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Rev Julian Mann: Good Friday proves that Le Carre’s cynicism is wrong


“There was a long silence.

Haldane said, ‘I’m a collator, not an operational man.’

‘You used to be operational, Adrian.’

‘So did we all…We’re not used to people any more. Handling them, I mean.’ Haldane had become unusually diffident. ‘I’m a Research man. I work with files’.”

An extract from John Le Carre’s 1965 novel, The Looking Glass War, in which he superbly captured the post-Suez loss of nerve in the British establishment. There was a sense in his earlier novels that he was flirting with the realisation that the moral decline of Britain was linked to its repudiation of Christianity.

The amoral confidence of Richard Roper, the arms dealer villain in his 1993 novel, The Night Manager, currently running as a BBC series, contrasts sharply with the post-Christian diffidence of Le Carre’s 1960s’ gentlemen spies.

In one episode, Roper, played brilliantly by Hugh Laurie, declares: ‘Becoming a man is realising it’s all rotten. Realising how to celebrate that rottenness – that’s freedom.’

Whether or not The Night Manager intends to raise such a pressing spiritual issue for the liberal West, does not this statement sum up where the world ends up without God? Without a good God to whom mankind is accountable, who can claim with any authority that Richard Roper is wrong?

Good Friday, thank the good Lord, demonstrates that the Ropers of this world are wrong. On the Cross, through the substitutionary death of his divine Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, Almighty God justly punished our human sinfulness and made spiritual and moral transformation possible for people.

The Apostle Paul beautifully summarised the saving work of the Cross in 2 Corinthians 5v21: ‘For our sake he (God) made him (Christ) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we (Christian believers) might become the righteousness of God’ (RSV).

The human response of faith and repentance towards God such divine love calls for is unforgettably expressed in English by Good Will in John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678): 

We make no objections against any, notwithstanding all that they have done before they come hither, they are in no wise cast out; and therefore, good Christian, come a little way with me and I will teach thee the way thou must go. Look before thee; dost thou see this narrow way? That is the way thou must go. It was cast up by the patriarchs, prophets, Christ, and his apostles, and it is as straight as a rule can make it. This is the way thou must go.’

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Julian Mann
Julian Mann
Julian Mann is a former Church of England vicar, now an evangelical journalist based in Heysham, Lancashire.

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