‘God Delusion’ Helped by Reading the Word

Frank Wilson reviews Richard Dawkins’ complaint about faith in God, entitled The God Delusion. He says Dawkins doesn’t mind teaching the Word of God in classrooms for its cultural value and somehow believes this will undermine faith instead of build it. Frank notes:

As for teaching the Bible as literature, that might be the best way of communicating its spiritual message. If the scriptures were treated with the respect and attention we give to poems and novels and plays, with an appreciation for their often rich ambiguity, they would touch readers – in the way poems and novels and plays do.

I agree, but, Frank, why the complaint about people who take the Bible literally (which can be read at the end of his review)? Are you saying I shouldn’t believe Joshua really fought the Battle of Jericho several centuries ago?

6 thoughts on “‘God Delusion’ Helped by Reading the Word”

  1. Well no Phil, I don’t mean that at all. The Bible contains much that is presented as historical,often as eye-witness accounts. I think the fig tree that Jesus cursed was a fig tree. But I don’t think reference to God’s hands are meant to be taken literally. I don’t think that God needs to be reminded of anything by anybody, so passages indicating that he has been I don’t take literally. My problem with literalism is that so much of language is metaphor. We rarely use words in a purely literal sense. Words as signs are literal. The stop sign means that and nothing more. But what does “mood indigo” mean literally? My point was that bringing to Scripture the kind of rich reading that we bring to great literature can only deepen our understanding and appreciation. I don’t see that constricting the meaning of a text to its narrowest possible interpretation does anything for the text or us.

    BTW, it’s interesting that I have been fielding one email after another from militant atheists calling me clueless. Nice to stop by here and find that at least one theist agrees.

  2. Good. Thank you for the explanation. I are probably on the same page, not literally of course. Heh, heh.

    “Taking the Bible literally” is a misused argument, as you have described, in the same way as “the plain meaning of the text” is misused. There are literal words and plain meanings, but the phrase may be applied to less-than-plain interpretations.

    Again, I think your points in the review are good ones.

  3. I’m reminded of the many, many times as a child growing up in church that I heard preachers say, in reference to the book of Revelation, “Now, the locust are literally helicopters.” Ironically, they boasted about reading the Bible literally, but what they intended by that description was that they took it for “what it really means,” not “what it really says.”

  4. Revelations 1:13 says that Jesus had paps and a golden girdle?? Paps are female breast. Are we suppose to take that literal?? Jesus was a hermaphrodite???

  5. Well, that may be more of a language usage problem than a literal understanding question.

    “And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle” (Rev. 1:13 KJV).

    “and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest” (Rev. 1:13 ESV).

    “and in the middle of the lampstands I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash” (Rev. 1:13 NAS).

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