How to tell the biblical story in a way that makes a difference

P.OSTOST

22 Jun 2022

Matthew Hartke posted a couple of pages from Robert Carroll’s book When Prophecy Failed: Cognitive Dissonance in the Prophetic Traditions of the Old Testament on Twitter last week. It got me fretting. The argument of the book is that there is evidence in the Old Testament of how Israel sought to mitigate the failure of prophecy either by revising prophecy or by revising history, and that cognitive dissonance theory helps us to understand the psychological or sociological processes underlying the accommodation. The thesis gets at the heart of Hartke’s own rejection of Christianity, which he states very well:

I couldn’t help reaching the conclusion that Christianity itself, in all its various iterations, was the product of our widely attested tendency to cling to our deeply held beliefs when they come into conflict with reality, rationalizing away the conflict instead of letting go.

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