Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Ward's What the Bible Really Teaches - a short review

Keith Ward’s new book, What the Bible Really Teaches: A Challenge for Fundamentalists, is a very readable and thought-provoking volume that demonstrates a good deal of learning and wisdom. It touches upon such subjects as resurrection, morality, the nature of the Scriptures, the atonement, etc., and so being a short book, each subject is only briefly dealt with.

On the questionable side first:

1) It is unlikely that Ward actually poses a challenge to Fundamentalism as much as he does Evangelicalism. It is not merely Fundamentalism that his arguments threaten, but that which I would say most Evangelicals hold dear. So perhaps the book title, and his constant reference to Fundamentalists (as deliberately distinguished form what he considers to be Evangelical) is a little misleading. The book is thus a challenge to main stream Evangelicalism, and as far as this is true, his book is an attempted redefinition of ‘Evangelical’.

2) His treatment of the scriptures is, I feel, at times as questionable as the Fundamentalism he critiques. This was seen in his exegesis of 1 Cor 15.

3) His interpretation of what Fundamentalism (read Evangelical) meant was at times a little dubious. For example, his caricature of Fundamentalist teaching on resurrection seemed to me to be quite the opposite of reality – they can hold a notion of eschatology that is thoroughly world-denying, contra the thrust of Ward’s argument.

4) What an awful name for a book! - a tad too assertive for my tastes!

Now my gripes are out of the way, it needs to be said that this is a wonderfully thought-provoking and exciting little book - keeping me up for more than one late night! The last two chapters (not the conclusion) were, to my mind, the best, in which he tackles ‘universal salvation’ and ethical questions like the role of women in the Church, homosexuality and the like. He goes right to the very heart of the questions, is clear about the problems and issues, and carves his own thoroughly reasonable response – taking certain points head on that lurk in the back of the mind, but often for piety’s sake remain hidden. However, numerous questions remain unanswered (it is a small book), and this is a volume that will probably not convince a Fundie to adopt Ward’s perspective on things too easily - nor, at least in regard to every detail of his case, should it in my opinion.

Nevertheless, it’s a book I will remeber for a long time. It was quite a ride.


At 4/05/2006 10:00 AM, Anonymous David Wilkerson said...

Sounds interesting. I'm assuming he claims Paul does not teach a bodily resurrection in 1Cor15? I ask because I am leaning that way as well.

"taking certain points head on that lurk in the back of the mind, but often for piety’s sake remain hidden"

Not easy or fun.

At 4/05/2006 10:49 AM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Correct, yes, he denies the bodily resurrection in 1 Cor 15. I've been influenced far too much by Thiselton and Wright on this one. But the problem was the nature of his argumentation at this point which I felt was a bit too proof-texty shallow, i.e. didn't contextualise.


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