'Don't let religion hijack the bible'
As well as commenting on 365 phrases from the KJV, I’ll occasionally offer a comment on the reception of the bible in our culture.
In this video, Richard Dawkins makes the case for being steeped ‘to some extent’ in the King James Bible.
He claims that a person ignorant of the Authorized Version is ‘in some small way barbarian.’ Perhaps I should write to Professor Dawkins for an endorsement of the King’s English.
Well, except that he ends by saying:
It is important that religion should not be allowed to hijack this cultural resource.
Typical religious folk eh? Turning a perfectly secular book like the bible into some kind of… I dunno… holy book.
Well you have to admire his consistency. Because either this world is made by and for the God of the bible or it isn’t. And if it isn’t then the bible is no more ‘religious’, ‘spiritual’ or ‘holy’ than anything else. In that case it is a ‘cultural resource’ at best.
But if the world is made by the God of the bible, then not only has Dawkins got the bible wrong. He’s got the world wrong too. He hasn’t just shown himself unable to appreciate a spiritual text for what it is – which is far more than a cultural resource. He’s shown himself unable to appreciate a spiritual world for what it is – which is far more than a biological happening.
Misjudging the word and misjudging the world are linked in a profound way. The word is not, most basically, a literary work which crazy religionists hijack as a spiritual reality. But, in the same way, the world is not, most basically, a naturalistic biosphere on which spiritual values are imposed. No the word and the world are spiritual and cultural works.
Therefore the response to Dawkins is not to fight a turf war – “No, Richard, it’s only a religious book.” We don’t want to keep ‘our book’ solely in religious hands the way he wants to keep the book solely in secular hands.
Christians say to the world, ‘Here, have our book. Of course it’s most basically a spiritual text. But ‘spiritual’ in the bible is a world-affirming thing. The Spirit-filled Son of God swung a hammer for a living, walked dusty roads, washed dirty feet, drank red wine, hung on a wooden cross and rose to immortal bodily life.’ In the bible, ‘spiritual’ has significance for everything. And so the bible is a book for everyone. Long may the bible resource the culture.
Yet to appreciate it truly you must appreciate it for what it most truly is – a book about that Spirit-filled Son of God who came from beyond our world to redeem it.
But what if you’re not yet persuaded that the world, still less the word, really is authored by this God?
Here’s my suggestion. Put on the bible like a pair of glasses and look again at the world. Look through the lens of “In the beginning… let there be light… let us make man… the Word became flesh… He gave up the ghost… He is risen… Alleluia.” Look again at life in all its richness and ask whether this Word and this God make sense of it all.
And if you’ve got any questions, feel free to ask. Happy to discuss.
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