Don’t Just Honor The Book – Read It!

Many fundamentalists (including, but not limited to, young earth creationists and proponents of intelligent design) spend a lot of time emphasizing the greatness of the Bible, its importance, and so on. Yet there is a serious dearth of actual knowledge of and about the Bible in detail. Sure, people hear a lot of sermons, read a lot of popular books. But how many study a particular Biblical book with the help of a commentary – a good serious academic commentary written by someone in their own denomination or tradition? If one says the book is important, then one should study it in depth. It is a lack of knowledge that plagues the extremes in many modern debates.

The same holds true for evolution. The proponents of Intelligent Design devote much time to proclaiming that the genetic code is information-rich, and they feel this has certain implications with respect to design. But what they are failing to do, but other biologists are doing, is read that information. It provides a lot of information about how we work as organisms in the present, how closely or distantly related we are to other branches on the tree of life, and many other wonderful things. It is all there – in writing, as it were – but the proponents of Intelligent Design are so busy proclaiming the wonderful design of the book that they seem to have no time left to open its covers and read.

Young Earth Creationists like Henry Morris claim that evolution is the root of all evil. In my Bible it says that the love of money is the root of all evil. Could it be that by focusing on a distracting issue like evolution, some Christians hope that no one will notice that this clear-cut Biblical issue, the love of money, is a serious blind spot in contemporary Christianity? One thing is for sure – focus on young earth creationist and intelligent design issues is a dangerous distraction, making an idol of a prescientific worldview instead of seriously studying the Scriptures and trying to understand them in all their depth and richness.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15462218340570164741 Tom

    But James, we’re now living in a world of media bombardment such that all we have time for is sound bites. What you’re talking about sounds like work! Are you saying I need more than my screen saver that pops up a verse of the day?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01010178962574928062 Ian

    Read the bible? What are you trying to do – destroy Christianity? What’s a poor literalist supposed to do when Gen 2 contradicts Gen 1? Worse yet, since almost all Americans are rich by the standards of first century Judea, we really need to work on smaller camels and needles with bigger eyes.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    I don’t buy the ‘If people really knew what was in the Bible, it would destroy their faith’ argument. It certainly does happen, but mainly in people who have been told they must choose between two extremes – “Either the Bible is perfect and inerrant, or it is garbage and should be thrown out.” When people are given those two options, and then find that the Bible isn’t perfect, they do what their pastor told them to and throw it out.Otherwise, I think studying the Bible would undermine fundamentalism and would expose the claims that are made by some groups – that they believe the whole Bible and take it all literally – as utterly false. Then maybe we could start focusing on some of the stuff that the Bible really does emphasize, most of which doesn’t depend on whether this or that passage is historically factual or not.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01010178962574928062 Ian

    Didn’t mean that literally; I suppose “tone of voice” doesn’t translate into written text very well.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Well, I was aware that you were aiming somewhere in the vicinity of sarcasm. Sorry if I seemed to overreact! :) I wasn’t sure whether your sarcasm was used ironically or not. As you said, tone of voice is an issue on blogs and forums, as well as in e-mail. I’m pleased that so far my attempts at satire have been accurately identified as such. Maybe adding ‘satire’ to the tags has helped! :)


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