The 60th anniversary of the Queen's coronation and the role of the Bible
The 60th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II on June 2nd has generated a fair bit of speculation and conjecture as to what the nature of the next coronation will look like. But whilst it is interesting and indeed, important, to debate whether the next monarch's coronation will be a service that reflects the uniqueness of Christ and the biblical truth that Christians hold dear, it is also valuable to recall the content of our present Queen's coronation service, especially as it occurred before most of today's population were born. Very few people in the contemporary world, Christians included, have any great knowledge of what was said and prayed and pledged on that momentous occasion.
Our Queen's very transparent faith in God, and her devoted commitment to serving the nation, stem in no small part from the place that the Bible had in the Royal Family's life. Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother made this abundantly plain in a broadcast from the BBC on 2nd September 1951. She stated "I can truly say that the King (George VI) and I long to see the Bible back where it ought to be, as a guide and comfort in the home and lives of our people. From our own experience, we know what the Bible can mean for personal life…"
Less than two years later, when our present Queen was crowned in Westminster Abbey, the significance of those words was highlighted in the service when the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland presented her with a Bible and spoke these memorable words: "Here is the most valuable thing this world affords". That is an incredible claim for any book – to place more value on the Bible than on the Cullinan diamond from South Africa, or all the technology from Silicon Valley in America, or even the paintings of Michaelangelo. The Moderator then also added the words: "This is the Royal Law" – in other words, the Bible is the law for monarchs. The Queen and her Parliament make laws for British subjects (that very word is becoming increasingly obsolete), but God makes the laws which the Queen herself is subject to.
It is a cause of great thankfulness that the immeasurable worth of the Bible has hitherto been recognized by the state when a new king or queen is crowned. But for how many people in this country has the mental respect been translated into actual practice? One of the many coronation souvenirs available at the time of the coronation was a miniature replica of the Queen's coronation Bible, which cost the sum of 22 shillings and threepence! I have no idea how many were sold, but perhaps the more pertinent question would be "How many were ever read?"
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I often quote something that was said about the Bible by Mahatma Gandhi, the father of modern India. It's a challenging thing to recognise that he had a higher view of the Bible than many Christians. He said, "You Christians look after a document containing enough dynamite to blow all civilisation to pieces, turn the world upside down, and bring peace to a battle-torn planet. But you treat it as though it is nothing more than a piece of literature."
The anniversary of the Queen's coronation is surely a reminder that the genuine spiritual revival that Christians seek in this land will most likely only occur when the Word of God is restored to its rightful place in the churches and in the lives of individual Christians. The prayer of the famous Fleet Street journalist, Hugh Redwood, who was wonderfully converted and subsequently served in The Salvation Army for a number of years, was quoted in one of the advertisements for the replica Coronation Bible: "Lord, please make us the people we once thought we were – a people of the Book". On the 60th Anniversary of that Coronation event, we would do well to echo that prayer.
Tony Ward is a Bible teacher and evangelist who was ordained in Zimbabwe. He ministers mainly in Cardiff and Bristol.