A former parliamentary draughtsman, the Rev Dr Mike Ovey, principal of Anglican evangelical theological college Oak Hill, knows what he is talking about when he warns about the legislative trajectory threatening Christian freedom of expression in this country.
Dr Ovey was one of the signatories of the recent letter by evangelical church leaders to The Telegraph warning that the proposed Extremism Disruption Orders (EDOs) could be used against Christians proclaiming the true biblical gospel.
Writing in the latest Evangelicals Now, Dr Ovey has warned that Christians publicly opposing the tenets of Islam could in the near future risk jail: ‘There is a risk, increasingly, that some of us may go to prison if we say what we must say in public about Islam and its blasphemous denial of the deity of the Son’ (of God).’
Scaremongering? No, this is a rational and informed judgement about how politically correct ideology works out legislatively. In order to persuade British Muslims to live co-operatively in a society saturated with PC values, the authorities are bound to perceive the need to give them a guarantee that those who verbally offend their religious sensibilities will be prosecuted, along with Islamist militants.
It is important to stress that no Christian should ever be verbally abusive towards Muslims or incite attacks on mosques. The New Testament clearly rules out such behaviour for the followers of Christ. For example, the Apostle Peter urges Christians in his first epistle: ‘Live as free persons, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone’ (1 Peter 2v16-17a – NIV).
But ‘proper respect’ for individuals, according to Apostolic teaching, does not mean never offending non-Christian religious beliefs. Just the opposite in fact. Proclaiming God’s truth as it has been definitively revealed in the Lord Jesus Christ is intrinsic to the Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. If the Church fails to proclaim that Jesus Christ is the divine Son of God, faith in Whom is essential for eternal salvation, and refuses to refute world views that deny this, then it is not being Apostolic, for arguing for God’s revealed truth against human error is what Christ’s Apostles did.
The New Testament book of Acts records the Apostles Peter and John doing just that in first century Jerusalem in defiance of an attempt by the authorities to silence them, with Peter affirming that faith in the crucified and risen Jesus Christ was absolutely necessary for salvation: ‘For there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4v12b).
For British Anglicans, the Church of England’s public teaching could not be clearer that Islam is wrong about the nature of God. The Church, by parliamentary law established, claims in its official rules, its Canons, to be ‘part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church worshipping the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit’ (Canon C15). Even more specifically, Peter’s Apostolic affirmation that faith in Jesus Christ is essential for eternal salvation is enshrined in Article 18 of the Church of England’s official biblical doctrine in its 39 Articles of Religion.
So Dr Ovey is simply being an authentic Anglican in calling Islam’s denial of Jesus’ divine Sonship ‘blasphemous’. We Anglicans of all people in the UK must be prepared to pay the cost of Christian discipleship in stating courteously, lovingly, and clearly our profound spiritual and moral disagreement with Islam about the full deity of Jesus Christ and about the nature of eternal salvation.