It infuriated the atheist secularists and heartened the religious conservatives but having read the full text of David Cameron’s speech on Christian Britain I don’t think either camp has much to be excited about. It was so full of contradictions that it made a far weaker case than has been portrayed in the press. I’ll give you one example.

Language

Mr Cameron loves the King James Bible because of the effect it has had on the English language. He is particularly enamoured by all the phrases it has bequeathed the language – like ‘how the mighty have fallen’ and ‘the salt of the earth’. He quotes a study that has counted some 257 examples of phrases now commonly used that have come from the KJV – though I’m hoping that a researcher found that little fact for him and that he hasn’t spent too much time on the speech himself.

Vernacular

In lauding the KJV’s language he points out how important it was for the translation to be available to the common people (through its public reading) since at the time they only had the Latin version which obviously they could not understand. This is a really important point and ensuring that translations were available in the vernacular was a key facet of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. Cameron does well in spotting this. But he rather contradicts his point when he also criticises modern translations like the NIV and GNB. The ‘power’ of the KJV is lost, he feels, in ‘some more literal translations’ – a phrase that not only displays Cameron’s ignorance of the translations he has criticised but also flatly contradicts the point about the need for the Bible to be in a language people actually understand.

The Bible was never meant as a work of art but as a living testimony to the Word of God, Jesus of Nazareth. Grasping that point would have helped Cameron from making at least one of his many contradictions. Secularists and conservatives should, therefore, calm down for the prime minister is neither the former’s enemy nor the latter’s friend. Tony Blair famously didn’t do God; on this evidence neither should David Cameron.