Publishers call these things ARCs or Advanced Review Copies. I’d love you to have one and then if at all possible leave an honest review somewhere (like on the sites where it is offered for pre-publication). Reviews, as you know, are a currency of the Internet.
Even if you don’t feel up to reviewing it, please help yourself anyway. I’m very fond of this book and would love you to see more than the brief extracts I’ve already shared.
I will also very much welcome any comments and criticisms you may have. My wife was the first reader of the ARC and has already pointed out one or two risqué jokes that I will take out of the edition that finally appears on Feb 19, as well as other mistakes and inappropriateness. So if you want the version with risqué jokes and inappropriateness included, now’s your only chance.
Do share this with anyone you think would like it. I’ve set a download limit of 500 on the number of ARCs that can be issued and the offer all ends on Feb 18.
It isn’t hard to find stuff to read or watch that rates the Bible as a fairy story, and assumes this is a bad thing.
We need atheist critics so much. They are a blessing to us Christians, hunting down our sneaky thoughts, loose morals and slippery work. But with a grateful nod to atheist critics, let’s move on. Fairy stories. Proper fairy stories. What do they tell us?
We have to define our terms a bit. Which fairy stories are being referred to here? The Three Little Pigs with its instructions on building with proper materials? The Elves and the Shoemaker, about globalized workforces and profit-led debt-free exponential growth? Cinderella, with its important lessons on the right shoes?
And then what do we mean by the Bible? The Bible is a book-room, not a book, and treating the Bronze Age literature section as if it was the sharpest modern non-fiction, or indeed something with the conventions of the fairy story, is sloppy thinking. There’s a world of assumptions and background we need before we get on board with say, Noah. But even if we knew what a fairy story was, and even if the Bible was one, it’s not so bad:
The world isn’t a buttoned down, uptight, Star Trekky, hygienic, modernist paradise. Given the story of science so far, how can we not think that out there are paradoxes, non-intuitive answers, total surprises, and perspectives that most of today’s scientists will never accept. Einstein disliked quantum mechanics. Florence Nightingale was a germ theory sceptic. At times, science has had to progress a funeral at a time. Only when you bury a senior and respected professor, only when you let the young ones have the tenure, do scientific paradigms really shift. Sadly. Proper fairy stories are an antidote to the atheist delusion of a clean-shaven, 1950s, rational Universe. A story about a goose laying golden eggs properly prepares the youthful mind for a world where the Fed creates billions of dollars out of thin air or quantum physicists add infinity here and there to ‘re-normalize’ their theories. It’s life, Jim, but not as we know it. Fairy stories darken and ruffle the placid lake of the textbook. Good.
Fairy stories inspire intellectual humility. Which is surely a never a bad thing.
Fairy stories convey truth. Beware of the wolf, for example. Don’t look a gift-granny in the mouth. Gingerbread houses are a gateway to abuse.
Fairy stories remind us there is such a thing as evil.
Fairy stories leave room for wonder. Wonder is not the start of teflon slide towards gullability. It is the right human response to the astonishing. And it is as appropriate to someone looking at the Hubble deep-field view of the most distant galaxies as it is to someone reflecting on the resurrection of Christ. Wonder is what happens when you accidentally peek round a door and catch God at work. A capacity for wonder is useful bit of human kit to carry around with us. Fairy stories help.
But I still resent it, a bit, when the Bible is accused of being a fairy story – a vaguely moral Eurocentric fable with fantastic elements. Here’s what ‘fairy stories’ don’t do:
Inspire architecture, art and jurisprudence down through the centuries
Grip people so much that, defending them they will be burnt alive, crucified upside down or sawn in two (though obviously not all at once).
Cause millions of people around the world to rise early to read and then resolve to be decent, kind, to do justice, to bring peace, to serve others, and to make the world beautiful and whole.
Help you die
Comfort the lonely, bring peace to the old, raise tears, dry tears, get people to forgive the unforgiveable, or (in the case of Martin Luther for example) enable them to overthrow a continent-wide instance of religious totalitarianism.
Advent (the four Sundays before Christmas) is a time of waiting.
I don’t know if you’ve ever wondered, why did God take so long? God made promises to Abraham but then Jewish history meandered for 2000 years until Jesus came.
One thought is that through that long wait everything had been tried –slavery, empire, exile; theology, literature, philosophy– but nothing had been found to satisfy the human soul or give coherence to the human story. History’s crayon, like a brass-rubbing, only revealed the outlines of a missing King.
God made us wait. Perhaps that should still be an intentional component of our lives. Surely we can be too hasty, casual, or on autopilot in our approach to God. Perhaps next time we are stuck in a long night of insomnia, or even waiting for a bus, we can re-use the time and redirect our thoughts to seek to know him better, to love him, to meet him.
I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’ (Lamentations 3:24, in the Old Testament)