A six-year-old girl writes a letter to God. And the Archbishop of Canterbury answers

Posted by Kendall Harmon

I think this letter reveals a lot about the Archbishop of Canterbury’s sort of theology – more, indeed, than many of his lectures or agonised Synod addresses. I’d be interested to know whether readers of this blog think he did a good job of answering Lulu’s question.

But what the letter also tells us is that the Archbishop took the trouble to write a really thoughtful message – unmistakably his work and not that of a secretary – to a little girl. “Well done, Rowan!” was the reaction of Alex Renton’s mother, and I agree

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury * TheologyApologetics

10 Comments
Posted April 27, 2011 at 3:16 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Teatime2 wrote:

I disagree with Damian Thompson about it supposedly revealing +++Rowan’s theology. This wasn’t about “theology”—it was about responding to an agnostic 6-year-old who had a question. (And to her agnostic parents who probably wondered how and if anyone would respond.) And it was about responding to the question in a way that a 6-year-old agnostic may understand and learn a bit.

I think he did that well. He mentioned humanity’s natural sense that there is Someone who created and loves us. He mentioned attempts to reach and learn about God. He mentioned God’s own way of revealing Himself to the world. And he compared her question to something very tangible—the creator of a story/book. Very importantly, he told her that God loves her and that he does, too.

He gave her something beautiful that she might understand in its simplicity and he gave her his time.

April 27, 5:49 pm | [comment link]
2. Teatime2 wrote:

sorry, it should be it’s in the first sentence.

April 27, 5:50 pm | [comment link]
3. Village Vicar wrote:

A very nice job.  As a school chaplain, I have gotten this same question many times.  He did a wonderful job answering it in a way that a child could understand.  It interests me too that the parents were surprised that discussions about God would happen in their daughter’s school.  The Scottish education system is very upfront about its religious and moral education piece.  Here is the link to their website   Religious and Moral ed curriculum in Scotland

April 27, 7:05 pm | [comment link]
4. David Hein wrote:

“He did a wonderful job answering it in a way that a child could understand.”

I thought his answer was good not so much because it gave the girl something to understand as something to think about and develop and explore and ponder in the years ahead. That shows a good teacher.

“It interests me too that the parents were surprised that discussions about God would happen in their daughter’s school.”

Sometimes comments like that—the parents’, I mean, not yours—reflect not just surprise but a kind of willful, even aggressive, ignorance, bordering on belligerence.

Indeed, I sometimes find atheists who complain (I’m not speaking of this situation now) about Christians’ causing wars and so forth to be far more belligerent and nasty and objectionable in their dismissal than any Christians I’ve ever known. I think that’s what my friends in the English dept call “irony.”

April 27, 8:56 pm | [comment link]
5. MichaelA wrote:

I thought they were both charming letters.

But I also don’t think it was coincidence that this has been published now. As Rowan’s reputation goes downhill, I can just hear the Lambeth publicity advisers: “What can we do? I know! Get him to write an answer to a letter from a child, and then get it published. No-one can criticise that in any way, and it will boost his reputation without him having to say anything controversial!”

At the end of this, we know that Rowan is a pleasant man who can write nice things to an enquiring child (as can millions of other people in Britain). Great.

April 27, 11:47 pm | [comment link]
6. Karen B. wrote:

It’s a nice letter, but I’d quibble with this bit:

From time to time I sent them some hints – specially in the life of Jesus – to help them get closer to what I’m really like.

Especially when you contrast this line with the earlier paragraph “they discovered me in ___________”

Couldn’t he also have written something like “and, especially, they discovered and continue to discover me in Jesus, whom I sent to earth to reveal my love to men & women, boys and girls.”

Jesus is much more than just some “hint” about what God is like, He is the exact representation of the Father!

April 28, 9:29 am | [comment link]
7. John Wilkins wrote:

#6 My intuition is that a phrase like “To discover me in Jesus” is actually more perplexing than satisfying to those who don’t already believe.

“Exact representation” to an agnostic seems to make Jesus akin more to Superman; and may conflates the second with the first person of the Trinity.

April 28, 11:15 am | [comment link]
8. Teatime2 wrote:

The whole story from the girl’s father is now posted and can be read at his blog. (He’s apparently a journalist.)
http://www.alexrenton.com/index_files/Page501.htm
Lots of interesting details, the most important being that her letter wasn’t a school assignment. It was something that she chose to write, as she would a letter to Santa Claus. Thus, the school didn’t give her the word “invented” and, from what the dad writes, it seems to be doing a good job with faith formation, even though (or because!) it worries the agnostic parents.

I liked seeing the picture of her letter. She signed it with a kiss, hug, and a heart. So sweet.

April 28, 12:31 pm | [comment link]
9. Sarah wrote:

It is a very sweet letter.

I also think the weakest paragraph is this one—and it’s actually the first sentence that I find troubling: “Then they invented ideas about me – some of them sensible and some of them not very sensible. From time to time I sent them some hints – specially in the life of Jesus – to help them get closer to what I’m really like.”

Obviously, Holy Scripture was not the “invention” of some people and hopefully he wasn’t implying that.  I am fine with Jesus being a “hint” of what God is like, although obviously Jesus was God incarnate, and so He is much more than a “hint.”

But again, it’s the first sentence that I find the weakest.

At any rate, it is really sweet.

And yes . . . I think MichaelA is dead-on with the reasons why this has been published.  Which is . . . revealing . . . ; > )

April 28, 6:56 pm | [comment link]
10. Teatime2 wrote:

Uh, no, the reason it was published is that the father of the little girl is a journalist and he wrote about it on his blog. As an agnostic, I really don’t think he was colluding with Lambeth Palace to give the ABC some good press. In fact, he didn’t even know the appropriate title. He addressed her letter to “Head Theologian of the Anglican Communion.”

But you can read all about it on his blog (I linked it) and his latest comment at Damian Thompson’s blog.

April 28, 10:52 pm | [comment link]
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