>A Faith That Wrestles With Contradictions

>The Rev. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, the President of Chicago Theological Seminary, has a good review of Christopher Hitchens’ book God is Not Great. For those who are not familiar with Hitchens’ book, Hitchens is an atheist who has written a work attacking all religions, especially Christianity.

The following is an excerpt of Thistlethwaite’s review of the book. Dealing with Hitchens’ approach to biblical interpretation, she wrote:

The chapters in God is Not Great on biblical interpretation, “Revelation: The Nightmare of the ‘Old’ Testament” and “The ‘New’ Testament Exceeds the Evil of the ‘Old’ One,” are so ham-handedly literalist as to make a fundamentalist blush. I looked in the index to be sure I hadn’t missed any encounter with modern biblical scholarship. I looked for some reference to the mind-searching biblical interpretation of “Marcus Borg,” but found instead only an index reference to “Klaus Barbie.” I looked for some engagement with the depth of scholarship and breath of biblical interpretation of “John Dominic Crossan”, but found in the index only a reference to “Crusades.” Feminist theology? Forget it.

Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins have a very simplistic approach to religion. Although they use scientific language to describe and evaluate religion, they fail to understand the kind of “faith that wrestles with the contradictions and genuine mysteries of human life,” as Thistlethwaite wrote.

Read Thistlethwaite’s review by clicking here.

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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3 Responses to >A Faith That Wrestles With Contradictions

  1. >I’ve gotten about 3/4 of the way through the audiobook version of Hitchens’s God Is Not Great over the past few days. I think I’m going to need a printed copy to really assess it fully. But is there any special reason why Hitchens should have read Marcus Borg or John Dominic Crossan? He does, in fact, cite Bart Ehrman. He also makes a few silly mistakes, like misidentifying what “synoptic gospels” are. But just based on the quotation provided, I’m not sure how well this particular criticism holds up. I’ll need to think about it—more later.


  2. >Chris,Thank you for your comment.I doubt very much that Hitchens would read Borg or Crossan. I believe that what Thistlethwaite was saying is that Hitchens has not read people who have struggled with issues of faith and still remained Christians.What Hitchens does is that he reads the Bible selectively. He can point to the violence, the killings, and contradictions of the Bible but he is not willing to accept any proposed answers to many of these problems. I would disagree with many things that Crossan has written, but even with all his skepticism, Crossan has remained a Christian.Claude Mariottini


  3. Duane says:

    >Claude,I have not read Hitchens’ book but of what I have seen of his public views, he is much much harder on Islam than he is on Christianity. He wants to bomb Moslems; he only wants to tell Christians that they are wrong and often dangerous. PZ Myers (http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2007/10/ffrf_recap.php) gives this account of a Q and A exchange after a recent speech by Hitchens,”He was asked to consider the possibility that bombing and killing was only going to accomplish an increase in the number of people opposing us. Hitchens accused the questioner of being incredibly stupid, . . . and said that it was obvious that every Moslem you kill means there is one less Moslem to fight you.”He accused his atheist audience of being soft on Islam and repeated his view that “the way to win the (cultural) war is to kill so many Moslems that they begin to question whether they can bear the mounting casualties (I am quoting Myers’ paraphrase of Hitchens’ comments).” If this really represents Hitchens’ views then he should be dismissed by everyone, theist and atheist alike, without bothering to question his interpretation of the Bible.


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