As I work on a more comprehensive review of the excellent (though occasionally flawed) The God Delusion, I’ll throw out some thoughts on the two books I’m currently reading.
The Art of Reading Scripture (Ellen F. Davis & Richard B. Hays). I’ve been looking for a long time for an apologist counterpoint to my favorite Biblical scholar, Bart Ehrman. Ehrman is excellent, and extremely scholarly, but he is in fact an agnostic. He began as a Fundamentalist, but in-depth exposure to the actual Bible drove his faith from him. Not surprising; it did the same thing to me. But even so, I’ve wanted to find an actual scholar who was still a Christian apologist. That C. S. Lewis is considered a great modern apologist just demonstrates how bankrupt the field really is (c.f. my review of Mere Christianity).
Then I discovered Richard B. Hays in a “debate” with Bart Ehrman. This is much more a conversation than a “debate” and there is not dramatic disagreement between the two. Even so, Hays is a Christian and apologist, and I was interested in more of his stuff. In the process I found The Art of Reading Scripture, and through that I discovered the essays of Ellen F. Davis, who is worth reading no matter your beliefs. The rest of this book, which is a collection of essays, is inconsistent. Some are insightful, some are useless, but as a whole I recommend this book to Christians and non-Christians who are interested in exploring the place of scripture in the modern Church and the modern world. Of particular note is the clear understanding among these authors of the actual history of the Bible. These are not contra-evidence “Answers in Genesis” positions (which I now refer to as “fourell” positions due to the covering of the ears and chanting “La La La La” which is required to hold them). These are actual scholars who understand the…interesting…history of the Biblical canon, and yet are honestly seeking its place in a postmodern world. You will need to get used to talking about postmodernism. Nearly every essay mentions it.
The Black Hole War (Leonard Susskind). I thought I knew a thing or two about quantum mechanics. Hah! The maximum information density is proportional to the surface area of space and not its volume? This is crazy talk. I know nothing. Susskind kindly leads us through the difficulties and absurdities that are quantum mechanics with almost no resort to equations. I originally wasn’t even going to blog about this book here, because it doesn’t really relate to the religious topics I focus on here, but I was struck by one thing. Much of The God Delusion talks about the wiring of the human mind. There are certain things that make sense to us because we have an evolutionary disposition to think that way. What does Susskind tell us right off the bat? Quantum mechanics is hard for humans to understand because we have an evolutionary disposition that does not include the very small or the very fast. Susskind’s “middle world” is exactly the world described by Dawkins when he describes how religion naturally forms, and how morality can also easily form without religion due to our wiring. In both cases, we have to consciously break our natural wiring in order to see the world more as it is. There’s a whole sermon in that.