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CHAPTER AND VERSE by Michael Bryan

CHAPTER AND VERSE

A Skeptic Revisits Christianity

By Michael Bryan

Pub Date: July 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-394-57509-1
Publisher: Random House

 The singularly uninspired account of how agnostic sportswriter Bryan (Dogleg Madness, 1988) entered a fundamentalist seminary, studied and argued over the Bible, joined a missionary expedition to El Salvador--and found his life unchanged. Bryan spent the spring term of 1989 in residence at Criswell College in Dallas, a stronghold of Southern Baptist conservatism. His stated purpose was investigative rather than theological: He was interested in fundamentalism, intended to write a book on the subject, and wanted to know more about it. The reality turned out to be more complex than he had imagined. His classmates were quite likable, by and large, and his teachers (despite the precision of their creed) were remarkably open. Their obvious, almost single- minded dedication to biblical Christianity fascinated Bryan, who had abandoned Methodism in his youth and seems never to have found an adequate substitute. Throughout, he compares them with ``liberal Christians'' (who, he says, try to accommodate their faith within the framework of modern philosophy) and credits them with more consistency and passion. More than once, Bryan claims, he was tempted to present himself for baptism, and in a Catholic church in El Salvador he began to understand the reality conveyed by the ideas of ``sin'' and ``redemption.'' His story remains essentially voyeuristic throughout, however, because at no point does he seem willing to meet his classmates on their own terms. His skepticism is never relinquished long enough to make his encounter with theism seem like more than a diversion, and this undermines the significance of the whole undertaking. A disappointing tale, which tries without much success to provide new insights on an unfamiliar world.