I am reading Richard Holloway’s Doubts and Loves (2001) at the moment, and find in it an antidote both to cynicism and fanaticism. It really is a wonderful book. Lesbian writer Jeanette Winterson reviews it thus:
At the centre of this book is a single explosive claim: it is better to read the Bible as good poetry than as bad science.
This will offend Creationists, Fundamentalists, Evangelicals, and those for whom poetry is as redundant as beauty. It will appeal to all of us who continue to be interested in the moral challenge of our times, and to those who are ‘haunted by the strangeness of the universe, by its sacredness, as well as by its obviousness.’…
Religious fundamentalism – the only growth movement within any faith – depends on a rejection of what is. Science is ignored, art doesn’t matter, human progress is a lie. Small wonder that few thinking and compassionate people can find a home in the Church today.
It is this dilemma that Richard Holloway explores so well. He can be trusted because he is honest. He brings himself into the experiment. This is not an objective book – it is an involved, painful, personal struggle with the Big Questions. It hardly matters whether or not we agree with him – it matters that we too get involved. Holloway quotes Paul Tillich ‘Indifference towards the ultimate question is the only imaginable form of atheism.’…
We cannot use scripture to support intolerance any more than we should use it to explain the beginning of the world. ‘Christianity is not an organisation for the reproduction of antique mental furniture, it is a movement that presents a fundamental moral challenge to humanity.’
For Holloway, the moral challenge is not who should be excluded, but how to include the whole world. We must love one another or die, is not rhetoric, it is our fiercest problem, and at the heart of Jesus’ own teaching…
You can follow Holloway’s ideas on the head link above, but even better is to read the book, which is satisfying at many levels, literary, intellectual, emotional and spiritual. My own journey has led me to see that the analysis and synthesis Holloway represents, and he is not necessarily an original thinker, is a prescription for this age if ever there was one. And the interesting thing is that it would work just as well for Islam. Not surprising really, given that Islam and Christianity are sibling religions.
Clearly, too, Holloway is of the same school of thought, though he is a retired Scottish Bishop, as Vladimir Korotkov at South Sydney Uniting Church, where the spiritual fruit of such an approach is palpable.
Encounter was great this morning; I will tell you more about it when the transcript goes up.