03 November 2006

Rowan Williams' unorthodox Theology

The first programme in Humphrys in search of God featured an unusually deferential John Humphrys interviewing the unfathomable, confusing and confused Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.

Much of the reaction has focused on Williams' strange lack of Christianity in his answers - only one passing mention of Jesus but much enthusisam for rather formless spirituality, aimless meditation in search of ... question mark (sic) and his rather Philip Pullman-like concept of thinning membranes between our world and...um...God's world.

But what struck me wasn't RW's formlessness - we're used to that - but rather his unexpected deviation from accepted theology, when he seemed to suggest that we are not judged on our lives on Earth, but have plenty of time to make up with God after we're dead.

The interview went like this

John Humphrys: What happens to me ultimately if I don't open that door?
Rowan Williams: If you don't open the door you're not fully in the company of God. And it's your choice.
John Humphrys: And after death?
Rowan Williams: What I'd love to think of course is that after death a possibly rather unusual experience might happen in which you'd say good God I got it all wrong.
John Humphrys: Too late then.
Rowan Williams: No.
John Humphrys: After death??
Rowan Williams: I think we continually have the choice of saying yes or no.
John Humphrys: So that death is not the end of us?
Rowan Williams: Death is not the end of us. I want that's rather axiomatic for a religious believer.
John Humphrys: Ah what, quite so, but I said us meaning 'us non believers'.
Rowan Williams: Non believers?

RW seems to to clearly be saying that there's time to repent after death. Which surprises JH, and which presumably surprises most Christians? That's not what he's supposed to believe is it? I thought that judgement for us non-believers comes at the point of death... and then we've had it?

Curiously the BBC seems to be protecting RW from himself: their transcript of the show has RW saying the opposite. RW's clear 'No' (after JH's - 'Too late then') - is transcribed as 'Yeah' ! Perhaps a cover up, perhaps the transcriber simply couldn't believe his/her ears?

Luckily you can listen to to it for yourself here (it's around 26mins in) and see who is right.

STOP PRESS! The transcript now corrected.

-----Original Message-----
From: Rosemary Grundy [mailto:rosemary.grundy@bbc.co.uk]
Sent: 07 November 2006 15:21
To: botogol@greenideas.com
Subject: FW: HiSoG
Thank you very much for pointing out the error in the Rowan Williams' transcript. This is now being corrected.
Regards Rosemary Grundy
BBC Religion & Ethics

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