I read an interesting article from Newsweek‘s managing editor Jon Meacham in which he gives positive mention to Anglican bishop (and biblical theology super-stud) NT Wright, especially for his books The Challenge of Jesus, Simply Christian (new this year), and The Resurrection of the Son of God (academic). The context is the opening of The Da Vinci Code in theaters. Meacham is a historian, and therefore is frustrated with Dan Brown’s fiction presenting itself as maybe historical fiction (in which the characters and story are made up, but the historical elements that provide the setting are accurate. Brown’s “historical elements” are inaccurate by all repudable accounts–regardless of theological perspective). Meacham is suggesting alternatives for folks to read instead of The Da Vinci Code that would be more profitable to them (though I still plan to read it…maybe when we get settled in Houston!).
I really appreciate a church-goer (Meacham is Episcopalean) who writes for a mainstream news weekly suggesting that people read one of the great orthodox bishops and biblical theologians in the world today like NT Wright. So I’ll join him in that recommendation. But I’ll take issue with an underlying presumption about his other book recommendations (though not with the books themselves). Meacham seems to view all religions as humankind’s reaching out to God, an effort on our part to seek the Divine. While I’ll agree that the vast majority of humankind across time and the globe has been interested in seeking God, Christians (and as best I can tell, Jews and Muslims too) believe that their descriptions of God and understanding of his will and the like are not based on their best searching, but on God’s gracious self-revelation in historical events. This self-revelation, we believe, is shared with us faithfully and trustworthily through sacred texts, that is, scripture. In fact, some of us believe that any truth about God found in other religions is there not because of humanity’s cleverness, but because God has left a witness to himself in those religons or cultures–not the fullness of self-revelation, as in Jesus Christ, but something that may lead them to him through Christ. It’s a daring belief–that what we know about God is not due to our own diligence in searching after him, but to his generosity in making himself known to us–but it is that belief that makes our religion divine, and not human, in origin.