Sometimes I just become amazed at the lack of logic and precision in our every day discourse...well, maybe I am not amazed but frustrated. It seems we have lost the desire to create valid and sound arguments in making our case. I ran across such an example a few minutes ago when receiving an e-mail from a friend. The e-mail was regarding The Green Bible and some of the sales pitch associated with the volume. Let me from the outset here state clearly a few things.
First, I am 100% committed to stewardship of creation, not trashing the planet and living green in a reasonable way. Not that I am down with worshiping creation rather than the creator like many can do...nor am I an dvocate of attempting to save ones soul by lowering one's carbon footprint. Obviously there are forms of environmental idolatry out their that are as fanatical as any fundamentalist religion. Yet I am thrilled to now live in a community that has a wonderful curb side recycling program and recycling centers very close to where we live. I just replaced the light bulbs in my bathroom and bought the more expensive, but long lasting kind that use less energy and make Al Gore smile. Furthermore, I am all for a Bible that is printed with soy ink on recycled paper. Hooray! OK, with that said, this is some shtick associated with the Green Bible which is troubling theologically and some that is just faulty reasoning and stupid logic. Now on to my rant for today.
First, one of the design features of the Bible that is green is that it "green letters" the verses that mention the earth and creation care. Now what is a bit strange about this is the format. It could have simply highlighted the verses, had commentary etc. but in making a "Green letter" edition it is obviously connecting to the tradition in Christianity of turning some letters red. In many Bibles the direct words of Jesus, the Lord God incarnate, are highlighted in red so as to see what he actually articulated. This in itself is problematic in that these words are not "more important" than the other printed words but it does highlight the importance of Jesus. What the green letter book is doing is using that to parallel the high importance of the Bible's message about "the earth." Again, not against the earth or being green - but it does seem fishy to set off this message from the Scriptures as if it was the central focus of the book (like Jesus is). This seems to be driven by an agenda from outside of Scripture rather than from its own pages. OK, now on to a lesson in logical fallacies.
In its print, online and video marketing materials, the publishers of the Green Bible make this statement:
The Green Bible will equip and encourage people to see God's vision for creation and help them engage in the work of healing and sustaining it. With over 1,000 references to the earth in the Bible, compared to 490 references to heaven and 530 references to love, the Bible carries a powerful message for the earth.
Now, my professor in one of my graduate classes in philosophical logic used to say that we should not advocate the saying of stupid things. He was of course referring to things that were logically fallacious in a formal sense...which of course is very much the vernacular of so much spin today. Let me show you the message that the Green Bible team is communicating:
- Heaven and Love are important Biblical teachings
- Heaven and Love are mentioned only 490 and 530 times respectively in the good book
- The "earth" is referenced over 1000 times in the Bible!
- Therefore the earth is a very important teaching in the Bible!
Now, I am not saying that you cannot make the case for the stewardship and care for the creation from Scripture. In fact, I think it is an easy case to make. Yet this argument is clearly no argument at all for the importance of the earth. It is fallacious on several levels.
First, it is a clear non sequitur; the conclusion does not follow logically from its premises. Simply because something appears in a book a number of times does not make it central to its message. It may be significant if something is repeated but one has to look at how "earth" is used to make an argument from this. For instance, just mentioning the earth does not make an argument for "creation care" or "contemporary environmentalism" For instance the Bible talks about the earth swallowing up people, being cursed, people bowing their face to the earth, the earth having detestable things on it, being destroyed etc. etc. None of these have anything to do with the marketing message of the Green Bible. What the Bible actually is teaching when it refers to the earth, creation etc. is much more important than the fact that a word is used a whole bunch of times.
Anyway, I am enjoying the turning of the leaves here in my home town and thanking God for the beauty of his world and for recycling. Furthermore, red letter Bibles at least correctly focus a reader on the importance of Jesus. To me the green letter one has the potential to lead some people to completely miss the main point of Scripture - the person and work of Jesus. But it could be a best seller and make people lots of money. Yet even in the NRSV translation (which I do not recommend) there will still be good things found in the green version of the good book. So while I don't want us to buy into this nonsensical marketing spin I do hope people do read of the saving Christ...even by reading in the green book.