The Bible: Reality Above Consolation

This problem [of election] deeply troubled the rabbis and early Christians. It became, as we all know, a major source, if not the major source of controversy, in the time of the Reformation. Writers across the spectrum, from Catholic to Lutheran to Calvinist, probed the Bible, and especially the key text in the Bible on the problem of election, Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, for an answer to the question: Who is chosen? (and its corollary: How do I know if I am chosen?). On this issue alone wars were fought and thousands brutally slaughtered, as well as the greatest poetry written, in the course of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. And though the Enlightenment brought an end to the bloodshed, the continuing importance of Romans in Protestant theology testifies to fact that it remains a central issue in Christian thought. In light of this it might appear casual, to say the least, to suggest that the question has been wrongly posed, but that is what I propose to do.

And, incisively, and entertainingly, Gabriel Josipovici develops his argument in the first of his collection of essays in The Singer on the Shore

Tackling the luminaries of contemporary English literature with aplomb is a playground spat by comparison.

This first essay is an auspicious beginning. Without marring the development of Josipovici’s argument I will end with a short excerpt of the conclusion:

It is remarkable that a religious document should place narrative above theology, reality above consolation in this way. But the Bible does. And it does so, it seems to me, because it recognises that in the end the only thing that can truly heal and console us is not the voice of consolation but the voice of reality.

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