I went to Powell’s bookstore in Portland on Labor Day. I browsed inside the rare book room, the philosophy section, and the religion section. The religion section is so big that I didn’t even get to see everything! Here are three items:
A. I was in the rare book room, and I noticed a copy of Jon Levenson’s Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son
inside of a plastic bag. I was wondering why the heck this book was
in the rare book room! I have a copy of that book, which I used for a
class, and I did not have to pay hundreds of dollars for it! It
currently goes for about $13 on Amazon! I looked more on that shelf and
noticed other books that I had.
It turns out that these books were donated by Anne Rice, and author
of vampire novels and a couple of novels about Jesus. The books have
her notes in them. Rice is known for her spiritual journey from
atheism, to Catholicism, to humanism (or whatever she believes
nowadays—-I have read in places that she has not thoroughly repudiated
Christianity). She is very well-read in religious scholarship. I even
noticed a book there that was published by Mohr Siebeck, which is a
publishing house for academic biblical scholarship. Mohr Siebeck books
are the kinds that you probably will not find in Powell’s, and they are
expensive on Amazon, albeit not as expensive as they were in that rare
book room. You will most likely find Mohr Siebeck books in college or
seminary libraries, the ones that have really good biblical studies
sections (and even some colleges with good biblical studies sections
don’t have them). I was impressed that Anne Rice delved that deeply
into biblical scholarship.
B. I saw a couple of books that I may want to check out at my nearby public library. One is David Mills’ Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism.
The cover of the book says that it “Makes the Case Against Intelligent
Design.” My impression was that this book would lucidly present
arguments against the cosmological and teleological arguments for the
existence of God. As far as I can see, Mills himself is not a
scientist, but rather a journalist who have covered science (among other
things). He may be on the atheist side what Lee Strobel is on the
conservative Christian side: a journalist who interviews scholars on his
side of the debate. I will have to read to find out!
The other book that I may read is G.K. Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man.
I have long heard of Chesterton but have been reluctant to read him,
for I feared that his writing would be too dense for me to get through.
I looked at a few pages, however, and it did not look that bad.
Chesterton argues in The Everlasting Man that Jesus Christ
uniquely fulfills the needs and longings of human beings, and he looks
at history in making his case. I may read this book, for I do expect
Chesterton to be a thoughtful read.
C. A long time ago, I listened to a debate between Christian apologist James White and Gail Riplinger on Riplinger’s book, New Age Bible Versions.
Riplinger, according to my understanding, prefers the King James
Version over other English translations, and she even argues that other
English translations promote a New Age belief system. I felt little, if
any, desire to read Riplinger’s book, especially since it seemed to me
that White had destroyed her in that debate. I doubted that she wrote
anything in that book that I would take seriously.
As I was looking through her book at Powell’s, though, it intrigued
me, somewhat. I got to see a little more where she was coming from and
where she was going in terms of her argument. On the pages that I was
reading, she was saying that the New Age movement teaches that people
can become gods. Then, she was comparing the KJV for a certain verse
with another English translation. If I am not mistaken, the verse was
Ephesians 4:24. The KJV of Ephesians 4:24 states: “And that ye put on
the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true
holiness.” Other English translations, however, state that the new self
is like God (NIV), or is in God’s likeness (NASB, NRSV).
I was a little intrigued, and yet taken aback, that Gail Riplinger
had a problem with this. I was following her rationale: the New Age
movement says humans can become like God, these English translations are
conveying that sort of message in the way that they phrase Ephesians
4:24, and so they are examples of New Age Bible versions!
But I disagreed with her conclusions, for a variety of reasons. For
one, even the KJV, which Riplinger supports, has things about humans
becoming like God or like Christ (Colossians 3:10; I John 3:2). Second,
even though the KJV is more literal than many other versions in its
rendition of Ephesians 4:24, the KJV still seems to me to be conveying
the same message: what is being created “after God,” if it is not being
fashioned after God’s likeness, particularly God’s righteousness?
Third, there is a strong tradition in historical Christianity of
believers becoming like God. Church fathers said that God became as we
are, that we might become as God is. (I did not read all of Riplinger’s
book, so I do not know if she responds to these arguments.)
Still, I found Riplinger’s argument to be interesting. I read some
of James White’s arguments against Riplinger, and White was saying that
Riplinger argued that other English translations (many non-KJV ones)
promoted a sort of works-based, rather than grace-based or faith-based,
method of salvation. I would be interested in reading Riplinger some
day, and also James White’s The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust Modern Translations? I am not interested enough to buy Riplinger’s book, but maybe I will order it on interlibrary loan.