Contemporary Creed Contemporary Creed
A mini-course in Christianity for today

John Morris
ISBN 1905047371 (9781905047376)
O Books, 2005

Category: Doctrine and Theology

Review of Contemporary Creed

An Author—Reviewer Dialogue

Author, John Morris:

Dear Phil,

Many thanks for your review, critical though it is of my non-PC gender language! On the whole it is a constructive and favourable review, that pleases me and I am very grateful for it. I appreciate the time, thought, and ability you put into it.

Reviewers are partly in the business of finding fault and I am totally happy for you to pick on the gender issue as your concern even if it unbalances the review and distracts attention from the more profound issues you might have raised. My guess is that half of my readers are not as perturbed by it as you imagine, especially as my opening page 21 to which you refer is more aware of the gender problem than your quote and attempts to be inclusive and disarm possible criticism. Not one of my many female readers has picked up on the issue so far!

To follow your advice and change "man" to "we" on page 91 changes the meaning (of species, man, and humanity would not scan, to the vagueness of we) and misses the deeper resonance with "God's man" in verse three so the change is not the perfect fit you suppose! You build your gender criticism into your sole argument for suggesting the book is modern but not post-modern: is that a sufficient reason for making such a huge philosophical claim? Molehill into a mountain?!

Best wishes Phil, and my huge thanks again,

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Reviewer, Phil Groom:

Thanks for your response, John, and my apologies for the delay in getting back to you. Finding fault isn't part of my brief as a reviewer, however: my aim is to give a fair and honest appraisal of a book as per the UKCBD Review Guidelines.

You say that I'm critical of your "non-PC gender language" and that, to me, only serves to emphasise the point you've missed: this is nothing to do with political correctness, nothing to do with making concessions — it's about balance and inclusivity, acknowledging that half the human race is female and that language use has changed over the past decade or so as we leave the patriarchal era behind.

This is a profound issue: male-dominated language alienates and divides, gives implicit authority to unjust social structures and undermines the role of women in society.

Perhaps, as you say, the use of "we" isn't the perfect fit that I perceive it to be in the poem discussed — but if that's the case, then perhaps the whole poem is out of kilter in today's world? Christ was God's man, certainly, but at a more profound level, he was God's person, representative of the entire race rather than of its maleness.

Inclusivity is no molehill: it's a mountain that the human race has struggled to climb, is still struggling to climb, and any work that fails to take it into account remains, sadly, in the past.

This isn't an issue that can be lightly brushed aside or swept under the carpet — but for all that, your book remains, as I said, a powerful piece of work: it doesn't dodge difficult questions and it lays ideas open to exploration. Its open-ended approach to theology leaves the reader with plenty of room for manoeuvre and it deserves to be widely read: thank you.

Sunday, February 5, 2006

Author, John Morris:

Dear Phil,

We are actually on the same side, not polarised as you imagine. I am 100% in the inclusivity camp, and my first piece on page 21 is at pains to stress "feminine imagery" in the godhead. My book and my life is founded on equality so a false antithesis has been set up!

Mountain out of a molehill is my publisher's response to your review!

Your 4th paragraph ends totally right: "God's person representative of the entire race, rather than of its maleness". It fits my Incarnation and Atonement sections perfectly, as thoroughly inclusive, you will find.

At a church house group in Devon last week, all 15 had bought CC and read it, and two thirds were women, some young some old, and not one of them raised the subject, including a feminist 35 year old training to be ordained, yet they raised other critical concerns.

I note you have not come back on the thin ice of your postmodernism v modernism! It's a field I used to lecture on!

But I applaud you for banging the drum about inclusivity and balance in politics, marriage, divorce, church, families, business, law, religions and heaven.

Best wishes,

Sunday, February 5, 2006

Reviewer, Phil Groom:

Thanks for such a rapid reply, John: it's good to know that we're on the same wavelength. I'm not setting out to create an antithesis, simply to highlight an issue that, to me, stands out very strongly.

Your opening piece on p.21, as you say, stresses "feminine imagery" in the Godhead yet, as I pointed out in my review, you refer to what "Man needs" rather than what "We need" or "Humanity needs" — there's no vagueness there that I can see, nothing that needs to scan or fit a plan to rhyme with man.

There's an immense difference between acknowledging that God is gender free and using inclusive language of humanity.

But the way I see it reader response outweighs authorial intention: if other readers are responding positively, rising to the challenges and growing in faith through their interaction with the book, I'm delighted. My response is just one and if I'm in the minority, I can live with that.

And I'll resist the temptation to get into a debate on postmodernism: it's letters that are supposed to get lost in the post, not people!

Grace and peace to you,

Sunday, February 5, 2006

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