Monday, April 12, 2010

'What the Bible really teaches: A challenge for Fundamentalists' by Keith Ward

I can't remember how this book ended up on my Amazon wishlist, but somehow it did and I bought it.

To be honest, I found it a bit of a struggle to read, but not for good reasons.

The basic purpose of the book is to demonstrate that the range of "Bible based" beliefs of fundamentalists are not 'what the Bible really teaches'... This purpose, the book sort of manages. But it fails in other regards.

The main problems with the book are:
  • the author occasionally uses a really clunky writing style
  • he repeats himself far too much
  • that the word 'sublated' is used several times per page (if I never read that word again, it'll be too soon)
  • and that the author attempts to give a 'true' picture of what the Bible really teaches while demonstrating that the fundamentalist view is false...
You see, the author does a pretty good job of demonstrating that several views of fundamentalists are flawed. And if he'd stuck to that, the book would have worked (although it would have been very negative). But instead he proposes an alternative belief/interpretation for each view and ends up proposing something that is equally as flawed as the fundamentalist view he has just trashed.

I think the main problem is that he tries to maintain that 'the Bible' has a single, unified message. Of course, a simple reading of it will show that this is not the case. There are disagreements and inconsistencies within the bible. For example, does the follower of Jesus have to follow the Torah law? - absolutely yes, if you go by the teaching of Jesus in Matthew's gospel, absolutely not, if you go by some of the letters of Paul. The author can't bring himself to admit that it is possible that Matthew had a biased opinion which colours his gospel, so he ends up explaining how Paul's writings 'sublate' the teaching of Jesus. Hang on. He's saying that the incarnated Son of God appears and teaches a simple message, which is then overturned and superceded by the teachings of a mere man less than a generation later and before the original teachings had even been written down? Seems a bit unlikely.

Me, I think its more likely that the Son of God preached a message that would stand for all time, and both Matthew and Paul interpreted it through their own preconception-filters, and its this interpretation which they then wrote down. Of course, that doesn't allow the Bible to be infallible, but that's probably a blog post for another time.

But its not all bad. I really quite liked the discussion of belief in the 'Second Coming' (to be discussed in a future blog post) and the bits about Jesus's death as atonement or otherwise. But the take on 'Salvation' was bamboozling and inconsistent, as was the discussion of morality.

So I can't recommend this to anyone. But there was some interesting stuff in there. You might like it.