God, the Bible, and Meaning

I started Herman Wouk’s The Language God Talks: On Science and Religion.  Here, I’ll feature something that Wouk says on pages 10-11:

“…the Bible has long been waning as the core of religious upbringing, a way of life once handed from father to son down the millennia, rooted in an epic history and an encyclopedic literature; a practical guide to the insoluble mysteries, brief joys, harsh blows, and everyday workings of a human existence.  That upbringing survives here and there among our people, but most Jewish babies—-in Israel, in America, in all the diaspora—-are born today into the world view of Feynman and Gell-Mann; and a Nobel colleague of theirs, the physicist Steven Weinberg, has written lucid books in which the insoluble mysteries loom especially large, most of all the old agnostic paradox of an orderly universe without seeming purpose.”

Of course, a number of atheists will say that people can endow life with purpose, whether there is a God or not.  Perhaps the Bible reflects one attempt to provide life with purpose—-to give people a sense of mission beyond themselves, to guide them through the ups and downs of life, and to entertain them with stories with which they can identify.

Is the Bible “a practical guide to insoluble mysteries”?  I think that it contains a lot of insights that can instruct and edify people.  I wouldn’t exactly look to it for natural scientific knowledge, for my impression is that it reflects ancient Near Eastern cosmology rather than the cosmos as current scientists understand it.  But can the Bible surprise us by addressing things that some may not expect it to address, such as what’s going on in our lives, or insights of psychology?  I think so.  I like the rabbinic statement that we can turn the Torah and turn it again and be surprised when we find something new.  Texts are complex, as are readers.

If (or, according to most scientists, since) evolution is the way things are, is life without purpose?  I don’t think so.  Of course, as I said, there are atheists who believe that we can come up with our own meaning to life, even without a God.  But I don’t believe that evolution precludes God’s existence.  Perhaps God started the whole process and has watched it unfold for many years, as complex organisms have developed and as humanoids have learned and grown, and this God desires a relationship with us.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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