Moberly – The Bible in a Disenchanted Age (Gupta)

Moberly.jpg

In this thoughtful short book, Prof. Moberly engages the matter of how to communicate the uniqueness of the Bible in a postmodern age. Put another way, while some have argued that we ought to read the Bible “like any other book” (using historical critical methods), Moberly makes a case for also reading the Bible as something special: “On what grounds, if any, is it appropriate to privilege the Bible and the biblical account of God in the world today?” (40). Moberly does not go the way of traditional apologetics – arguing that the Bible has objective authority because of its historicity.

He begins by debunking the notion that Christians are illogical or odd for privileging the Bible. Moberly argues that everyone privileges some lens or perspective for thinking about the world and the meaning of life. Christians happen to focus their lens on Jesus and the Bible. Moberly also appeals to the notion of “Plausibility Structures.” By this he means, “the idea that the social and cultural context within which people live regularly make a difference to the understandings of life that they hold to be true; among other things, to be surrounded by a consensus can encourage people to adopt that consensus for themselves” (93). I think this is Moberly’s way of saying that people will come to be convinced of the Bible’s unique perspective when they see a compelling, winsome, and special life of a special community that lives according to the Bible. I think he pretty much states this much: “the biblical portrayal of human nature and destiny will present itself to consciousness as reality only to the extent that its appropriate plausibility structure, the Christian church in its many forms, is kept in existence” (101). Thus Moberly can talk about the “complementary nature of Bible and church” (102).

There is more in the book, but this appears to be the main contribution. Overall, I am sympathetic to Moberly’s argument, and indeed in a postmodern and pluralistic era this is a wise approach to commending the Bible as revelation. Still, I am not as sour on the possibility of traditional historical arguments that this historical figure called Jesus did and said some amazing things that we must consider.

On a personal note, I also want to mention that, historically, Christian advocacy of the message and lifestyle of Scripture has focused on sin and salvation. Moberly is not denying this, but neither sin nor salvation is given much attention directly in this work. That is not unexpected in this kind of discourse, but I will say that in my personal story, the Bible’s pointing out of my sin, and promise of grace was a powerful message, and a message I did not hear anywhere else. Yes of course I was brought into a community of faith (a “plausibility structure”), but my direct encounter with the text, and with God through the text, was life-changing.

The Bible in a Disenchanted Age demonstrates Moberly’s mature thought and exquisite writing style. It is not easy reading, but it is richly rewarding.

Known by God – Brian Rosner on Personal Identity (Gupta)

Known by God

I had a chance to do some reading over the winter break. One book I was eager to look at is by Brian S. Rosner, Known by God: A Biblical Theology of Personal Identity (Zondervan, 2017). As the title suggests, Rosner tackles the theme of “identity” by focusing on the idea of “being known by God,” tipping his hat to Galatians 4:9. The book is about the answer to the question who am I? People today are so desperate to build and curate their image and identity, but Rosner argues that Scripture teaches how what is most important (in terms of identity) is being known by God; that is, how we belong to, are remembered by, and loved by God in Jesus Christ. This gave me good pause for thought about the damage done by social media in our society today. We can feel “known” by people on FB or Instagram, but it can be so shallow and superficial and fake that we really don’t feel “known” at a deeper level. God knows us “through and through,” and that can make all the difference in terms of the security of our identity.

If I had one small bone to pick, it is the limitation of focusing on the word “known.” For my part, belonging to God is more central to what Scripture communicates about identity. Rosner talks a lot about belonging as a feature of being known, but I think it made more sense as the focus (especially in view of the centrality of familial metaphors in the Bible).

While Rosner does a lot of good work in Scripture itself, this book is wide-ranging in terms of dialogue with theologians and church leaders as well, and what is most striking is how Rosner talks about his own journey to locating his identity in “being known by God.” I think this would make a great Bible study and a good book for personal growth as well.