Two new Bibles targeting a young, hip — even secular — audience are hitting bookstores. One is a slick, illustrated version of the New Testament; the other is an environmentally friendly edition that takes advantage of the popularity of the green movement.
A Peek Inside 'The Book'
First, the flashy coffee-table Bible: Dag Soderberg, a secular Swedish advertising executive wondered why so few people actually read the "good book," so he set out to make it more appealing, with glossy photos and magazine packaging. The resulting publication is an illustrated version of the New Testament called Bible Illuminated: The Book.
"A coffee-table magazine is read by the many everyday, everywhere," explains Soderberg. "This is a way to make [the Bible] as available as any other magazine."
If you didn't know this was a Bible you might think The Bookwas a "goth" magazine, or perhaps something you'd find in a doctor's office. The front cover is a close-up of a translucent green eye, caked with black makeup and staring eerily from the page. On the back is a photo of a faceless figure wearing a black hooded sweat shirt.
Inside, photos of celebrities like Angelina Jolie, Bono and John Lennon are interspersed with pictures of heroic figures like Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King, Jr. A veil-covered African woman holding a young child illustrates the story of Mary and Jesus. Images taken from the news — both jarring and poignant — radiate a message of social justice.
United Methodist minister andHacking Christianity blogger Jeremy Smith says The Book is meant to provoke discussion.
Smith points to the series of images that run in conjunction with a quote from the Book of Revelation. The quote reads: "The whole earth was amazed and followed the beast …" The photographs show post-Katrina New Orleans, a four-page spread of an animal slaughterhouse in Nigeria and, finally, a picture of a man pumping gas.
"They are interpreting this with some very political and edgy and — honestly — some disorienting imagery," says Smith.
Though skeptical when he first heard about the book, Smith says he found many of the images compelling. But equally compelling, he says, is another new Bible that takes a completely different approach.
The Green Book
With its beige cloth cover, embossed with a picture of a green tree, The Green Bible is the embodiment of simplicity. Inside, passages that refer to the environment are highlighted in green.
Smith says the book catches people's attention: "I took it to a Bible study and set it down on the table and people looked at it and said, 'What is that?'"
Mark Tauber, the senior vice president at HarperOne, which publishes The Green Bible, says that the book is important in both form and function.
"The actual form of the Bible, we think, is a green product," he says, noting that the entire book is made of recyclable materials. "Then in function, it performs the function of helping people be better stewards, if you will."
Smith points out that while The Book seeks to begin a conversation, The Green Bible wants "to add to the conversation."
"Did Jesus say anything about recycling? Did God care what we do with the earth? These are the existing conversations that are emerging that I think The Green Bible contributes to," says Smith.
The book is drawing attention in secular venues, including the Earth First Web site, where bloggers offered unusual praise, which Tauber paraphrases as: "Those crazy wacko religious people … if you have to believe there is something beyond this life, this is probably a good Bible for you to read."
"It was this backhanded compliment from people not known for being so friendly to people of faith," says Tauber.
Both The Green Bible and The Book are aimed at the young. But Soderberg says that when the illuminated Bible was published in Sweden, it appealed beyond its target audience. In fact, he says, the publisher expanded the market by almost 50 percent in a year.
And Soderberg says there is no question that a new conversation about the Bible is under way in a lot of unexpected places.
He says he's seen people in offices that are very strict talking about the Bible, "because everybody flips through this magazine. … That's cool."
And an illuminated version of the Old Testament is in the works. Soderberg says it will be published in the U.S. in the spring of 2009 — just in time for Easter.
Many Americans Say Christianity Not the Only Way to Eternal Life
Sixty-five percent of all Christians say there are multiple paths to eternal life, ultimately rejecting the exclusivity of Christ teaching, according to the latest survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
Even among white evangelical Protestants, 72 percent of those who say many religions can lead to eternal life name at least one non-Christian religion, such as Judaism or Islam or no religion at all, that can lead to salvation.
Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, called the survey results “a theological crisis for American evangelicals,” according to USA Today.
“They represent at best a misunderstanding of the Gospel and at worst a repudiation of the Gospel,” the prominent evangelical theologian said.
Majorities among white evangelicals, white mainline Christians, and black Protestants who do not believe in the exclusivity of salvation say Catholicism and Judaism can lead to eternal life, Pew results show.
Smaller but still sizeable percentages (more than half) of white mainline Christians, black Protestants and white Catholics who say there are multiple ways to eternal life also say Islam can lead to salvation; among white evangelicals, 35 percent agree. And more than half of white mainline Christians and white Catholics who view heaven’s gates as wide say Hinduism can lead to eternal life compared to 33 percent of white evangelicals and 44 percent of black Protestants.
Surprisingly, Christians also believe atheism can provide a ticket to heaven. Forty-six percent of white mainline Christians, 49 percent of white Catholics and 26 percent of white evangelicals who believe many religions lead to salvation say atheism can lead to eternal life.
Mohler called the findings “an indictment of evangelicalism and evangelical preaching.”
“The clear Biblical teaching is that Jesus Christ proclaimed himself to be the only way to salvation,” he told USA Today.
Explaining the challenge many believers face in today’s culture, Mohler noted, “We are in an age when we want to tell everyone they are doing just fine. It’s extremely uncomfortable to turn to someone and say, ‘You will go to hell unless you come to a saving knowledge of Jesus.'”
The Pew Forum first surveyed Americans on the exclusivity view of salvation in 2007. The survey of 35,000 adults provided startling numbers with 57 percent of evangelical church attendees saying they believe many religions can lead to eternal life and overall, 70 percent of Americans sharing that view.
But when the survey results were released in June this year, critics reported flaws in the survey such as the Pew Forum’s definition of evangelical and the vagueness of the statement “many religions can lead to eternal life.” Critics say it was possible some respondents may have interpreted “many religions” as other Christian denominations besides their own while others might have thought more broadly to include non-Christian faiths.
The new survey, conducted July 31-Aug. 10, 2008, among nearly 3,000 adults, serves to clarify the previous findings.
And alarmingly, 52 percent of all American Christians think that at least some non-Christian faiths can lead to eternal life.
Additionally, only 30 percent of those affiliated with a religion say one’s belief determines eternal life; 29 percent say eternal life depends on one’s actions and 10 percent believe it’s a combination of belief and actions.
White evangelicals were less likely to say actions determine who obtains eternal life compared to white mainline believers, black Protestants and white Catholics; and they were more likely to agree that salvation is dependent on belief (64 percent) compared to only 25 percent of white mainline Christians.
Despite the alarming findings, the Pew Forum provided one trend that may be good news for evangelical Christians.
The percentage of evangelical Christians who say theirs is the one, true faith has gone up from 39 percent in 2002 to 49 percent in 2008. The religious exclusivity view has also grown among black Protestants, all Catholics, and slightly among white mainline Protestants.
(Source: The Christian Post)