The BBC Radio 4 series Lent Talks has had six well-known figures reflect on the story of Jesus’ ministry and Passion from the perspective of their own personal and professional experience. The BBC web page, with all the audio and text files is here.
Tonight, the talk by Dr Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans “rejects the idea of a God of wrath” to quote the BBC blurb.
This talk has been the subject of a surprising amount of pre-publicity, starting with a report in the Sunday Telegraph with a ridiculously misleading headline, Easter message: Christ did not die for sin.
Giles Fraser writing today on Comment is Free in an article titled Cross purposes says:
Easter is a time for stringing up the innocent. And this year, once again, the sacrificial victim is the dean of St Albans, Dr Jeffrey John. Of course, we all know the reason why he’s hated by conservatives in the church. No, not because he is gay, but because he’s honest. And it’s this same honesty that has got him in trouble again. For, once again, what he has been saying is nothing other than a truth known by most people in the pews: that the idea of God murdering his son for the salvation of the world is barbaric and morally indefensible. It turns Christianity into “cosmic child abuse”.
The technical theological term for this nasty perversion of the Easter story is penal substitution…
The topic was also discussed on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning:
0735 A senior clergymen is afraid that some Christian teaching suggests God is a psychopath.
Two junior evangelical bishops have attacked a Lent talk to be given tonight on BBC’s Radio 4 by Jeffrey John, the Dean of St Albans cathedral, without reading it.
In a statement released today from the evangelical Spring Harvest event, the Rt Revd Wallace Benn, Bishop of Lewes and the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, Bishop of Willsden, said Jeffrey John had “got it wrong”.
However, both bishops later told Ekklesia that they had yet to read the 2,200 word transcript of the talk.
However, apparently contradicting several of the claims made by the bishops, in the transcript obtained by Ekklesia in advance of the broadcast tonight, Jeffrey John states: “On the cross Jesus dies for our sins; the price of our sin is paid.”
When asked whether the bishops would issue a correction Pete Broadbent, the Bishop of Willsden declined. He said: “As the BBC have not made a transcript available, we have had to comment on the material that is available.”
He said that he had read an article in the Sunday Telegraph about it, and listened to a discussion on Radio 4 this morning about it…