Dinesh D Souza, The Greatness of Christianity: Table of Contents

Cf. Dinesh D’souza, What’s So Great About Christianity, at Amazon

IN THIS BOOK THE BIBLE is read in a traditional way—that is, to discover what it actually states and means. This is not biblical literalism. One of the first literalists was the church father Origen, who read in Matthew 19:12 that there were some who made themselves “eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.” Taking the passage literally, Origen promptly castrated himself. I am not aware of any modern literalists who have put themselves under the knife in this way.

The Bible, however, uses a range of literary techniques. Some of it is straightforward narrative, as in the Gospel accounts of Christ’s life. Some of it is parable, as in the stories told by Jesus to illustrate a moral point. Some of it is metaphor, as when Jesus says, “I am the vine and you are the branches,” or when he tells his accusers, “Destroy the temple and I will raise it again in three days:’ (They thought he was speaking literally while he was referring to his bodily resurrection.) How else except as metaphor can we understand Isaiah 55:12, which describes the mountains and the hills breaking into song and the trees clapping their hands?

The church fathers typically understood scripture as operating on multiple levels. The Exodus narrative, for example, was read both as a description of actual events and as a sign of spiritual liberation. (This is how African American slaves understood it, and the hope helped to sustain many of them through the dark night of slavery.) So I reject crude literalism. But equally do I reject the view at the other extreme, which says the Bible should be read through the lens of contemporary secular assumptions. Some people want to reject the parts of scripture they find objectionable and embrace only the parts they like. This is “cafeteria Christianity” and it is worse than literalism. At least the literalist is trying to learnfrom scripture. The cafeteria Christian simply projects his or her prejudices onto the text.

Μy way of reading is neither literal nor liberal but rather contextual. Only by examining the text in relation to the whole can we figure out how a particular line or passage is best understood. This will become clear as we get into the argument of the book. At this point let’s settle on a simple operating principle: whether you regard the Bible as inspired or not, read the text in context for what it is actually trying to say.