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Tuesday, April 1, 2003

The Bible's plot.

Thanks to this week's Christian Century for the following Cliffs Notes to the Good Book:

Acknowledging the risk of oversimplification, J. Clinton McCann Jr. summarizes the plot of the Bible this way: "Sinners do not get what they deserve," which is "precisely what grace means." Unless we perceive this single plot, we are "in danger of missing the simple but profound biblical message that God is essentially, characteristically, and fundamentally gracious." McCann maintains that a hermeneutic of grace is needed as a corrective to the use of the Bible as an "instrument of hatred, discrimination, self-congratulation, and exclusion." This is a hermeneutic which yields an ethic of gracious living toward others: "only when we interpret by grace will we live by grace."

McCann's article, "The Hermeneutics of Grace," appeared in the January issue of the biblical theology journal Interpretation, which offers a seven-day online trial subscription as well as an online-only subscription — two things the still-stuck-in-the-mid-20th Christian Century should consider.

The whatever hermeneutic. Meanwhile, in the May Atlantic Monthly, Jonathan Rauch declares that he's not an atheist. He's an "apatheist."

Apatheism—a disinclination to care all that much about one's own religion, and an even stronger disinclination to care about other people's—may or may not be something new in the world, but its modern flowering, particularly in ostensibly pious America, is worth getting excited about. Apatheism concerns not what you believe but how.

"Atheism," "secularism," "tolerance," and "agnosticism" don't cut it for Rauch. He's interested in a new temperament of restraint: "people who feel at ease with religion even if they are irreligious; people who may themselves be members of religious communities, but who are neither controlled by godly passions nor concerned about the (nonviolent, noncoercive) religious beliefs of others."

Maybe Rauch has been reading Louis Menand. I wonder what he would make of Paul Berman's essay on Sayyid Qutb's theological quarrel with liberalism.

Copyright © 2003 by Philocrites | Posted 1 April 2003 at 8:17 PM

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