The Bishop and the Atheist

You may be interested in this review of Graeme and Jonathan Rutherford’s book, that I referred to in my recent post.


I am not often moved by a book, not one of this genre. I am intrigued, challenged, educated, infuriated or bored, but rarely moved. Pitting the perspectives of atheism and religious faith against each other can be occasionally stimulating, often frustrating, but moving? Hardly. This book is different.

400_1357603557Graeme and Jonathan Rutherford’s Beloved Father Beloved Son is a very personal book–a series of letters between Graeme, a bishop in the Anglican church, and his son Jonathan, an atheist. By personal, I don’t mean it’s one that wades in the intimate biography of their relationship. Not at all. What they write about is what they believe, drawing rationally on very different world views, multiple disciplines, and articulating their disparate perspectives on life and how they understand it. With rigour they debate the origins of human life, the place of suffering, the veracity of religious texts, the incredulity of divine interventions, and…

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Beloved Father, Beloved Daughter, Faithful and Loving God

My fifth and youngest child, and only daughter, is to be confirmed this Sunday at St. Paul’s Cathedral. She will also be baptised—the final legacy of our Baptist roots, now so far-off, and so foreign to us.

Surely the finest Father’s Day gift ever, to see my beloved daughter embrace the Christian faith in so graphic and public a way. We hope for this. We pray for this. We are overjoyed, and give praise to God, when it transpires.

Yet it is only the beginning, and so much may change in the years ahead. We all know of faltering faith. Belief can hang on a slender thread—for most of us it has been so at some point in our journey. Prayer must never cease!

Bishop Graeme Rutherford, with son Jonathan.
Bishop Graeme Rutherford, with son Jonathan.

There is such a precariousness here. It was brought home to me with the news that Bishop Graeme Rutherford would lead the confirmation service, in the absence of Archbishop Philip Freier. Bishop Graeme co-authored with his son Jonathan a book entitled Beloved Father Beloved Son: A Conversation About Faith Between a Bishop and His Atheist Son. Yes, Jonathan Rutherford is an atheist, despite his Christian upbringing. I mean to read this book, which I am told poignantly and touchingly demonstrates the love and mutual respect that exist between father and son, despite deep differences over questions of faith.

Of course, reflection goads me to pray for my daughter, and her four brothers. I pray that this faith once professed will not grow cold, or wither and die. Yet at the same time I pray that God would grant me the grace to continue in pure and godly love towards them, and trust always in his faithfulness and love, whatever future course my children’s lives might take.