Thursday, November 8, 2018

The Marginal Relevance of the Bible

The full title of my new book forthcoming from the publisher Wipf and Stock in their premier Cascade Series is: Unmasking Biblical Faiths. The Marginal Relevance of the Bible for Contemporary Religious Faith. Everything is completed except the indices, which I am now finishing.

Here is a description of the book from the back cover:

This book “aims to address many of the challenges to traditional Christian faith in the modern world. Since the eighteenth century Age of Enlightenment, human Reason, formerly tethered by the constraints of organized religion, has been set free to explore the universe relatively unchallenged. The influence of the Bible, on the other hand, weakened due to the successes of modern historical criticism, is found to be inadequate for the task of enabling the faith “once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3), in that it cannot adequately respond to the many questions about religious faith and the world that human reasoning raises for modern human beings. In a series of short but tightly reasoned essays, Charles Hedrick explores the confrontation between traditional Christian faith and aggressive human reason, a conflict that is facilitated by Western secular education.”

I was brought to write this book upon my retirement, purposing in the closing years of my life to analyze critically my own personal religious beliefs and my place in the world. The essays are brief but collectively they form a cumulative argument that the Bible is only marginally relevant for developing a religious faith for the contemporary world. The book represents the results of ten years of critical reflection on subjects related to religion, ethics, the Bible, the nature of the world, and human values. Candidly I was disappointed that many of the fundamental ideas of my own personal religious faith did not stand up to rational scrutiny.

Here is a list of the table of contents:

1. The Nature of the Universe
2. Reason and Faith
3. On Being Human in the Contemporary World
4. The Bible
5. The Nature of God
6. Jesus of Nazareth
7. Traditional Christian Beliefs
8. On Being Christian in the Modern World

The book does not offer many definitive answers to the perplexing questions raised by an impartial study of religion, for religion is primarily opinion based. What I can promise, however, is that the book will take you on a rationally sound journey into selected details of religious faith in the twenty-first century.

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

12 comments:

  1. Hi Charlie,

    I offer some brief responses to your outline.

    Nature of the Universe: Human beings are the universe reflecting upon itself.

    Reason and faith. I prefer 'trust' to faith. Reason provides the best chance for survival and trust provides the best chance for a joyful existence.

    On being a contemporary human: Humanity must decide on a future governed by the rules of robotics or the exhilaration of relationships.

    The Bible: Jesus' legacy is still relevant: relinquish revenge motives, first judge oneself, give hope to the outcast, focus on redistribution of wealth, heal the sick, don't be a slave of tradition, approach these goals like your life depended on it.

    Nature of God: See Nature of Universe

    Jesus of Nazareth: See Bible.

    Traditional Christian beliefs: Sing spirituals.

    A Modern World Christian: Be a Jesusian, enjoy the improvisation of jazz, rail against cults

    Gene Stecher
    Chambersburg, Pa.

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    1. Hi Gene,
      If I understand your comment about the universe correctly--then it has a lot of depth: "human beings are the universe reflecting on itself." What I understand that to mean is that we humans are products of the natural order of things and through natural selection (Darwin) we have become thinking animals. And now we are investigating that primordial soup from which we originated. Is that want you meant to say with your (what I take to be) poetic statement? Or am I reading too much into it?
      Cordially,
      Charlie

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    2. Hi Charlie,

      Yes, I think that you've accurately understood my intent. I think that I shared the idea at some time in the past also. I stole it from Walter Wink in his text The Human Being (Fortress, 2002), in his chapter evaluating Feuerbach's The Essence of Christianity (1841; Buffalo, Prometheus Books (1989). Feuerbach viewed God as a projection of human values and capacities: Wink writes, "Since we are coextensive with the universe, and can say nothing about God or nature that is not at the same time a statement about ourselves, we must learn to think of ourselves as the universe reflecting upon itself." Interestingly, after diving into the insights of depth psychologists such as Carl Jung, Wink opines, "The final answer to Feuerback, therefore....is prayer." (p. 35-46).

      Gene Stecher
      Chambersburg, Pa.

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  2. can’t wait to read it! It takes me back to a book you edited, ‘When Faith Meets Reason’ and your essay in it, “Out of the Enchanted Forest.”

    I was working my way through college on the grounds crew and we were cleaning out the oldest building on campus when I chanced upon a 19th century copy of Ruskin’s “Queen of the Air,” a nineteenth century series of three lectures he gave. The college didn’t want it, so I “salvaged” it, finding in the beginning of the first essay, “Athena Chalinitis,” a guiding light. “You may forgive me, therefore, for not always distinctively calling the creeds of the past ‘superstition,’ and the creeds of the present day ‘religion;’ as well as for assuming that a faith now confessed may sometimes be superficial, and that a faith long forgotten may once have been sincere.” In the non-theist world I have lived since a teen, I synthesized that into “Yesterday’s religion is today’s ‘myth;’ today’s religion is tomorrow’s ‘myth.’” It has served me well, helping me tend my garden mindfully.

    I tend to find more relevance these days in Ovid (Metamorpheses) than I do the Christian myths. The death of Phaethon, son of Sun gives a picture of a caring father, the impetuous son, and the mourning of Earth as Phaethon’s quest to find whether the Sun is really his father because he was goaded by a peer destroys Earth, has more humanity to me than the story of Jesus. The resurrection of Hippolytus, a good man unfairly cursed and killed, resurrected from Hades through the healing power of Aesculapius and caring of Diana, is no less “realistic” than the raising of Jesus. And, it’s better literature, in my opinion, possibly because Ovid’s characters were more akin to the “modern hero” of today’s fiction, characters with human flaws.

    But, Christianity will trudge along, probably because it serves more of a social than an educational purpose.

    Good luck on the publication!

    Dennis Dean Carpenter
    Dahlonega, Ga.

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    1. Thanks Dennis,
      Success in the publishing of academic books on religion is not to be judged (in my view)in the number of copies sold or money generated thereby, but rather in terms of something we never know--in terms of minds stimulated into becoming curious about life.
      Cordially,
      Charlie

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    2. Nothing I said or implied concerned sales.
      Dennis Dean Carpenter
      Dahlonega, Ga.

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    3. Hi Dennis,
      I never thought you did. I was commenting on your last line : "Good Luck on the publication," as a reference to its success. And that set me to thinking how does one quantify the success of a publication?
      And my response was geared to that issue: how does one quantify the success of a publication?
      How would you judge the success of a publication?
      While I have no idea how many books Ruskin sold, in your case it was still tweaking minds many years after his death. I therefore think of the publication of his three lectures as successful! "Literature" (print media in particular) gives to ideas the gift of longevity--life beyond the death of the author to whom the ideas came.
      Cordially,
      Charlie

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    4. "Good luck" is just how some wish others success in their endeavor. What constitutes success is the view of the one to whom it is wished. Success in my career wasn't related to accumulation of materials or money, so I wasn't thinking of that aspect.
      Dennis Dean Carpenter
      Dahlonega, Ga.

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  3. Charlie, my ever-present but malnourished soul spoke to me this morning saying that I need to get a copy of this book for my library (that is it will go on that shelf after I'm done reading it.)

    I just hope, as a business school graduate, that I can follow it. I want to try though, and Google search has really become a great aid to my reading. Excuse me now, I need to go look up "Ovid" on line. LOL.

    Good luck with it's publication.

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    1. Good afternoon Ken,
      You will be able to understand my arguments.
      Cordially,
      Charlie

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  4. Charlie,

    I can hardly await your book. Thanks so much for your efforts to educate me. Your's is a "life well spent".

    Jim

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    1. Thank you Jim for a very kind comment.
      Charlie

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