The Great Partnership – a great book

I have read many of Jonathan Sacks’s books and I enjoyed every one of them. I have just finished reading The Great Partnership: God, Science and the Search for Meaning (now available in paperback) and I loved it. In it Sacks argues that science and religion need each other. Like the left and right sides of the brain, science and religion provide different modes of engagement with the world. They are separate but complementary. ‘Science takes things apart to see how they work. Religion puts things together to see what they mean.’

Jonathan Sacks is, of course, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth. He writes then from a Jewish perspective but draws on the wisdom of all three Abrahamic faiths to argue that religious faith can be held and practised by reasonable, rational people and has an important part to play in the creation and maintenance of a good society.

As a Christian, I think this book is better than most of the specifically Christian apologetic works I have read. In fact, at most of the points where Sacks offers a Jewish rather than Christian interpretation of a passage of scripture I found myself in agreement with him. His handling of the first three chapters of Genesis, for example, is brilliant. The chapter, ‘Why God?’ offers an eloquent defence not only for belief in God but also for the benefits of belonging to a community of faith. It reminded me why I became a minister in the first place. So far, this is my book of the year. I bought my copy at St Deny’s theological bookshop in Manchester but it is available everywhere and will soon be displayed prominently in our church library.

Daily Bible reading

In our Sunday morning worship this week we heard Bible readings from Psalm 15, Mark 7.1–8, 14, 15, 21–23 and James 1.17–27. I based my sermon mainly on James 1 particularly verse 17: “Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights . . .” and verse 22: “But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves”.

Although I hoped to emphasize doing rather than merely hearing the word, I did recommend daily Bible reading as one of the ways we might hear. Afterwards, I was asked privately about my thoughts on Bible-reading plans and notes so I decided to include a few here.

Having used many different Bible-reading notes through the years, I now find the publications from IBRA to be the most helpful. I regularly use Words for today and also see Light for our path. Available here, I recommend them both as well as the daily reading scheme on IBRA’s website. I like the fact that they contain a full year’s readings and notes so I don’t have to think about or keep receiving extra booklets every month or quarter.

The daily lectionary readings for morning and evening prayer are also very useful.  These consist of Bible readings for every morning and evening of the year. These can be accessed on the Internet either as independent sets of readings here or and as part of the Church of England’s daily prayer service here. These are excellent resources that you can bookmark for daily viewing.

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