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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A timely read
Of the multitude of books written to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the King James' version of the Bible I found `Freedom and order' the most satisfying and relevant to the modern world. Nick Spencer has condensed his thoroughly researched material into a coherent narrative which both kept my interest, and gave a real understanding of the impact of the English Bible...
Published on 5 Aug. 2011 by Amazon Customer

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Informative and challenging but a hard read
A valuable book for those trying to engage with statutory bodies from a Christian perspective which is where I come from. It gives a historical perspective and context for the relationships we are trying to develop. I am not a historian however and I found that at times I was getting bogged down in detail and lost as the narrative seemed to jump back and forth. I would...
Published on 10 Aug. 2012 by Richard


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A timely read, 5 Aug. 2011
This review is from: Freedom and Order: History, Politics and the English Bible (Hardcover)
Of the multitude of books written to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the King James' version of the Bible I found `Freedom and order' the most satisfying and relevant to the modern world. Nick Spencer has condensed his thoroughly researched material into a coherent narrative which both kept my interest, and gave a real understanding of the impact of the English Bible on the political development of English speaking societies. In particular it gave a fascinating insight into the centrality of the Bible to the development of the United States of America from the insignificant frontier society of the Pilgrim Fathers to the world superpower we know today. I particularly liked the key quotations at the head of each chapter. Freedom and Order: History, Politics and the English Bible
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5.0 out of 5 stars The tangled web that faith and politics weave, 11 July 2014
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Jeremy Bevan (West Midlands, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Freedom and Order: History, Politics and the English Bible (Hardcover)
The relationship between faith and politics in contemporary Britain is undeniably ‘difficult’. But it was not always so. Nick Spencer’s fascinating book charts their complex relationship from Saxon times. Throughout, he argues, the Bible has been key, variously prayed in aid of greater political freedoms (with Acts 5:29 a core text) and seen as a buttress for order (drawing on Romans 13:1). While bishop Alcuin of York could remind king Aethelred ‘whether you will or not, you must have him [God] as judge’, the spiritual and temporal powers effectively reinforced each other in seeking to lead the Anglo-Saxon people to greater godliness, until pope Gregory VII’s insistence on the primacy of the spiritual ushered in a period of both profound political disequilibrium and creative political thought. Kings resisted the rule of an over-mighty church, and in reaction, churchmen like Becket, Langton and John of Salisbury developed theories of resistance to tyrants that were to flower more fully in the 16th and 17th centuries, when Ponet and Knox elaborated bolder ideas about how far Protestant resistance to the supposedly 'divine right' of monarchs to rule (and especially that of Catholic queen Mary) could go.

In theory, the Reformation ushered in an age where kings (or magistrates) had no right to tell the people what to believe. But Tyndale’s vision of every plough boy a theologian, Bible in hand, went hand-in-hand with a firm belief that ‘the powers that be’ acted as a brake on civil chaos, especially religiously-fomented civil chaos. Those in authority had always feared that this lurked in the wings, whether in the guise of the Peasants’ Revolt, the Diggers and Levellers, or that most convenient of bogeyman, the ‘Jacobin’ groups in the aftermath of the French Revolution. Reaction to such fears tended to portray the political order as to all intents and purposes fixed, and therefore encouraged the channelling of its energies into the reform of ‘personal morality’ at the expense of wider social improvement. This rendered even the ‘political evangelicalism’ of Wilberforce and Shaftesbury (and in the twentieth century, Thatcher) an essentially conservative force. It’s only with the – strongly Bible-based – arguments for religious toleration of Milton, Hobbes and especially John Locke that it becomes possible for faith and authoritarianism to uncouple, and a rather more critical Christian stance towards ‘the powers that be’ to emerge. Chartism, Christian socialism (once it shook off its own conservative mantle with the advent of Keir Hardie) and, in the twentieth century, Archbishop Temple’s politically critical report that inspired the Beveridge Report were all heirs to this tradition. Against this backdrop, the much-debated ‘sixties’ moral revolution of the twentieth century looks less like some cataclysmic abandonment of Christianity than some necessary distancing from a (rather dubious) high Victorian and rather paternalistic morality.

The book covers a lot of ground, with only the occasional surprising omission (nothing on Cardinal Manning’s support for the dock workers’ strikes of the 1880s or the Christian Hebraists in the seventeenth century ruminating on the value or otherwise of the Old Testament as a model for the relationship between king and people). Spencer’s plea for more biblically-informed thinking about the political sphere is welcome, and some politicians would do well to heed his plea that we should resist the urge to co-opt the Bible in the service of an inflexible, immutable vision of ‘a Christian social order’. I did wonder, though, whether his ‘naïve’ reading of the Bible as merely oscillating between the faith and order poles was sophisticated enough. The Bible is constantly subverting its own ideas of both freedom and order, and a properly biblical view of both terms surely needs to be more nuanced. God is indeed ‘not partisan’ (as Spencer rightly observes). But the Bible’s self-subversion would seem to undercut Spencer’s idea that some (public policy) goals are only achievable through the sieve of a univocal Christian framework; rather, it positively demands that those policy debates hear, and heed, the myriad voices on the periphery.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Informative and challenging but a hard read, 10 Aug. 2012
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A valuable book for those trying to engage with statutory bodies from a Christian perspective which is where I come from. It gives a historical perspective and context for the relationships we are trying to develop. I am not a historian however and I found that at times I was getting bogged down in detail and lost as the narrative seemed to jump back and forth. I would love there to be and edited version. Still I think it worth the effort, but the idea of reading it in three days as one of the other reviewers wrote blows me away!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good and challenging read, 26 Aug. 2011
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This review is from: Freedom and Order: History, Politics and the English Bible (Hardcover)
An excellent and thought provoking book that has some really good historical context to challenge your thinking about the bible and the effect it has had on society. Thoroughly recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Readable, credible and ambitious., 8 Dec. 2011
This review is from: Freedom and Order: History, Politics and the English Bible (Hardcover)
This is one of my books of 2011- I read it in three days and felt better informed about more than just politics and religion by the end. Considering the depth of research and breadth of information it contains, it is very easy to digest and completely compelling. Perhaps the most interesting section comes at the very end, when Spencer, having made a historical case for the bible as foundational for British politics, poses a normative question. With most of the population not only not believing, but no knowing, the bible, can our political system remain committed to the virtues drawn from it? And if not, where is the alternative foundation?
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Freedom and Order: History, Politics and the English Bible
Freedom and Order: History, Politics and the English Bible by Nick Spencer (Hardcover - 12 May 2011)
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