Book Review: The Bible In A Disenchanted Age

The Bile In A Disenchanted Age:  The Enduring Possibility Of Christian Faith, by R.W.L. Moberly

This book tries very hard to find a middle space between the disenchantment of faith due to corrosive social trends and a desire to take the Bible seriously if not always faithfully.  The author, though, like many others of his kind [1], thinks himself to be a fare more noble character than he is with regards to the Bible.  It does appear as if many people like attempting to square the circle by seeking both to defend their bona fides as “conservative” textual critics while simultaneously trying to appeal to the faddish philosophies of the contemporary world and its steadfast refusal to see the Bible as an authority in their lives.  This book, unfortunately, does not succeed at its task, mainly because it spends a great deal of time hamstrung by its terrible analysis of Daniel and its adoption of certain critical ideas about the composition and date of Daniel that simply do not line up with the text or its textual history but which are convenient for many who would consider the book as an example of pseudographia.

The book begins with a series and individual preface and an introduction before the author poses the problem of the lack of respect that the Bible receives as an authoritative text in much of contemporary society (1).  In an excursus afterward the author asks why we should privilege the Bible as a text.  After this the author discusses the way that a scholar such as himself approaches the biblical texts with a heavy amount of context in the writings of the ancient world like the poetry of Virgil (2).  Another excursus shows the author trying to avoid using BC and AD in his naming conventions before the author looks at privileged perspectives in general (3).  After this the author points towards what is considered as trust in the Bible and the truth of the Bible by arguing for a standard of emotional/spiritual truth that avoids a commitment to believe in the factual and historical truth of the Bible’s narratives (4).  The book then closes with an excursus about Dawkins’ flawed philosophical view of scripture based on logical argumentation of design theorists like Paley and an epilogue on the thorny and controversial subject of biblical literacy and what it entails.

This book is, unfortunately, a reminder to other writers and scholars that when one is dealing with the texts of the Bible that one essentially has two choices.  Either one can show oneself as a secular-minded scholar that may appreciate the poetry of the Bible or the general desirability of its more obvious ethical principles but does not see the Bible in a privileged position as an authority in one’s life or one can accept that the Bible is an authority in life and behavior and work out the consequences of that commitment, however difficult and unpleasant that may be in an age which is not inclined to view the Bible’s moral restraint as authoritative.  By trying to split the difference with his thinking and by praising the cultural conservatism of Dawkins, this author fails at gaining his bona fides as a legitimately biblicist interpreter.  It is possible that the author thinks that he goes as far as one can in order to appeal to those who view the Bible as authoritative while retaining credibility as a hipster textual critic, but he does not go nearly far enough to show respect and regard for the Biblical scripture.  As a result, this book can only be viewed as a failure.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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