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Friday, April 22, 2011

Humanist Bible review series: Introduction (1/15)

(c) Walker Publishing Co. Inc.
This is the first part of a series of summaries, review, and commentary I will be publishing here on The Good Book: A Humanist Bible, by A.C. Grayling. In this recently released book, Grayling has pulled together a vast collection of wise and knowledgeable thoughts about nature, reason, life, and ethics. These have been drawn from sources throughout history, from East to West.

[CNN Review of the book]

While the book is 'secular' and has no mention of afterlives, spirits, or gods, it has nevertheless been written in the format of the Christian Bible. Grayling has said this is because the format is inviting and allows the reader to take pieces and parts from the itemized sections as needed, and because the biblical format makes it clear this book is in that same tradition of offering into our conversation, a take on our place in the cosmos and on goodness and ethics. As such, the book contains 14 'books' within:
  • Genesis
  • Wisdom
  • Parables
  • Concord
  • Lamentations
  • Consolations
  • Sages
  • Songs
  • Histories
  • Proverbs
  • The Lawgiver
  • Acts
  • Epistles
  • The Good
The poetic prose of the book is immediately obvious and quite beautiful and moving in many parts. This kind of language, what I call sacred tongue, is something I have argued for as an equally legitimate and important mode of speech for communicating essential aspects of ideas which are not possible with, or even hindered by, precise technical language. This approach conveys elements of phenomena such as feeling and the first-person experience because their metaphorical tones connect with our many varied faculties of the mind, including emotion and richer memories, and call upon our pattern recognition inclinations to help us draw parallels. As such, this kind of tone is helpful in seeing the 'big picture' and this, in turn, gives us a grander sense of the awe and wonder of the universe and of life. 
"So now I too expound in song, soft-speaking, to touch with honey the rim of truth." --Gen 12:10
As such, this kind of writing is just the sort of thing that would be useful for quoting in devotionals, ceremonies, and special moments. As a Humanist minister, I'm certain it will come in handy and I plan to become very familiar with it.

To that end, I will be publishing this series one book at a time, beginning with Genesis in my next part. I will summarize what it's chapters are about, mention some especially inspiring or noteworthy quotes, and give some commentary. By the end of these 14 books, it is hoped the series may serve as a kind of guide for users of the book to better find passages on the topics they seek - especially given that Grayling did not provide notes, traditional references, or an index.


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1 comment:

  1. Excellent. Thank you Daniel. I am looking forward to your reviews. I have a project in mind, if you are interested...