It’s Not the Word That Speaks | Genesis, Literally
In the previous post I blogged about a fascinating book review in The Believer in which the reviewer was given just the text – no author, no past publications list, no endorsements and no well-designed cover. The text had to literally speak for itself, and, as someone who is about to be published again, I know I have conflicted opinions about this.
I think this has something to say to us about ‘bible-believing’ belief too. On Monday I had lunch with a colleague and fell to talking about a programme on the previous night which had looked at creation. My colleague (a warm atheist) was telling me about two friends who both believed that the Genesis creation narrative was literally true.
My thought was this: it was not that they had read Genesis and decided on the basis of the evidence that it was literally true, rather they simply couldn’t countenance the prospect of it not being literally true, as the problems of interpretation that this would precipitate would be too big. ‘It’s a matter of faith,’ one would repeatedly say. ‘I know it seems crazy, but I just have to believe it.’
In other words, for many ‘bible-believing’ Christians the irony is this: their belief that the bible is all literally true means that it has to be gagged. Why? Because if it were actually allowed to speak, it would cause too many problems.
If we were to simply read the text, without the ‘binding’ of the stern voices that tell us we can’t doubt, without the hard covers that brow-beat us with concerns that we are back-sliders if we don’t believe it all, we might find – as the reviewer did with their text – that when the word is allowed to speak, we can be renewed.