THE distinctly Christian nature of our coronation service dates back more than 1,000 years. The original formalisation of it can be traced to the crowning of King Edgar in Bath Abbey in 973 AD.
Even before this, King Alfred, who reigned from 871 to 899 AD, had introduced the Ten Commandments, extensive quotations from the book of Exodus and other portions of the Bible into his Law Code. These historical foundations, and the honouring of those foundations right up until 1953, demonstrate that it is impossible in the 21st century to divorce the present monarchy from its explicitly Judeo-Christian ethos.
At University College London there is a Constitution Unit. Shortly after the Queen’s death it produced in October 2022 a report: ‘Swearing in the new King: The Accession and Coronation Oaths’. This states: ‘Since the last coronation, processes of secularisation and pluralisation of belief have occurred with the result that surveys show that in Great Britain half the population now has no religious affiliation . . . [therefore] in our more secular and pluralist society, the oaths need to be revised and updated; or dropped altogether.’
Here we observe (doubtless well-meaning) constitutional experts making the false assumption that the task of the monarch, and the manner in which he is installed, must simply reflect the society over which he reigns. In other words, there is no consideration of the principle that the monarchy has a vital symbolic role in defining the character that a society should assume.
The view that the monarchy must merely mirror society as it happens to be at any point in time is also not remotely Biblical. Leaders of nations have a God-ordained role which is far higher than feebly following whatever is going on around them. As the word of God tells us, ‘He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God’ (2 Samuel 23:3).
Those today arguing that the coronation service must be a demonstration of the character of modern Britain in both its multi-faith and secularised aspects are in effect claiming that there is nothing special worth preserving in the distinctly Christian character of the nation’s constitution. They are asserting that the Christian faith – in and of itself – is not deserving of any special significance in the nation’s life.
Such an attitude represents an assault upon the integrity of the Christian revelation. It is a statement that the Christian faith possesses validity only in respect of the number of people who adhere to it. In contrast, the Bible teaches that the very essence of being a Christian necessitates a departure from mainstream and majority thinking.
For example, our Lord Himself said of His Church that it would always constitute a minority within society. He declared: ‘Enter ye in at the strait gate, for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat. Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it’ (Matthew 7:13–14).
A week after the Queen’s death, King Charles held a reception at Buckingham Palace for the representatives of various different religions. He stated that it was his duty as King to ‘protect the diversity of our country’ in respect of its various ‘religions, cultures, traditions and beliefs’. He also remarked that his own Christian faith bound and obliged him to respect all those people following non-Christian religions, along with those who are secular and atheistic.
In one sense, there is virtue in what Charles said in that Christians most assuredly stand upon the principle of mutual respect between peoples of different religious persuasions. They also stand upon the principle of religious freedom and freedom of conscience, and desire friendly relations between those of differing faiths.
As an open-air preacher, I have the opportunity every week to debate in high streets and market places with people of other faiths, and the aim is not to have a blazing argument but rather, in a friendly manner, to set forth the exclusive claims of the Lord Jesus Christ as being the only means of salvation from sin. The task in hand is to persuade folk that being sincere in adherence to a religion and its teachings is not enough, because there is the far more fundamental issue to consider of ‘What is the truth?’ and the Lord Jesus Christ declared unequivocally, ‘I am the Truth’ (John 14:6).
However, those who argue that the coronation service should reflect Britain’s religious pluralism and cultural diversity are in effect asserting that Christianity has no right whatsoever to claim to possess unique truth. Such a viewpoint fits in very well with the wokery of the prevailing cultural Marxism, whereby there is a looking-down upon Western civilisation with its distinctly Christian foundations, and a desire even to inculcate a sense of shame regarding what that civilisation has stood for.
The Christian of course loves his neighbour whatever his religious background, but one of the great problems with embracing diversity in matters of faith on a national and constitutional level is that it tends to be one-way traffic, for it appears that it is Western cultures which have to do the embracing, but no one else.
Let us consider, for example, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in India. It upholds the ideology of Hindutva or ‘Hindu-ness’, whereby Hinduism is seen as representing the core and essence of being Indian. Alongside this political and social reality, according to the Open Doors organisation, which monitors the persecution of Christians around the world, it is a sad fact that in various parts of India right now it is far from easy to be a Christian. So it appears that there is no burning desire to embrace religious diversity in the country which is the largest member state of the Commonwealth.
There are 46 countries in the world which have a majority of Muslims making up their populations. Of these, 23 have Islam constitutionally enshrined as the state religion. Amongst these are five nations which appear in the Open Doors Top Ten rankings in respect of severity of persecution against Christians, namely Somalia, Yemen, Libya, Pakistan and Iran. Pakistan is of course also in the Commonwealth, but here converts to Christianity from Islam are particularly vulnerable to persecution.
In the light of these sad realities, it needs to be pointed out that the distinctly Christian nature of the British constitution is a benign influence which does not lead to the persecution of those of other faiths. This in itself is an argument for the retention of the Bible-based character of the constitution and of the formal coronation ceremony of our head of state.
Even more fundamentally than this, however, our exclusively Christian coronation service must at all costs be preserved, because it is a statement to the whole world that a person’s attitude to the Lord Jesus Christ is absolutely crucial. Indeed, it is nothing less than a matter of eternal life or eternal death. As the apostle Peter declares of the Lord Jesus in Acts 4:12, ‘Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12).
Thankfully, the published coronation liturgy retains the vital Bible-based elements of the 1953 service. However, the UCL report cited above remarks that while there has not been time to make statutory adjustments to alter or drop Charles’s coronation promises, these adjustments will need to be made during Charles’s reign in time for William’s accession.
So defending the uniquely Christian basis of the installation of our head of state, and the public assertion of the Bible as the nation’s final authority, are concepts which will need vigorously upholding in the days and years ahead. Let us hope that there will be some willing to do this, because the idol of diversity has blinded the minds of many, even in the churches.