty that I somehow wasn't a proper Christian because I didn't believe...' We have lost our sense of metaphor today so there are more fundamentalists around. The opposite of faith is certainty, not doubt. We need another `shaking of the foundations' book (to use a title by Tillich) book like this for our times. Robinson, as he later admitted, wasn't radical enough.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fed up of the old invisible man on a white cloud arguement from athiests., 27 July 2013
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This review is from: Honest to God - 50th anniversary edition (Paperback)
I'm not religious, certainly not a Christian, but I'm always dumbfounded by the language atheists use to ridicule Christian beliefs, as above, especially on Cif as it happens.

This is a very thought provoking and interesting book. Didn't bring me ant closer to being spiritual, but it did reinforce my belief that religion has lost it's way in spreading the message.

Atheists arguments based on men on clouds etc, now sound dumber than ever.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars when people stop believing in god, they do not believe in nothing, they believe in anything, 10 Dec 2013
By 
Cjbevan "CJBevan" (Cardiff University, Wales, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Honest to God - 50th anniversary edition (Paperback)
A more disingenuous title can hardly be imagined . So far, by page 46, God hardly seems to figure, him being so obsolete and all, and honesty only seems to mean that he admits to being bewildered by Christianity; yet he refuses to simply resign his job as bishop as an honest man would do. Anglicanism seems to consist for him as something without Christianity. Pictures of him, brow furrowed over his clerical collar, show that early-to-mid 20th century intellectual churchman; one of those who had not yet owned up to their theological bankruptcy. I started to read this book because of an article on the BBC website written by an apostate priest whose brother I once knew .

The most interesting aspect of the book (hence two stars not one) is Robinson's realisation of the gap between Christianity and European culture; the gap gleefully described by Stuart Murray as the end of Christendom . That gap is also described by Hans Rookmaaker in the context of art . Robinson correctly identifies the fallacy of the god of the gaps, but does not rise to the philosophical challenge of then understanding just who god is beyond the gaps. He can understand the god of superstition, but not the god of faith. He can see mythological function, but not mythological truth. In this he is an extraordinarily nave and pedestrian thinker. For Robinson, the lack of consensus within European culture means that Christianity itself, Christ himself, must be lacking; he mistakes cultural perceptions for epistemological absolutes. For this liberal theologian, the fact that many do not believe means that the belief must be wrong, that a new belief must be found that is palatable to the many. This is the tail wagging the dog. To admit that teaching and preaching had failed to communicate the Gospel to a new generation would be a statement of fact; to admit that the church was itself a cultural artefact from the past would be accurate; but neither seems palatable to Robinson. Somehow, he says, the Gospel must be separated from Christianity, or at least for what has passed for Christianity in the past. It is not he or the church that has failed, but God. The idea of Gospel seems deeply entrenched in his psyche, but he seems unaware of just how nonsensical it is to speak of a Gospel apart from God. He does not seem to be using the word generically, as describing a phenomenon of desire or religious experience, but that the Church and the Gospel have an objective existence separate from God and that their role in the New Age must be found as part of new human experience, as if humans had objectively changed. This is pure Darwinian liberalism, and pure anthropology from the point of view of Barth, and puerile theology which I am surprised anyone with any faith or nous took seriously. Ther's nowt so queer as folk. It is an interesting coincidence that when Robinson published this, over in America, the producer and convener of the Righteous Brothers had his own crisis of faith. He too could see the disconnect between Christianity and culture, and subsequently sought to make a church for baby boomers; he was John Wimber. The idiocy of Robinson was that he sought to recreate the gospel without God, but keeping the ordinal and liturgical forms intact; Wimber sought to recreate the church, but keeping the Gospel intact. Robinson's view of deity became of a kind of pantheism. To paraphrase Chesterton, when people stop believing in god, they do not believe in nothing, they believe in anything.

An interesting stumbling block for Robinson is his apparent inability to understand eternity. He keeps referring to the problem of god being localised or personified as 'up there' or 'out there', and thus of the impossibility of incarnation or any metaphor of god's relationship to earth. He does not describe how to communicate God's separateness from creation without such terms; indeed, he does not seem to want to do this, and his pantheism explains why. The scientific viewpoint which for him overwhelms his understanding does not obviate such language; the universe has limits but they are not described concisely in science. Light seems to move at the speed which limits all transmission, so the observable universe can be theoretically limited by that knowledge . No one has discerned an edge to it though, and no one can confidently describe its overall shape, so these things are mysterious. It is not complex though to make the assertion that if God made the universe and he is not part of it, that somehow he exists outside the universe but can look into it. We cannot see out of the universe, hence God's transcendence, but we can respond to his presence, hence God's immanence. We can observe God acting, and remember it, hence the Scriptures. This has nothing to do with clouds, or medieval world views, or the technologies of any time. The usages of up and down are definitively subjective, as are east and west, but that fact that east and west do not exist as places does not mean they are useless terms, any more than past or present. The great paradox of the knowledge of god is the interrelation of time and eternity; God has put eternity in the hearts of men .

The whole argument of Robinson presupposes that there is no reality to conversion, no spiritual regeneration, no renewal, no sanctification, no work of the Holy Spirit as per the accounts of the Apostles; that these things are simply myths in the base sense; fanciful or unreal stories illustrating desire or fear. A constant dichotomy is the religious as opposed to the ... Christian? This common reference displays dissatisfaction with practice, but does not allow for a genuinely new ideal. The word religion means that which we do, whether in church as such or not; to stigmatise the word creates a need for a new word, but such a word will have an equivalent meaning. The rejection of the word implies a rejection of something, and that something is what Robinson is attempting to define in this book, at the same time as he attempts to find what he does want. My own take is that he needs to be converted in order to discover the truth of the Gospel, and that his dissatisfaction is simply the dissatisfaction of play-acting Christianity without Christ; in other words as an unconverted churchman, in the words of Jesus, an hypocrite. But he dismisses such conversions as merely the lunatic fringe of the church; such folly to the Greeks and stumbling blocks to the Jews as trivialising what the Gospel really is. Once converted, such semantics would cease to be so important, except as rhetoric. His dismissal of conversion would inhibit his ever discovering the truth of it, were it not for the Lord's gracious humility, and willingness to circumvent our stubbornness, and bring us to saving knowledge of himself, redeeming us and healing us, and restoring us to himself. This is the Gospel. Maybe it did happen, by his devoted study of the Apostles teaching .

The conclusion of the book attempts to contradict many of the impressions gained during the reading of it, but in the end the optional buttresses, the lesser commitments as he calls them, are the particular myth of the Incarnation, the particular code of morals are equivalated with a particular pattern of religion. He warns that we must cling to Christ and not to them, and not insist on them being the way to Christ, and that for many they are barriers and not supports.

My response is to ask quite what Christ can be without the scandal of particularity? To be a man, he has to have been born at a time, in a place, as an individual. Without that, the whole Deuteronomistic theme of Scripture is nonsense; that God acts, and that God speaks and demands of us a response; that God has chosen to act in a certain way, in a certain place, in a certain time, and that is his free choice according to His Will; that all this is God's self disclosure; His revelation of Himself by his saving acts. The Christ left behind after the particulars are removed is nothing but a vague idea; a nebulosity; a nothingness. It remains as wishful thinking with no root in reality.

This conclusion still seems to me that he cannot separate the artefact of the church from the church's witness; the message of the Gospel from the culture of its transmission. For him then the invalidity of the artefact describes the invalidity of the message; I would assert that they are completely separate; the artefact may be a product of the message, and if so, and if properly understood in the context of its time, then its message can be still be good. Like any other foreign language, it can be mistranslated or misunderstood. It is interesting to write this at Pentecost, when remembering the reversal of Babel; it also underlines the point that the Gospel is nonsense to the perishing. The Gospel has become incomprehensible to him and to his people. Only by this same Holy Spirit can Salvation be intelligible and experienced. Then it becomes the wisdom of God, the sign of Life.
He speaks of liberal theologians as other than himself, but liberal method with its emphasis upon reason and experience is what he describes, and extraordinarily, he wants to define Christ in terms selected by those who do not know Christ; the idea of a message to proclaim, to be informing those ignorant of the truth, to be spreading Good News is ignored under the assumption that Christ is already known by all, and that we merely articulate what all otherwise know. Quite what we are articulating if the divine self-disclosure is ignored he does not pretend to know; all he knows is that he doesn't know; he is truly agnostic.

In the 2001 printing, Rowan Williams provides an after word. I feel vindicated in that he says almost exactly the same things as I, but nuanced rather differently; likewise a couple of the reviews in Amazon . One says how brilliant this is; verbose and diffident Williams learnedly vacillates, as is his wont. If I lacked confidence in my conclusion before, I do so no longer.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars poor quality writing, 25 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Honest to God - 50th anniversary edition (Paperback)
LACKED SUBSTANCE AND SCHOLARSHIP. EMPTY AND UNCONVINCING. The quality of writing was appalling and there was a total lack of logic.
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