Sunday, 17 April 2011

No Place for God in the Humanist Bible

We won’t find atonement in this bible.

Joel Kontinen

A.C. Grayling, who is a leading atheist philosopher, has written The Good Book: A Humanist Bible (Walter Publishing 2011). Unlike all other Bibles, it lacks the spiritual dimension entirely. Grayling has divided his work into relatively short chapters like the real Bible and even drawn up his own version of the Ten Commandments.

Grayling, a professor at Birkbeck College, University of London, chose to quote the views of leading thinkers in his 600-page book. However, instead of apostles and prophets, he decided to use the ideas of secular philosophers and other thinkers.

Ancient thinkers often had wise ideas. Many philosophers and poets discussed fundamental questions.

When speaking with Greek philosophers at Athens, the apostle Paul for instance quoted two philosophers, Epimenides and Aratus. Both writers dealt with man’s relationship to God. Epimenides, (ca. 600 B.C.), a poet from Crete, said: “For in him [God] we live and move and have our being.” Aratus (ca. 315-240 B.C. ) from Cilicia wrote: ”We are his [God’s] offspring.”

Paul nonetheless understood that thinking about God was not enough. Man has to acknowledge that God is the Creator, Redeemer and Judge, who has left clear marks of his handwriting everywhere in nature.

Grayling arranged his work in roughly the same way as the Bible, to the extent that the name of the first chapter is Genesis. However, the chapter does not describe the early days of Adam and Eve, but a major scientific breakthrough featuring Sir Isaac Newton, who noticed that an apple falls downward from a tree.

Appealing to Newton in a humanistic work is somewhat ironic, since he believed sincerely that the Bible is a true account of mankind’s history and he also defended its credibility.

The fall of the apple is in any case Grayling’s version of the Fall of man. Humanists deny the sinfulness of man and believe that people are basically good.

If history teaches us anything, it teaches us that they have not learnt much from history.

Professor Grayling probably wants to show that even humanists are capable of living the good life, as long as they heed his ten commandments:

1 Love well.
2 Seek the good in all things.
3 Harm no others.
4 Think for yourself.
5 Take responsibility.
6 Respect nature.
7 Do your utmost.
8 Be informed.
9 Be kind.
10 Be courageous: at least, sincerely try.

The list of commandments suggests that Grayling owes most of his ideas to the real Bible, although in his world man and nature replace God. The work reflects man’s desire to be independent of his Creator, to the extent that he even denies His existence – for ideological reasons.

For Grayling, the crucified Christ is, to use the apostle Paul’s words, foolishness (1 Cor. 1:24). Paul pointed out that God’s wisdom is hidden from those who do not believe: “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.” (1 Cor. 2:14, NIV).

But to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

By denying the revelation God has given, man robs himself of that what God has in store for him.


Ravitz, Jessica. 2011. Leading atheist publishes secular Bible.
CNN Belief blog
(11 April).