JOHN ROBINSON, Bishop of Woolwich, is 44, a ban-the-bomb marcher, member of the Labour party, defender of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, opponent of capital punishment, and campaigner for reform of severe legislation against homosexuality (“a peculiarly odious piece of English hypocrisy”). On his consecration in 1959 he publicly vowed to be “ready with all faithful diligence, to banish and drive away all erroneous and strange doctrine contrary to God’s Word.”

A few months ago Robinson’s paperback Honest to God hit the market (SCM Press, London; Westminster Press, Philadelphia). Currently at the top of the non-fiction best-seller list in England, sales to date total some 200,000. The effect it has produced is astounding. Despite a boost from the pulpit of Westminster Abbey from a preacher who turned out to be the publisher of the book, it has been denounced by the Archbishop of Canterbury as rejecting the concept of a personal God as expressed in the Bible. An Oxford don complained that the bishop was making it increasingly difficult to be an atheist; a humanist-agnostic acknowledged the bishop’s “gratuitous contribution to our basic standpoint”; a left-wing columnist welcomed the idea of “a non-Christian bishop”; and London’s Daily Herald hailed the “agonising and unusual spectacle—a bishop gasping for truth.”

In a confused opening section Robinson scoffs at what he considers our outdated image of God as “up there” or “out there”—neither the literal nor the symbolic view will do. He suggests the Freudians might be right: that “the God of traditional popular theology is a projection, and perhaps we are ...

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