After a poll conducted among British booksellers, London’s Sunday Telegraph has published its best-seller list for 1963. Not surprisingly, Morris West, Daphne du Maurier, Ian Fleming, and Agatha Christie are to be found in the first dozen, but none of these occupies a place in the leading quartet, three of which are nonfiction. Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, that most staid of all publishing houses, rocketed into the limelight with The Denning Report, which ranked fourth. Third was Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer, its sales predictably boosted by a court case. The New English Bible, published in March, 1961, was still a strong second. But the man whose year it was, and whose name, like that of Abou Ben Adhem, led all the rest, was John Robinson, Bishop of Woolwich, who caused a shaking of the foundations in England with his paperback Honest to God (see Current Religious Thought, June 21, 1963).
A subtle feature of this book is the way in which the bishop adroitly covers himself on occasion by professing merely to be “raising the question” and “thinking aloud.” But by many whose faith is shaky or whose intellectual grasp is limited, this technique may be dimly comprehended as doubts uttered with all the weight of the episcopal office behind them. To such criticism Dr. Robinson points to the prophetic as an integral and neglected aspect of his ministerial office. This simply will not do. As the Church Times puts it: “Since when was ‘talking aloud’ equated with prophecy? There is not much of ‘Thus saith the Lord’ about Honest to God.” A bewildered English factory worker said, “What I get in the canteen is that they always said there isn’t a personal God, and now one of the bishops has said so too.” The principal of one Anglican ...1
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