Books that shook the world

Chichester Cathedral Chancellor Canon Dr Anthony Cane heads into huge territory for his Cathedral lectures this year, taking on four Books That Shook The World.

The series starts with the King James Bible, celebrating its 400th anniversary this year. Subsequent lectures go on to explore three other books that shook the world, exploring what the Christian faith of the King James Bible might contribute to contemporary debates on feminism, biology and economics.

The lectures are May 5: William Tyndale, Lancelot Andrewes and the King James Bible (1611); May 12: A Vindication Of The Rights Of Woman (1792) by Mary Wollstonecroft; May 19: On The Origin Of Species (1859) by Charles Darwin; and May 26: Wealth Of Nations (1776) by Adam Smith.

“If you said so somebody ‘What kind of things change the world?’ they would probably say wars, revolutions, catastrophes, medicine and technology, and they would certainly be good candidates.

“But books too have shaken the world in remarkable ways, and that is what I will be looking at,” Anthony explained.

The King James Bible is a strong starting point.

“The essence for me is that it put the Bible into the vernacular. It meant ordinary people could read the Bible, rather than reading Latin which was the preserve of the educated classes.”

And because they could read it, it meant ordinary people could contribute to the great debates: “In many ways it laid the grounds for democracy.”

Wollstonecroft should prove a fascinating next topic: “She was a writer and wrote a number of books, but this particular one, A Vindication Of The Rights Of Woman, is a foundation that was built on by later writers. She wrote about equality in education, equality in marriage, equality in property.”

Not the least of its controversies was its criticism of women for allowing themselves to be seen and treated in such limited terms.

Week three will turn the focus on Darwin, a work which substantially changed the way human beings view themselves: “All of these lectures will offer reflection from a Christian prospective, but it is not necessary to view Darwin as the enemy of Christian faith. The history of the reception of Darwin was not as is sometimes portrayed; not everybody was against it.

“But certainly there are still some Christians that take issue with evolution, and in some ways the voices are getting stronger.”

Anthony said he hoped the questions and discussions which will follow the lectures will allow further exploration.

“I am trying to choose topics that will come from a Christian perspective, but hopefully in a very open and inclusive way.”

The lectures are Thursdays, May 5, 12, 19 and 26 at 6.30pm. The lectures will take place in the Nave of the Cathedral following Choral Evensong at 5.30pm.

Admission is free and all are welcome. A retiring collection is taken towards expenses.

Further information on 01243 782595 or see www.chichestercathedral.org.uk