This book is one that I didn’t expect to read, but am incredibly glad I did. Moberly is professor of theology and biblical interpretation at Durham University, and the author of a number of big books, some of which I’d dipped into at university. When I say I didn’t expect to read, I mean that essentially this book is actually quite funny, but in being so, it is superb.
You may have heard of Richard Dawkins, and his challenge to Christian faith. This book is not explicitly about that, but Moberly is aware of Dawkins and interacts with him within these pages. One image that came to mind is a slightly bemused academic theologian stepping out of his study and explaining firmly but calmly that certain views of the Bible are just dim, let alone hilarious. For example, on the general issue of ‘belief’, Moberly writes “Mistakes can be instructive. I would like to set the stage with Richard Dawkin’s mistaken account of belief in God in The God Delusion“. He proceeds to demolish it, calmly and firmly.
The end result, with the framing in terms of the present cultural moment (Bigger than, but represented in the ‘useful idiot’ of Dawkins) is a book that carefully, intelligently and patiently demonstrates the value of the Bible, as both a classic text, and as something more. It is worth noting that this book, by a British scholar, would be well worth reading for American Christians involved in debates about what it means to say that the Bible is authoritative, trustworthy, true, inerrant, inspired, etc (other words are available). Moberly notes, interestingly, that “A belief in the inerrancy of the Bible, like a belief in the infallibility of the Pope, is, in its bets and strongest form, a much more sophisticated and carefully focused understanding than might be gathered from many of its popular proponents or oppponents“. Amen! I have a huge amount of sympathy, however, with Moberly’s own view, that “‘trustworthy’ is a richer, deeper, and more appropriate term for (would-be) believers to apply to the Bible than ‘inerrant’“. This last demonstrates the real value of this book – without giving an inch of ground around the Bible, Moberly is engaged in the reality that intelligent people struggle to understand why the Bible is a big deal, and thus often reject Christianity.
Overall, then, this is a book that is limited because it is focused on our present time. I hope that in my lifetime this book will become irrelevant – but as long as it is, The Bible in a Disenchanted Age is an absolutely superb case for the truth and power of the Bible. I would recommend it to thoughtful Christians, thoughtful seekers, and those considering how on earth they can reconcile their experience of faith with their understanding of the Bible. Genius.