Peter J. Gomes, minister in The Memorial Church at Harvard since 1974 and also Plummer Professor of Christian Morals at the College, reveals that Johann Sebastian Bach used to write at the top of the first page of every new composition the Latin words Soli Deo Gloria: Glory to God Alone. He adopts that ritual before plunging into this expansive and dramatic examination of what the Bible is, how it has been used and abused, and the interplay between Scripture and the human condition.
Gomes explores the important place of the Bible in Protestant Christianity and the modern crisis of biblical illiteracy. He discusses the Bible's public nature; its dynamic, living qualities; and its inclusivity. The author then moves on to the three temptations of bibliolatry, literalism, and culturism. Even with these warps of interpretation, the Bible continues to exert its influence on believers as men and women disagree vehemently about its "hard" texts. In a series of fascinating chapters, Gomes investigates the Bible and race, anti-Semitism, women, homosexuality, the good life, suffering, joy, evil, temptation, wealth, science, and mystery.
The preacher and teacher in the author knows that people desire to be and to do good. They turn to the Good Book for guidance but oftentimes are confused about what it has to do with their lives and the complex happenings in our world:
"The Bible has a talismanic quality, with magical, even oracular powers attributed to it. This is why brides are given a Bible bound in white to take down the aisle on their wedding day; this is why oaths in court are sworn on it, and why presidents take their oaths on it as well. Many are the stories of soldiers in war whose lives were saved when a bullet meant for them was stopped by the leather-bound Bible in the breast pocket of their battle dress. 'Swear on a stack of Bibles' is the ultimate request for truthfulness, and 'It's in the Bible' is the ultimate clincher to a religious argument among Christians. In our churches the place of honor given to the physical artifact of the Bible would confirm that impression."
Gomes has taken a very difficult subject and admirably covered a wide range of topics with clarity and spiritual depth. This is one New York Times bestseller that truly hits the mark!