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The Spiritual Journey of a Baptist Minister from Christianity to the Laws of Noah

by J. David Davis

Pub Date: June 25th, 1996
ISBN: 0-88125-535-1

 An intriguing, if highly flawed, combination of memoir and polemic on why a ``Bible-thumping Baptist'' minister renounces his Christian faith and helps create the new quasi=Jewish group, Bnai Noah Raised in the heart of the Bible belt, in rural Georgia, Davis traces his growing doubts about what he sees as the ahistoricism and irrationality of Christian doctrine, including Jesus' virgin birth and divinity. Also feeling increasing disgust at the corruption of many evangelical preachers, he becomes interested in Christianity's Jewish roots, then in the Torah and Talmud themselves. Still working out of his church in Athens, Tenn., Davis helps organize others who intensely study, preach, and practice the seven ethical principles (such as prohibitions against illicit intercourse, theft, and murder) that God commands Adam and Noah, and through them all humans, to observe. All this is presented in fairly compelling prose. Unfortunately, Davis considerably undermines his presentation through an uncritical embrace of much of the theology and politics of some of the less appealing leaders of Orthodox Judaism; for example, he refers to the late, racist Rabbi Meir Kahane as ``a giant in courage.'' In addition, he frequently resorts to the gratingly absolutist, stridently self- righteous rhetoric of the radical true believer, so that he declares that ``Torah is a book of reality and everything else is fantasy,'' something most definitely not preached by classical Judaism. Finally, his work is highly uneven in its presentation of details. At one point, Davis offers pages of his arcane notes contrasting baptism and immersion in the mikveh (the Jewish ritual bath). Yet later, he alludes to, but never really details, the nature of Bnai Noah funeral. Davis helps us appreciate much of traditional Judaism and pursues his intellectual and communal work in the fascinating lacunae between the Christian and Jewish communities. But the subject of the Bnai Noah awaits a more balanced and thoughtful presentation.