Monday, 25 May 2015

How to read (and not read) the Bible

John Shuck interviews Harvey Cox in his latest Religion for Life podcast (follow the link or search on iTunes). Cox is a former Harvard professor and a leading progressive theologian who first made his mark with the ground-breaking 1965 book The Secular City. He retired in 2009. His latest publication is titled How to Read the Bible.

The programme is just under the half hour, and it's well worth the investment of time for anyone interested in the question of the continuing relevance of the Bible in an age when the old "fundamentals" have fallen.


  1. Easy to see why he preaches the relevance of the Bible when he receives six-figure salary to teach that from a tradition-bound institution sitting on millions of dollars of old-money WASP trust funds. Interviewer's intro touches on Bible's role in slavery but liberal Christian Cox only sees the 'historic inspiration the Bible has given oppressed peoples'. Could have used some of that divine liberation during the Holocaust - the Protestants and Vatican were no help, the "wonderful Bible" told them the Jews had it coming to them.

  2. The point being that theology (and with it the Bible) can be a tool for both good and ill. If you're going to continue "in the faith" (fully accepting that this isn't the path you are willing or able to take, which I deeply respect) then better to focus on its potential for good. Cox was saying these things consistently since the early 1960s - a time some of us (i.e. you and I) were derailed into a brain-dead apocalypticism and stiflingly literal approach to religion. The world would be a better place with a focus on human liberation and freedom of intellect. Cox promotes that - and that I applaud (while not necessarily agreeing with everything implied in his position, but hey, the moment you do that with anyone you've probably outsourced your judgement.)

    1. I don't understand the business model for modern theology but it must still work! He gets paid $200k a year to turn out graduate PhD's who become chaplains in the Armed forces for $80k and - importantly - sky-pilots for mega-churches who must now employ lettered men - like Tkach - at ~$150k (expensive but pays off for maximum income enhancement/return on investment).

      During interview Cox discreetly indicates personal belief in God, well done, but I'm not buying it! I would fake belief in God for $200k per year.

  3. Having men of Letters like Dr D James Kennedy and Dr Joseph Tkach as window dressing for mega-churches really seems to work with the American public. Dr Kennedy would occasionally give Tithe sermons to the millionaire WASP retirees at Coral Ridge televised church in affluent Broward county Florida.

  4. This has nothing to do with this topic but it is on my mind. We just experience Memorial Day and I watched parts of a lengthy documentary on World War II. My Dad fought in World War II and his journeys took him to Iceland, Britain, France Belgium and the Rhineland. He was in the Battle of the Rhineland. And Memorial Day is permeated in the media with respect for the American soldiers who fought in our many wars.

    I always thought of my Dad as being courageous because at the age of 19, after a year of college, he hitch-hiked to a nearby city and joined the U.S. Army. He was in the Army for the next five years until the war was over. But not everyone viewed it that way.

    I spoke with David Robinson at Ambassador College a couple of times and mentioned my Dad's involvement in WW II back in the Seventies. Robinson had an office in or near the Transportation Building on the Big Sandy campus. On one occasion he asked me about whether I could find record of meteorological conditions for a certain place in Europe at a certain time during the War. I am not sure why. A small discussion of WW II events ensued. Robinson apparently was an officer of some rank during the War. And what disappointed me was his disparaging attitude toward my Dad throughout the discussion. My Dad was not an officer. He rose to the mighty rank of technical corporal by the end of the war. Robinson's attitude was disdainful. To him, my Dad was a nobody in spite of Dad's considerable war experience.

    But Robinson's attitude did not seem foreign to the Ambassador College milieu. Had the micro-society at Big Sandy been normal, I might have gotten up and walked out on Robinson. But he was a WCG "minister" and I sat and listened respectfully while he slammed my Dad. This strikes me as being one of the pathological behaviors produced by Armstrongism. The lesson to me as I sat and listened was that the sacrifices of the "little people" don't count either in American military history or in the WCG congregations. It is their duty to patiently sacrifice and pay homage to their rulers. I thought Robinson's attitude toward the common soldier to be very odd for someone who was touted as a great student of Civil War Military history and strategy.

    HIs remarks, for me, added to the overall oppressiveness of the AC campus. Not only was I as a 1-W held in disdain but my Dad with a significant military record was also persona non grata. I guess the real heroes were the talking heads behind the pulpit in the Field House.

    -- Neo

    1. Neo, my Dad fought in World War II also. He was age 25 when the U.S. entered the war, so he was one of the first to get drafted and go fight. He stayed from beginning til the end - he fought in Northern Africa, then all the way up through Italy, then France and into Germany. Most of my uncles were World War II vets as well. The overwhelming feeling I got from these men was that they did not see themselves as heroes in any way - they saw themselves as just doing what needed to be done.

      The men (and women back home in the factories) of that era are called "the greatest generation" with good reason. And the best part is this - the vast majority are/were very humble about it.

      Quite the opposite of the WCG ministerial crowd, which was/is made up of little men trying to act big. Most of these men had/have few accomplishments but plenty of self-adulation.