Saturday 27 August 2011

A Conversation on the Bible and Culture (3)

Not long before he left LICC to take up a post at A Rocha, Nigel Hopper (Lecturer in Contemporary Culture and Communications Manager at LICC) asked me some questions about the Bible’s impact on culture and the implications for Christians and churches today. A trimmed version of our ‘electronic’ interview will appear in September 2011’s edition of EG, LICC’s quarterly magazine, but I will also post the transcript of the whole conversation over a series of entries here.

Earlier entries:

A Conversation on the Bible and Culture (1)

A Conversation on the Bible and Culture (2)

Nigel: Although not a sensational volume, A.C. Grayling has recently published his The Good Book – an unashamedly secular Bible, if you like, that attempts to be a compendium of wisdom for living without reference to God. What do you see as the main flaws in such an attempt to cherry-pick ‘workable wisdom’ from the Bible (and other ancient texts) whilst keeping God out of the story?

Antony: Yes. This has been an interesting development too...

It’s a little bit tongue-in-cheek, perhaps, but the book consciously mimics the design of Bibles with short chapters divided into verses. And it’s organised in fourteen sections, beginning with Genesis and taking in Wisdom, Parables, Lamentations, Songs, Histories, Proverbs, and Epistles along the way. But Grayling takes ‘secular’ texts from western and eastern traditions and weaves together their ideas and insights about how ‘the good life’ should be lived – without reference to any divine being.

What we get, then, is lots of material on the virtue of friendship, wisdom for life, the value of liberty, and so on. And, of course, all of that Christians can affirm – especially as we believe in the ‘common grace’ of a God who sends rain and makes the sun shine on all. All truth is God’s truth.

But, I’d want to say that so far as Christians are concerned, best sense is made of those things – like virtue and wisdom and liberty and hope – in the light of the bigger story the Bible tells. Indeed, it’s telling, I think, that while the longest sections in Grayling’s Good Book are Histories and Acts (drawing mostly on stories from ancient Greece and Rome), his Bible lacks a connecting narrative from beginning to end – which is what you might expect if there is no God.

And that dimension, I think, is a crucial distinctive of the Bible. For Christians, the Bible tells not a story about a god, but tells the story of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the one who will make good on his promise to Abraham to bless all nations, and brings that promise to fulfilment in Jesus – back to the concerns of the previous question.

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