back to Mainly for Non-Believers
That’s what Jack Miles called his book on the Bible. I’ll confess I don’t care for it very much though I found it littered with really interesting proposals and insights; but then, what do I know, it won the Pulitzer. Still, I can’t surrender my mind even to such an august body of literary judges. All in all, to me it’s an ordinary book. Still, though I read the biblical text differently than Jack Miles he’s spot on when he insists on reading the text, which often shocks as well as delights.
My own impression is that the bulk of non-believers are non-believers for reasons other than what they read and hear people say (see Why are There Atheists?). But I think reading a good biography of God would open their eyes to hidden prejudices and obvious misunderstandings (I think it would open the eyes of a lot of believers as well).
Much of what we hear from believing people isn’t God’s biography, which comes to its clearest expression in the Story of Jesus Christ; what we hear is an endless harping on how we should be nice people. The Bible becomes a book of moral principles, a guide to right living. We can hardly deny that the Hebrew-Christian scriptures, whatever else we think of them, have been such a guide to countless generations. But to reduce the scriptures to that is to miss the essential nature of those scriptures and simply by default, if we ignore the “God-biography” nature of them, we sever ethics from biography and that’s a catastrophe (which is another discussion for another time). By and by the Bible becomes a bore when we ceaselessly comb it for little nuggets on how to be “nicer”. The drama disappears, the astonishing truths about who God is, what he has done and what he is doing with and in this chaotic world—these truths get buried under a mountain of banal moralising.
By the time we’re done serving up that pap the non-believer may almost be excused when she or he dismisses the Bible as an ancient book of moral maxims which may or may not be relevant to a modern society and world. If only there was a way to interest non-believers to get into the Bible and allow it to tell its own Story in its own way (that’s a bit more difficult than it sounds but an honest go of it can be made). I understand I’m speaking as a Christian when I say that there’s something enthralling about the Story of a sovereign and holy loving Lord, a human pair, lost innocence, a lost garden, a dangerous and costly search and a glorious rescue. The Bible is a biography of God and his relationship with a lost humanity.
Don’t be fooled by the ignorance of some of us Christians—we mean well, but the Bible’s not, “A Divine Guide to the Virtuous”. It’s about a God more passionate than Alexander the Great with a mission not to make the world