God Explained in a Taxi Ride God Explained in a Taxi Ride

Paul Arden
ISBN 9780141032221 (0141032227)
Penguin, 2007 (128pp)
£7.99

Category: Gift Books

One way or another, you have to love this book. You'll either love its off-the-wall irreverence, questioning everything; or if you're any sort of fundamentalist — atheist, Christian, Muslim or otherwise — you'll love to hate it: just who does this guy think he is, to explain the greatest enigma of the universe in the space of a taxi ride? And who decided how long the taxi ride should be, anyway??

The book starts with a stark choice, the choice fundamentalists want to force upon us but which most of us, if we stop to think, are smart enough to realise is no choice: Darwin or God. We can either surrender to evolution or we can get religion but we can't, apparently, have both.

After that, it's a series of quirky snippets, some profound, some radical, some simply popular misconceptions and lazy thinking recycled for the umpteenth time.

Profound:

The Answer Is Blowing In The Wind
A young child asked his father if he could prove there is a God.
'I can't prove it,' he said. 'It's like the wind. You can feel it but you can't see it.' (p.38)

Radical:

A Building for Peace
If instead of showing strength by spending billions on weapons of war, the West was to build a mosque on Ground Zero, it would be a remarkable symbol of our understanding of the Islamic point of view. It would be a major step towards world peace. (p.69)

Can't quite see that idea catching on, myself... but if we were to spend the money wasted on warfare on feeding the hungry and housing the homeless instead, I think there'd be far less ill-will towards us. Why do the rest hate the West?

Popular Misconception:

The Greatest Story Ever Told
The Bible is a great read, but like Chinese whispers, the truth of it has become distorted.

It's hard to tell where history stops and legend begins

It was written long after the death of Jesus, from word of mouth and hearsay.

Translated from Hebrew into Greek and Latin, again from Latin into English, and then retranslated into what we know today as the King James Bible.

It is a book the Church wants you to believe in.

It is the Church's Bible, not God's. (p.30)

Oops. Difficult when you've deliberately restricted your own space to what you can fit into a taxi ride, I guess, but please, Mr Arden, do check your facts before coming out with such ludicrous statements.

Anyone who knows me will know that I'm no raving defend-the-Bible-at-costs fundy: I don't subscribe to any of the pop-evangelical codswallop about infallibility and inerrancy. But even my youngest nephew knows that two thirds of the Bible — the Hebrew Scriptures (or 'Old Testament' as Christians like to call it) — was written long before Jesus was born, not after he died; and most of the rest, the New Testament books, were arguably written within the lifetime of Jesus' first disciples. Check out Richard Bauckham's Jesus and the Eyewitnesses sometime, and the (somewhat longer than a taxi ride) related discussions on Chris Tilling's blog, then try to dismiss it as all "word of mouth and hearsay".

As for that lazy summary of how the Bible found it's way into the English language, you simply beggar belief... pick up a copy of Miller & Hubert's The Bible: A History (Lion Hudson, 2003, 2005) sometime; that'll help you sort your facts from your fiction. If, as you say, it's the Church's Bible, all the more reason to claim it back, read it for yourself, and read it with your eyes open, not shuttered by preconceived ideas.

Enough said: in the end this little book is a triumph, an affirmation of faith and hope in what otherwise too often seems a senseless world. There's one thing missing, however, the most important thing of all: there's no mention of love; and it's that wonderful three word definition of God, from one of the biblical writers, no less — "God is love" — that wins the day for me, and which doesn't need something as expensive as a taxi ride to say it.

Superbly and humourously illustrated as well: I loved it. Thanks, Paul - I think maybe I'm gonna have to buy one of your other books now!

Phil Groom, December 2007

Phil Groom is this site's Webmaster and Reviews Editor. He's a freelance blogger, writer and web developer who spent ten years managing the bookshop at London School of Theology alongside eight years writing web reviews for Christian Marketplace magazine before he came to his senses and went independent. You can find him on facebook or follow him on twitter @notbovvered.

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