Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Knowledge is good

E.D. Hirsch Jr. in Cultural Literacy argued that there are things that “every American needs to know." Biblical literacy ought to be among them:
At times, a tiny cultural moment can reflect a titanic sociological shift. Such is the case with a 10-second video clip from Jeopardy! On July 12, 2023, one of the “Double Jeopardy” categories was “Walking and Talking.” The clue: “This Bible book gives us the line ‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.’” All three contestants—undoubtedly all highly educated individuals, as Jeopardy! candidates tend to be—stared blankly in silence until the signature buzzer sounded. ....

A single instant on Jeopardy! provokes us to ponder what has been lost. The tragic irony is that the entire story of Western culture is, in a sense, indebted to the Psalms; even if one does not believe in the theology expressed in the biblical book, one cannot understand the history of literature without it. The greatest of English writing—from Shakespeare to the modern novel—provides a window into the interiority of the human psyche. But this was not learned from the works of Homer, or Ovid, or Sophocles. Only in the Bible, and especially in the Psalms, could ancient literature provide such a window on man’s ability and need to look within. It is difficult to believe that the humanist literature of the West would have been possible without David’s inspiration and example. ....

But the Psalms are most essential because of their theology. In an ancient age when the state reigned supreme; when the monarch was worshipped as a god, the Psalms presented us with a king named David who assured his subjects that there was something, Someone, higher than he, to Whom he owed everything, and to Whom even the most powerful of rulers will be called to account. .... (more)

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