THE form of the forthcoming coronation service is extremely important concerning the Christian foundations of this nation. The particularly crucial parts of the service are when the monarch promises to uphold the laws of God according to the Christian Scriptures. This aspect must at all costs be retained, and there must be no introduction of multi-faith elements.
However, many will argue that since Charles is monarch over many different faiths, along with Britain’s increasing secularisation, this modern-day reality should be reflected by a coronation service which is far more inclusive and far less distinctly Christian.
Now yes, of course, we stand upon the principle of mutual respect between those of a different religious persuasion or none, and we also stand for religious freedom (which freedom, incidentally, is often not accorded to Christians in nations where non-Christian religions or communist philosophies prevail).
Nevertheless, we must not ignore the reality that both historically and constitutionally the British monarchy is a product of the 16th century Reformation and the Bloodless Revolution of 1688-89. Indeed, the 1688 Coronation Oath Act is still in force and must legally fashion the format of the contemporary ceremony.
Many will claim that to look back to such events is anachronistic, as well as being divisive in this enlightened, progressive and multicultural era. I contend that such an argument is dangerous simply on the grounds that truth matters. What is so significant about the coronation service in its existing form is that it constitutes a public recognition of the authority of the Bible before the whole watching world.
Charles’s coronation has the potential to be a powerful testimony to Him of whom the Scriptures speak, namely the Lord Jesus Christ, the author of our salvation. Enshrining the truth of the Christian revelation at the heart of the British constitution can be only for the benefit and advantage – if adhered to – of all our citizens, whatever their religious affiliation or none, because God honours the people which honours Him with national well-being (Psalm 33:12). The freedoms and quality of life which have been characteristic of the British way of life (until more recently) can be directly related to the influence of the Christian gospel.
So in May Charles will be making solemn promises in the sight of the Trinitarian God, rendering him, and the government which he represents, liable to the judgment of God if such promises are broken.
The coronation service, therefore, must never be viewed as some kind of delightful, quaint, but relatively meaningless ceremony; it is so much more than mere tradition and pageantry. It is a deadly serious transaction with significance for the future of the whole nation, because it is the Trinitarian God who determines whether nations prosper or not – the Bible makes this abundantly clear.
The Coronation Oath which Charles must make begins with the words, ‘Will you solemnly promise and swear to govern the people of this kingdom . . . and the dominions thereto belonging according to the statutes in Parliament agreed on and the laws and customs of the same?’
Whilst this first part of the oath emphasises the supremacy of Parliament, this does not give Parliament an absolute authority to ignore ‘custom’, and the Biblical basis of Britain’s laws ever since the time of King Alfred must come under the scope of the word ‘custom’.
Furthermore, as has already been stated, the fact that the king ‘swears’ brings into the proceedings a far higher authority than Parliament: the monarch is making an oath not before those who sit in the House of Commons, or to the people, but to the Lord of all the earth. The whole event is transacted in His presence. The awesome solemnity of oath-taking is made clear in the book of Numbers, ‘If a man vow a vow unto the Lord, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth’ (Numbers 30:2).
If Charles promises in May exactly what the Queen promised in 1953, he will be asked, ‘Will you to the utmost of your power maintain the laws of God and the true profession of the gospel and the Protestant reformed religion established by law?’
These words are not the promotion of an unseemly sectarian spirit, as many may be tempted to think, but are rather an appeal to the authority of God’s word. This is seen in that, immediately after the making of this promise, the monarch is presented with a Bible as the following statement is made :
‘To keep your Majesty ever mindful of the law, and the gospel of God, as the rule for the whole life and government of Christian princes, we present you with this book, the most valuable thing that this world affords. Here is wisdom; this is the royal law; these are the lively oracles of God.’
This foundation upon the Bible takes precedence over the teachings of any particular church, be it the Church of England, the Church of Scotland, the Roman Catholic Church, or the mainstream nonconformist groupings. The point is that churches, made up of fallible men, can fall into error, whether it be a national church or a church claiming universal authority. They can override Scripture if their council, conference, synod or conference so decrees it, and, tragically, the general tendency in all the major denominations today is to exalt church teaching and the spirit of the age over what the Bible actually says.
A classic example of this tendency is the Anglican Synod’s recent decision to bless same-sex marriages. Had Charles already taken his oath, the Synod would have been encouraging him to deny the solemn promise which he had made before the Judge of all the earth. Let us reflect on this: the General Synod has just decreed that the promise before God made by the late Queen, the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, must be ignored and actually broken.
We begin to see, therefore, why the upholding of the Bible’s authority is such a crucial part of the coronation service. It is a vital base from which to challenge compromised and world-conforming churches. What a wonderful privilege to have a God-honouring and Bible-based installation of our head of state. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that Britain’s only hope for the future is to return to the authority of God’s word, whose majestic theme in both Old and New Testaments is the Lord Jesus Christ and His great salvation of undeserving sinners. May His Name be uplifted and glorified at the forthcoming coronation service.