The subtitle of this book is: Risky choices facing contemporary Christians. Published by Morning Star Publishers in 2016.
Keith Mascord is a Canadian-born Australian who has been a teacher, a priest, and academic and a chaplain. During the 1990s he taught philosophy at Moore Theological College (Anglican) where he journeyed out of fundamentalism. Also author of Leaving Fundamentalism in a Quest for God (2012)
The Hon Michael Kirby says of this book: Mascord explains that rationality, truthfulness and the love of God are the ingredients essential to the efforts to revive Christianity in countries in steep religious decline, such as Australia. His is a message for all Christians everywhere – but particularly for evangelical Protestants as they approach the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s fateful Reformation.
Dr Val Webb says this is a must read for those who struggle with biblical literalism, inerrancy of Scripture, male headship and anti-homosexuality within their Christian denomination, and an invaluable resource for those in dialogue with friends and relatives holding such views.
There is a consensus amongst reviewers that this book is well written. To me it was valuable because it focussed on the issue that is at the core of the differences between most Evangelicals and Progressives – literalism.
In a novel and authentic way Mascord has shown how literalism does not work – by drawing on the life experiences of people whose personal reflections could be that of many others. He has also demonstrated how, often, a commitment to literalism has backed many into unwinnable corners.
Some of the more obvious conundrums are dealt with early:
- Why are humans and animals created twice?
- Who are the other people that Cain is afraid might kill him?
- Who was Cain’s wife? Was she his sister?
- How many animals did Noah take into the ark – two of each or seven pairs of the clean and one pair of the unclean?
- Did Methuselah drown in the flood?
Mascord also identifies the many ways in which these and other controversies have been explained by interpreters through the ages.
In the search for meaning in the Bible, it is worth noting how Origen in the third century saw the cryptic and metaphorical nature of the lessons in the Bible and while describing much of the literal interpretation as silly, he did not take away any of the high values of the stories and even found deeper meanings than those not seen through literal eyes.
Mascord makes many suggestions for the contemporary reader of the Bible. Standing out was his suggestion that we must become content with uncertainty. There is much we don’t know. There are many things about which we are reasonably uncertain. There is very good reason to think that our interpretations of individual biblical passages are not the only valid interpretations.
To be anything other than humble is to be out of touch with reality.