Secular “Good Book” — Really?

According to Wikipedia Anthony Clifford Grayling  (born 3 April 1949) is a British philosopher. In 2011 he founded and became the first master of New College of the Humanities in London.  Until 2011 he was Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London, where he taught from 1991.  This year Professor Grayling, an atheist and secular humanist published The Good Book — A Humanist Bible.  Amazon.com has the following “product description” for Grayling’s book:

“Few, if any, thinkers and writers today would have the imagination, the breadth of knowledge, the literary skill, and-yes-the audacity to conceive of a powerful, secular alternative to the Bible. But that is exactly what A.C. Grayling has done by creating a non-religious Bible, drawn from the wealth of secular literature and philosophy in both Western and Eastern traditions, using the same techniques of editing, redaction, and adaptation that produced the holy books of the Judaeo-Christian and Islamic religions. The Good Book consciously takes its design and presentation from the Bible, in its beauty of language and arrangement into short chapters and verses for ease of reading and quotability, offering to the non-religious seeker all the wisdom, insight, solace, inspiration, and perspective of secular humanist traditions that are older, far richer and more various than Christianity. Organized in 12 main sections—-Genesis, Histories, Wisdom, The Sages, Parables, Consolations, Lamentations, Proverbs, Songs, Epistles, Acts, and the Good—-The Good Book opens with meditations on the origin and progress of the world and human life in it, then devotes attention to the question of how life should be lived, how we relate to one another, and how vicissitudes are to be faced and joys appreciated. Incorporating the writing of Herodotus and Lucretius, Confucius and Mencius, Seneca and Cicero, Montaigne, Bacon, and so many others, The Good Book will fulfill its audacious purpose in every way.”

I personally have no intention of reading Grayling’s book.  There is plenty to read which was written by godly people who have not said in their heart that “there is no God.” While there may be some worthwhile wisdom and insight contained in the book it just seems a waste to spend any significant amount of time seeking to weed out the worthwhile from the tares.  I believe that men like Professor Grayling have been powerfully deceived and are perishing.  “They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.  For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.”  (2 Thes. 2:10-12)  I wonder how many will be deceived and buy into the delusion offered by the worldly wisdom contained in The Good Book — A Humanist Bible.

The following is an article dealing with Professor Graying’s book.  Its author, Amy Orr-Ewing, is on the staff of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics.  I believe Ms. Orr-Ewing’s article clearly portrays the overwhelming superiority of  Holy Bible over a book of purported wisdom which includes no place for the Almighty God, who, incidentally, needs no defense.  RMF

Grayling’s Secular ‘Bible’ – A Good Book?

Amy Orr-Ewing

by AMY ORR-EWING on 28 JUNE, 2011

In publishing his godless Bible for those with no faith, A. C. Grayling may have expected a mixed reception. The ‘religious Bible’ (as he calls the Christian original) often sparks controversy, so one might have assumed that his would prompt a powerful reaction.

But although there have been eyebrows raised, support given, and criticism leveled, I can’t help feeling that there is something a little flat about it all. Perhaps it is because we are in the midst of celebrating the 400-year anniversary of the King James translation of the Bible with its majestic impact on the English language, that one struggles to muster any strong reaction to this book. One of the repeated observations made about Grayling’s moral guide for atheists is that it just doesn’t seem to be as good or interesting as the original.

Jeannette Winterson, author of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, had this to say:

I do not believe in a sky god but the religious impulse in us is more than primitive superstition. We are meaning-seeking creatures and materialism plus good works and good behaviour does not seem to be enough to provide meaning. We shall have to go on asking questions but I would rather that philosophers like Grayling asked them without the formula of answers. As for the Bible, it remains a remarkable book and I am going to go on reading it.

Perhaps it has something to do with what seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding on Grayling’s part: the Bible is not merely a book containing moral guidance, as he seems to think it is. While Christians would say that it does contain the moral law of God and shows us how to live our lives, the actual text of the Bible is much more besides.

It is the history of a people and a grand narrative of redemption for all people. At its heart, it is the story of a relationship, and not a collection of platitudes. As the New Testament opens with God coming in human form, we encounter Jesus walking the earth, not simply to restate a moral code, but to offer us peace with God through himself. It’s about a personal God to encounter, not a set of propositions to understand or laws to follow. This is drama with a capital D.

The Bible also contains narrative history, at its most fascinating with well-preserved accounts recording personal perspectives on historical events. Whether it be a prophet like Jeremiah, writing in the 7th century BC, or the gospel writer Mark in the 1st century AD, this is compelling writing whatever our religious convictions. Who could not notice the honesty and detail of Mark’s turn of phrase when he recounts that ‘Jesus was in the stern sleeping on a cushion, the disciples woke him and said to him “Teacher don’t you care if we drown?”‘ (Mark 4:38) As history alone the Bible is compelling.

In as much as Grayling’s ‘Good Book’ cobbles together some of the finest moral teaching from our history, it will surely be useful to some. But from an atheist perspective is this really a legitimate task? Without God what is morality other than personal perspective or social contract? Do we need Grayling’s personal perspective any more than our own? And is he really in a position to tell us what a socially agreed set of morals should be? Great atheists of the past, like Bertrand Russell, rejected religious moral values arguing against overarching morality – do they really want Grayling to reconstruct one? “I don’t think there is a line in the whole thing that hasn’t been modified or touched by me,” he says. While his own confidence in his wisdom is clearly abundant, will others feel the same way? Readers might also note that from the 21st century, his is the only voice to make the cut and be included in the work.

In calling his worthy tome The Good Book, Grayling, perhaps unwittingly, references the story about a rich young ruler found in the Gospel of Mark. The man approaches Jesus and addresses him as ‘Good teacher’. ‘Why do you call me good?’ Jesus answered. ‘No one is good – except God alone.’ Jesus pre-empts centuries of philosophical debate about the nature of morality and locates goodness as an absolute in the being of God. We are challenged to question: ‘without God, what is goodness?’ As the debate over his book continues it will be intriguing to find out how Grayling knows his godless Bible to be a benchmark of ‘goodness’.

In the meantime, no doubt the Bible will continue to top best-seller lists, and engage audiences spanning all ages, backgrounds, and cultures. I for one will keep reading it.

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About ronfurg

Former naval officer, federal investigator, forensic scientist, senior executive service member and pastor. In retirement serves as volunteer and life group leader at New Life Christian Church (www.newlife4me.com). Devoted to beautiful wife, kids and grandkids. Looking forward to the time when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord of all and that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
This entry was posted in Christian Articles, Ethics and Morality and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Secular “Good Book” — Really?

  1. Darla Givan says:

    Hey Ron!
    Great blog!
    Darla

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