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Religion ‘hijacking’ the word… and the world [repost]

Below you can watch Richard Dawkins speaking in advance of the 2011 KJV celebrations. He makes the case for being steeped 'to some extent' in the King James Bible.  If we don't know the KJV we are 'in some small way barbarian.'  But he ends by saying:

it is important that religion should not be allowed to hijack this cultural resource.


Notch it up as another Dickie Dawkins classic.  But before we laugh and point, let's make sure there aren't three fingers pointing back.

You see, because he's talking about the bible the stupidity of his position is obvious.  Of course it's ridiculous to view the bible as first a cultural resource that religion then hijacks.  Any fool knows that the bible is originally, purposefully and most meaningfully a religious text (or if you don't like 'religious', say 'spiritual' or 'theological' or even 'Christian').  It is evident (but not to Dawkins) that the essence of the bible is appreciated only when it's treated according to its true theological nature.  And that to read it through atheistic lenses is the real hijacking.

But Dawkins' inability to appreciate the bible according to its true nature is only one more example of his inability to appreciate the world according to its true nature.  The whole atheistic project follows exactly the same line.  It says that everything is most ultimately a physical, chemical, biological, historical or cultural artefact, let's not allow 'religion' to hijack it.  But to pretend you are honouring the world by treating it non-theologically is just as ridiculous as pretending to honour the Word by treating it non-theologically.

The only reason we don't see its foolishness is because we have, to some extent, bought the double-decker atheistic approach.  When it comes to the world around us we pretty much assume along with the atheists that there are brute facts that are perfectly understood in non-theological terms and that we then work with this raw data to make our theological (or atheistical) pronouncements.  And even if we do dare to wear some theological lenses to view the world, we have a slight guilty feeling that maybe we are hijacking a properly non-theological reality.

But no.  You've got to begin by treating the Word theologically.  And you've got to begin by treating the world theologically.  And it's best you do so in that order.

It's those who fail to see the world according to its essentially theological character who hijack it.


11 thoughts on “Religion ‘hijacking’ the word… and the world [repost]

  1. Dave Green

    sound - but just wondering what you mean by 'essentially theological character' - are we talking creationism here or something much grander, as it were?

  2. Glen

    The grander the better! Yes, this isn't about reading Genesis 1 and insisting on a certain *length* of "day", it's reading it with our eyes on the *meaning* of "day", and of evening, and morning, and earth and sky and light and darkness and seeds and fruit and *everything*. And yes you might end up a creationist, but far deeper than that, you will view creation - in every detail - as a proclamation of the glory of Christ.

  3. Cal

    Just finished reading John Walton's "Lost World of Genesis 1" and it touched on something you put up: our metaphysics.

    Part of his point is that the major point of Genesis is metaphysics: who's setting all things in order? The lie is that science is bound up in a materialistic dysteleological view of the world. Science is science, it is theological/philosophical that gives it meaning/lack-of-meaning.

    So yes, the KJV was translated by a council assembled by James I. Is it just the happenstance occurance of a particular people called the English or was somewhere the Spirit in this, moving along the proclamation of the Kingdom?

    The history is the same, the meaning differs. Dawkins and Fundamentalists are playing by the same rule book. The Lord is not some outside, deistic meddler. He is the Lord of History and the Lord of Life, of course His hand is intimately working through created things.

    The Lamb has the Scepter! Good News indeed :).

    My 2 pennies for the day,

  4. Si Hollett

    Glen - yes, yes, yes.

    And even among Christians who agree with Ps19 there's often failings - look up at night and see (or try to in our light polluted part of the world) not a vast universe full of huge balls of gas showing how big and powerful God is, but a vast universe full of huge balls of gas showing how vast God's love is, given that the saints will be as many as the stars...

    ...and, of course, huge balls of gas are what stars are made of, not what they are - there's a strong link to angelic powers and nations in the prophets.

  5. Glen

    Hey theguywiththeeye - thanks, just visited the blog and signed into comments. I don't have lots of time for in depth debate, but happy to respond as and when I'm free.

  6. John B

    Hi Glen,

    Your conclusion in this post seems to me to be absolutely true. I've been following the debate over at the Defend Your Post blog. I do wonder though, if we should acknowledge that the church has often hijacked the Bible. (Perhaps "expropriated" is a more accurate term than "hijacked".) The Catholic church did this in a very formal way for at least 700 years, only shifting its course during the last fifty years or so. And I've seen Protestant ministers and/or elders vested with magisterium-like authority in local churches. When non-believers charge that the Bible has often been used in the church to grab power, they're right! So my inclination is to fess up about our history.

  7. Glen

    Hi John, I completely agree that religious people have used the bible illegitimately to grab power - and that's very unfortunate. But I see something else in Dawkins' accusation of "hijacking" (I might be seeing things wrong though!). He says immediately before the "hijack" quote that the bible "doesn't have to be tied to religion. It's of historic interest, it's of literary interest, it's important that religion should not be allowed to hijack this cultural resource."

    I see him wanting to uncouple the bible from 'religion' and treat it *purely* as of literary and historical interest. And additionally, to those who insist that the bible is first and foremost theological, he calls *them* the hijackers.

    In other words, I hear Dawkins objecting to how religious folks *see* the bible - even before considering what they *do* with it (like grab power). But perhaps I'm mishearing Dawkins?

  8. John B

    Hi Glen, I, too, am hearing Dawkins the same way that you do. As you point out, since the Bible in its original intention is a theological text, then reading it now in that way certainly can't be hijacking it. Also, you're right to say that to claim that the Bible is exclusively a cultural legacy, is a power grab, from the other side. One reason that it's so recognizable as such is that the same type of thing has been seen many times from the theological side, within the church. There are indeed many who have favored "keeping the sacred texts locked away in temples". It seems to me that the Berean principle is an evangelical ideal, very imperfectly realized, and rejected in practice by most Christians. Dawkins is on a good course to advance his cause. Rather than opposing the Bible outright, he can work to change the understanding of it, and to delegitimize the original intention of the text. He's at least making a stab in that direction.

  9. Howard

    "I will confess it quite simply. I believe that the Bible alone is the answer to all our questions, and we only need to ask repeatedly and a little humbly, in order to receive this answer. One cannot simply 'read' the bible like other books. One must really be prepared to enquire of it. Of course, it is possible to read the bible like any other book - there is nothing to be said against that. Only that such methods will not reveal the heart of the material of this book - that here, God speaks to us. Just as we do not truly grasp the words of someone we love by taking them apart, but by receiving them, so it is with the words of the bible. Only when we venture to enter into this book in this manner - as though God is speaking to us, those whom He loves, shall we learn to rejoice in what is found there". Dietrich Bonhoeffer, writing to his theologically liberal brother-in-law in 1936.

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