Religious Language


Here at the Cathedral this Lent, a group of us our reading our way through Rowan Williams’ book “Christ on Trial: How the Gospel Unsettles Our Judgement”.

The book is a close examination of the four trial narratives of the gospel and seeks to draw out the unique theological message that author is making in each.

In the chapter on Matthew’s account, Rowan writes of how the gospel presents the painful irony of the Chief Priest of the People not being able to connect the dots of Scripture and the person of the Messiah standing before him at the trial. Williams argues that we can rightly take this as a broad critique of the religious establishment, and all those who put the interests of the Institution before that of the Truth.

From this observation, Williams makes the point:

“The issue is not whether or not to look for words to express our faith (we cannot avoid doing that), nor is it whether or not the formulations of faith can lead to arrogance, exclusivism and self-satisfaction (obviously they can and do). It is more to do with what we expect the language of Christian doctrine to do, and in the light of what we have been thinking about here, the answer to that must be that the job of doctrine is hold us still before Jesus. When that slips out of view, we begin instead to use this language to defend ourselves, to denigrate others, to control and correct – and then it becomes a problem.”

(Williams, p. 37 ABC Publishing paper edition)

The Author

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...