Have you ever wondered what it would be like to follow every rule in the Bible? A.J. Jacobs did. The self-proclaimed agnostic (who, through the experiment, became a “reverent agnostic”), spent one year doing his best to follow 700 rules he identified in the Bible. He did it for his book The Year of Living Biblically, which will be released next month. (Jacobs previously wrote The Know-It-All, a book recounting his year reading Encyclopaedia Britannica.) He grew a beard (a serious beard!), curbed bad language and asked strangers for permission to stone them for adultery.
An article in Newsweek reports the highlights of Jacobs’ experience. When asked what rules he will continue to follow, Jacobs answered:
There’s a lot about gratefulness in the Bible, and I would say I’m more thankful. I focus on the hundred little things that go right in a day, instead of the three or four things that go wrong. And I love the Sabbath. There’s something I really like about a forced day of rest….
One thing I learned is that the outside affects the inside, your behavior shapes your thoughts. I also really liked what one of my spiritual advisers said, which was that you can view life as a series of rights and entitlements, or a series of responsibilities. I like seeing my life as a series of responsibilities. It’s sort of, “Ask not what God can do for you, ask what you can do for God.”
That observation is interesting because it sums up the spirit of the law. What, in my religiosity, can I do for God? Without reading the book, it seems that Jacobs omits the concept of grace and that God did, in fact, do a great thing for us in offering His Son as the propitiatory sacrifice for sin. As Jesus claimed: Apart from Him, we can do nothing.
Jacobs’ book will be intriguing and no doubt an easy sell. But judging by his early observations, it appears he’s missed the point.