The book’s title, Simon Loveday, The Bible for Grown-ups: A New Look at the Good Book (2016), is intriguing. This book is not about a different Bible or a new translation of the Bible, but it is a mature and thoughtful review or” look” at the Bible from an adult viewpoint.
The book’s thesis is that the Bible cannot carry the freight of historical truth and divine authority which the Christian tradition has placed on the Bible. The combination of absolute truth and authority is an intolerable burden for any document to bear and is unfair to the authors of the books of the Bible in addressing their historical contexts over many centuries. The best the Bible can do is point to the frontier of human understanding of reality and the reality that is beyond that frontier.
For the author, there is a childish way of reading and thinking about the Bible. The childish way is the norm in the Christian tradition. The author seeks to offer an adult way to read and think about the Bible, relying on the developing biblical research and scholarship from the past two centuries. For the author, the Bible is big and important and complex and needing mature adult understanding with adult brains engaged. With this adult understanding, the Bible is approachable as part of tradition and is freely subject to reason and experience.
It is odd that the author does not address the Jewish tradition and the condition of mature Jews in a parallel fashion to his address to Christian adults in this book. The thesis applies to the scriptures of these separate traditions and to their common tradition with Christians. The book’s thesis also applies to the scriptures of Islam. In fact, the author's approach is a universal adult approach to any documents identified as scriptures.
There is a large sub-tradition within the Christian tradition, with parallel sub-traditions in Judaism and Islam, as an influential theme of inerrancy of written scriptures. With varying shades of clarity, these voices within the Christian tradition affirm that the Bible is the supreme written norm by which God binds and judges the consciences of all humans, and that the authority of the religious leaders, creeds, councils, or declarations are subordinate to that Bible. They affirm that the Bible, in its entirety, is inerrant (without error in historical or scientific fact or authority). In their firm belief, the Bible is free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit. They deny that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes. They reject any assertions in the fields of history and science that contradict any assertion in the Bible. They specifically deny that any scientific hypothesis about earth history may properly be accepted that contrasts with the history or teaching of the Bible regarding the creation and the flood. (See the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (1978) at p. 271). For the book’s author, this is a childish way to read and understand the Bible.
The author provides an adult perspective and helpful analysis. The author describes the process of the assembly of the separate documents, written in the centuries following Jesus, into a collection by Catholic church councils as scriptures. He describes the various authors who directed their writings to conditions when they were written. He writes as an anthropologist. He affirms the importance of the Bible in the Christian tradition along with, from a Quaker perspective, experience, and reason in humans exploring the boundaries of their senses for reality and behavior.
The author does not offer a comparable method for adult individual or group reading, reflection, and assessment of the Bible. Quakers have developed a number of different resources to assist individuals and groups in study of the Bible. The Friendlies are examples of these methods. For example, see the Friendly Universal Scripture Study method, the Friendly Bible Study method and the Friendly Faith and Practice Study method. These Friendlies are all available for downloading from QUF without cost here. They are each offered for adult use.
The writing style is engaging. The analysis is clear. The book is well organized. There are helpful charts and a modest index provided.
Quakers: There is no reference to Quakers in this book. Quakers have developed a number of different resources to assist individuals and groups in study of the Bible. The Friendlies are examples of these methods. The Friendly Universal Scripture Study specifically serves Quakers.. The Friendlies are all available for downloading from QUF.
- Is there a universal adult approach to reading all scriptures?
- Is there any benefit in retaining a childish approach to reading scriptures?
- Simon Loveday, The Bible for Grown-ups: A New Look at the Good Book (2016)