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How the Bible Works: An Anthropological Study of Evangelical Biblicism (Cognitive Science of Religion)

4.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0759106659
ISBN-10: 0759106657
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Brian Malley's ethnography brims with bold new insights and counter-intuitive ideas about how conservative evangelicals know 'what the Bible says.' After deftly disposing of literalist clichés, he shows how their interpretive traditions combine with an absence of hermeneutic method and their desire for daily relevance to 'bring the Bible alive' for each generation. A must-read for anyone curious about what Bible belief really is and how it happens. (Susan Harding, University of California, Santa Cruz)

This is an exciting time for students of religion, with new competing theories drawing on cognitive anthropology and psychology, and on evolutionary biology. With this first in-depth case-study of a religious movement based on these novel ideas, Brian Malley makes an outstanding contribution to the ongoing debates. (Dan Sperber, French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)

About the Author

Brian Malley studied comparative religion at Western Michigan University (M.A., 1994) and anthropology at the University of Michigan (Ph.D., 2002). He currently lectures in psychology at the University of Michigan. His main interests are religion and the intersection of culture and cognition.
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Product Details

  • Series: Cognitive Science of Religion
  • Paperback: 184 pages
  • Publisher: AltaMira Press (April 30, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0759106657
  • ISBN-13: 978-0759106659
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #773,939 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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Did his homework as a churchgoer and scholar. Writes in a stylistically formalized way. Speaks of evangelicals as objects of historical curiosity. Dismisses, it seemed to me, the important question of whether or not the Bible actually can carry divine authority.

The thing I liked the most was his careful rhetorical analysis of a portion of a real-live sermon. He showed how the Bible is used, well in this case I think, to demonstrate contemporary relevance for Americans.
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Format: Paperback
This book really made me think through how the Bible functions in churches and my own experience is that the church studied by the author is typical of Protestant churches in general. One point that I found interesting to ponder is 'what does it mean when we say that the Bible teaches such and such' - what does the word 'Bible' refer to? It clearly doesn't refer to the original texts nor does it refer to any specific physical instance of a Bible or to any particular version so what does it refer to? It isn't an easy question to answer. Interviiewees recognized that there were differences in literalness between different version yet still considered all of them to be Bibles. It isn't something you think about until someone draws it to your attention but once you start thinking about it, it does indeed seem an enigma. And I think that is one of the strengths of this study: to make the familiar seem unfamiliar so that you can look at it with new eyes and perhaps realize that you don't fully understand what you had previously taken for granted.
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Format: Paperback
I read this book for Dr. Malley's Introduction to Anthropology course at the University of Michigan, and I was impressed. His knowledge of how the Bible is seen by churchgoers is second to none, and throughout the book the reader comes to "know" the people a the Creekside Baptist Church, though that name is a pseudonym. I wouldn't recommend this book for coffee-table reading, as there are lots of technical details; it is better suited for a reader in the academic field.
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