I wanted to share more from Timothy Beal's The Rise and Fall of the Bible, especially his thoughts on how some view the Bible as an icon.
Our current understanding of the Bible is a relatively new one. Different versions of the Bible have always existed, and in the past, the concept of a singular Bible would be foreign to most Christians. There was never a standard edition, and even after the invention of the printing press, there were still thousands of different versions, according to Beal.
Beal believes that the Bible as we now know it--as a singular and cultural icon forged by Puritans, fundamentalists, and modern-day evangelicals--has come to a dead end:
The icon of the Bible as God's textbook for the world is as bankrupt as the idea that it stands for, of religious faith as absolute black-and-white certainty. Just as the cultural icon of the flag often becomes a substitute for patriotism, and just as the cultural icon of the four-wheel-drive truck often becomes a substitute for manly independence and self-confidence, so the cultural icon of the Bible often becomes a substitute for a vital life of faith, which calls not for obedient adherence to clear answers but thoughtful engagement with ultimate questions. The Bible itself invites that kind of engagement. The iconic image of it as a book of answers discourages it. (p. 21).
Pastor Mark Driscoll tweeted the other day that a lot of Christians "treat the Bible like a gun collector treats a gun. Holding it, studying it, & admiring it but never going to war & firing it." I strongly object to his use of violent imagery, but I have to admit that I agree with his underlying point. Or rather, Christians use the Bible as a weapon, firing it at others, but not actually reading its contents to discover the ethic of Jesus that asks us to put down our guns...
I suspect that the book will explore the modernist view of the Bible, and how this view fails us today. A more postmodern understanding may help us resolve the contradictions and inconsistencies found in Scripture. During my last year of college I wrote a few posts about postmodernism and faith, and I have them categorized under the tag "postmodernism." It will be interesting if Beal takes the book in this direction. Also, the philosopher Jean-Luc Marion uses the idea of "icon" in his writings, and I was exposed to some of his work in college as well. Marion sees the icon as a positive thing, so the interplay between Marion and Beal could be interesting.