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What’s Wrong With This Paragraph?

Peter Berkowitz reviews God is Not Great: However, isolating the supposed religious significance of the Bible from the communities and interpretive traditions that have elaborated its teaching is invalid. It is like deriving the meaning of the Constitution today by … Read More

By / July 18, 2007

Peter Berkowitz reviews God is Not Great:

However, isolating the supposed religious significance of the Bible from the communities and interpretive traditions that have elaborated its teaching is invalid. It is like deriving the meaning of the Constitution today by reading its provisions without reference to "The Federalist Papers," which provides authoritative commentary on its principles; without reference to the two centuries of cases and controversies through which the Supreme Court has sought to construe its meaning; and without reference to the two centuries of experience through which the American people have sought to put the institutional framework it outlines into practice.

One thing that has never been "elaborated" — if the word is taken to mean "rendered equivocal" — is that the Ten Commandments were given to Moses by God on Mount Sinai and thus constitute a divine covenant between man and his creator. The words of that covenant are God's own, and should man violate any of them, then he is guilty and sinful in the eyes of the Lord. They are laws not subject to revision or change. (In the case of the Koran, which Berkowitz doesn't mention at all, the whole text was supposedly dictated by Allah to Mohammed via the Archangel Gabriel, so a literal interpretation of that book, in its entirety, is both correct and necessary by anyone not endeavoring to call God's wisdom into question.)

Compare this to the Federalist Papers and the Constitution of the United States, both documents that exert themselves to show just how man-made they are. The former represents a written debate over the proper design of an embryonic secular republic, while the latter saw fit to leave room for future amendment and revision. Isn't that a sign of the professed fallibility of the Founders?

Berkowitz, like other thoughtful believers, strains to keep Bronze Age fairy tales compelling and relevant. Imagine all that intellectual energy refocused into more useful pursuits…

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