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The Bible in a Disenchanted Age

The Enduring Possibility of Christian Faith

series: Theological Explorations for the Church Catholic

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In our increasingly disenchanted age, can we still regard the Bible as God's Word? Why should we consider the Bible trustworthy and dare to believe what it says? In this creative, accessible, and provocative book, leading Old Testament theologian R. W. L. Moberly sets forth his case for regarding the Bible as unlike any other book (and the Bible's Deity as unlike any other deity) by exploring the differences between the Bible and other ancient writings. He explains how and why it makes sense to turn to the Bible with the expectation of finding ultimate truth in it, offering a robust apology for faith in the God of the Bible that's fully engaged with critical scholarship and compatible with modern knowledge.

About the Series
The Theological Explorations for the Church Catholic series is published in conjunction with Nazarene Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri. Leading scholars in biblical studies and systematic theology from a variety of theological traditions offer brief, suggestive treatments of specific topics, exploring the cutting edge of their current interests and latest thinking for the benefit of the whole church.

1. Posing the Problem
2. Approaching the Bible
3. Towards Privileged Perspectives
4. Towards Trust and Truth
Epilogue: Towards Biblical Literacy


"This delightful little book addresses a very large question: How does reading the Bible differ from reading works that are comparable to it in important ways? Scrupulously fair and, in fact, generous to non-Christians (including contemporary skeptics), its author draws on his profound engagement with Christian sources and his immense humanistic learning to probe the challenges and subtleties--and also the rewards--of holding a commitment to a scriptural religion in our time. I highly recommend this thoughtful, sensitive, and stimulating volume. I profited from reading it and so will you!"

Jon D. Levenson, Albert A. List Professor of Jewish Studies, Harvard University

"In this gem of a book, Walter Moberly addresses the difficult question of what it might mean to trust the Bible in an era marked by distrust, particularly when any sort of religious claim is at stake. With his characteristic clarity, candor, breadth of learning, and intellectual generosity, Moberly proves a sure-footed guide through the thicket of challenges to trusting both the Bible and the God to whom it bears witness."

Marianne Meye Thompson, George Eldon Ladd Professor of New Testament, Fuller Theological Seminary

"How is reading the Bible not like reading any other book? Moberly elegantly reflects on this question, deftly articulating a distinctive account of biblical interpretation. Challenging the 'evidentialist' approach typically adopted on the right and the left, he instead develops a participatory hermeneutic of trust, in which interpretation is pursued in continuity with religious community and the biblical text is engaged with 'full imaginative seriousness.' This hermeneutic remains hospitable to other approaches and seeks to learn from them. Yet Moberly also invites renewed conversation between academic biblical study and traditional Christian faith and practice."

Stephen B. Chapman, associate professor of Old Testament, Duke University

"This book is vintage Moberly: a sensitive reading of a variety of biblical texts that provides the modern reader--whatever his or her theological inclinations--with a compelling argument for taking the message of the Bible seriously. Refreshingly free of glib truisms, it plumbs the depths of biblical religion. Reading this book is a moving experience!"

Gary Anderson, Hesburgh Professor of Catholic Theology, University of Notre Dame

"Once again, Walter Moberly has put us in his debt with his rare combination of an eye for exegetical detail and a mind to ask (and answer!) the largest and most searching questions about Scripture. Starting with a comparison of Virgil's Aeneid and the book of Daniel, Moberly works outward toward a remarkably holistic vision of how the Bible can be a vehicle of faith in God in our disenchanted world--why one would 'look here,' at Scripture, and not somewhere else. Moberly ultimately counsels both wisdom and discernment, and consistently models those virtues at every turn. He makes a fresh and compelling case for Scripture as the 'lively oracles of God,' to be sure, but does yet still more by uniting the skill of a biblical scholar with the work of a true theologian of the church universal. This book made me want to be a better Christian."

Brent A. Strawn, Duke Divinity School

"'You're gonna have to serve somebody,' Bob Dylan famously said. 'You're gonna have to trust somebody or something,' Walter Moberly says. Or rather, you do trust somebody or something: your own ideas or what your culture says. So think--about the way you approach the Bible and about your attitude to the God of the Bible. Reading this book is a rich experience, as you follow Professor Moberly in thinking about what studying the Bible means and what faith means."

John Goldingay, David Allan Hubbard Professor of Old Testament, Fuller Theological Seminary

"Walter Moberly's lucidly written book candidly explores the difficulties that those who revere the Bible as Sacred Scripture face in our postmodern context, and he illuminates a path forward by creatively reframing the discussion. Moberly is to be praised for his probing analysis, his theological insight, and especially for the balanced and lively manner in which he engages the Bible's cultured despisers."

Joel S. Kaminsky, Morningstar Family Professor of Jewish Studies, Smith College

"Theological interpreters often 'preach to the choir' and merely reaffirm assumptions held by their adherents. But in this work Walter Moberly not only provides a diagnosis of modern skeptics' disenchantment with the Bible but also offers a much-needed remedy in the form of theologically justified readings of biblical texts. Highly recommended for pastors, theologians, and biblical scholars who seek to teach the Bible as Sacred Scripture."

Bo H. Lim, university chaplain, Seattle Pacific University

The Author

  1. R. W. L. Moberly

    R. W. L. Moberly

    R. W. L. Moberly (PhD, University of Cambridge) is professor of theology and biblical interpretation at Durham University, where he has taught for more than thirty years. He is the author of numerous books, including Old Testament Theology, The Bible...

    Continue reading about R. W. L. Moberly


"An insightful, wise exegete of scripture, Walter Moberly demonstrates in this book that he is also a widely read historian and brilliant critic of contemporary culture. In the present milieu, when the Bible is no longer a 'privileged lens' through which to view things, Moberly helps readers make sense of how the Bible both is and isn't like other books. In conversation with Augustine, Lesslie Newbigin, Charles Taylor, and many others, Moberly engages in a fresh sort of apologetic--one that is less apologetic than straightforward as it weighs how ancient texts are read and how modern readers can investigate the Bible and find something worthwhile."

Christian Century

"Moberly's work is a welcome read for all kinds of readers who are curious about how to advocate for the centrality and distinctiveness of the Christian Bible in an age disenchanted with the possibility of human receptivity to divine revelation in word or world."

Rachel Toombs,

Anglican Theological Review

"Moberly is a distinguished biblical scholar who wrestles here in a profound and engaging fashion with vital questions concerning engagement with the Bible in a disenchanted age. . . . The writing of the book is lucid, and the argument is clear and persuasive. I commend it as a valuable resource to any intelligent Christians who may have taken the authority of the Bible for granted without properly considering what enables them to do so. It would be useful in apologetics, and, finally, I hope that it will be read by nonbelievers who would value this sophisticated account of how a biblical scholar who is also a committed Christian can approach his work with both intellectual integrity and faith."

John Inge,

Church Times

"Whether one comes from a high-minded Mainline Protestantism that views the Bible as a curious historical relic or a fundamentalism hell-bent on preserving inerrancy, the Enlightenment has done some serious damage to how Christians read the Bible today. Equipped with a literary and hermeneutical sophistication that is rare for Biblical studies, Moberly walks the reader through the thicket of historical-critical skepticism that undergirds both liberals and fundamentalists to arrive at faithful reading of scripture that is intellectually coherent and (perhaps even) emotionally satisfying."

Michael Bird,

Euangelion blog (Patheos)

"I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and Moberly's discriminating thesis is well argued. . . . The author establishes himself as an insightful and incisive dialogue partner to anyone interested in the larger issues at stake regarding the authority of Christian Scripture. He has clarified some important hermeneutical issues. . . . Moberly has provided a welcome gift to the primary audience, those orthodox Christians who serve vocationally as biblical scholars, theologians, priests, and pastors. His audience should thoughtfully implement the directives that address the deprecation of Christian Scripture in the current age. . . . If one's desire is to stay out of two current endemic ditches--treating divine revelation in Scripture as a 'trump card' or viewing the divine and human dimensions of the Bible in competitive terms--this book will serve as a trustworthy guide."

Michael D. Matlock,

Bulletin for Biblical Research

"In this short but substantial volume one of the leading scholars in the field of biblical theology and theological interpretation of the Bible intends to 'offer a fresh (I hope) account of the nature of the Bible and of appropriate attitudes towards it and ways of reading it.'. . . In an exegetically, literarily, and historically informed argument Moberly presents the case that it still makes sense to turn to the Bible as a source of ultimate truth."

John R. Barker, OFM,

The Bible Today

"Moberly is one of the most important practitioners of the theological interpretation of Scripture among Old Testament scholars. . . . Moberly deals candidly with the contemporary challenges to approaching the Bible in a way that takes both academic study and Christian faith seriously. . . . I recommend this book to Christians who seek a way to affirm academic and confessional readings of the Bible and to scholars who desire to articulate how the Bible is and is not 'like any other book.'"

Barry A. Jones,

Review and Expositor

"A fresh account of the nature of the Bible and of appropriate attitudes toward it and ways of reading it. . . . [Moberly] concludes that a key issue in having faith/belief/trust in what the Bible says has to do with where one places one's trust in life and why, and that Christian belief is a matter of recognizing Jesus in the NT as the person who supremely makes sense of life in the world and God."

New Testament Abstracts

"If . . . you are interested in a rich and thought-provoking exploration of how we can consider the validity of the Bible in the modern world, then you will be satisfied. Far from giving clear answers, Moberly invites us into a conversation, of which this is only the beginning."

Matthew van Maastricht, APC,

Sharing the Practice

"This small book is [Moberly's] attempt to defend the traditional Christian belief that the Bible is God's Word in human words, but his argument breaks with traditional defenses of the Bible on account of its historical reliability or through the logic of divine revelation. As such, it is pitched perfectly for Christians who recognize that we can no longer assume that people outside the church will grant that the Bible should be taken seriously because it's God's Word--no matter how loudly we say it is. . . . Written with humor and charity, The Bible in a Disenchanted Age is challenging without being difficult, and learned without feeling heavy. Moberly admits that some will find his defense of the Bible too theologically thin, while others will find it too thick. I found it just about right, and I suspect that pastors, teachers, elders, chaplains, and others who love the Bible and work among the 'disenchanted' will agree."

Todd Statham,

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