“Not yet a Christian”

Received this email yesterday…

Dear Dr. Lamb,

I just finished your book “God Behaving Badly”. I am not yet a Christian, but have been on a decade and a half progression from being in Dawkins/Hitchens mode to being presently a deist who is friendly and curious about the faith. I’ve even recently started attending a church and (gasp!) reading the Bible. A big obstacle (that I knew was coming) was the subject of your book. Thank you for helping me gain a better understanding of Yahweh. You’ve provided me with another nugget to chew on.

Upon finishing the Pentateuch, another very unexpected obstacle has gotten in my way. You came tantalizingly close to addressing it: the fact that God is quite often a person, even at times a mundane regular dude. To me, this wreaks havoc on my understanding of the Trinity. I thought the coming of Jesus, the Word made flesh, was a singular event in history that occurred for a singular purpose. I have been intrigued by this for years because this seemingly whacked, logically absurd idea of a God-Man also has parallels in scientific discoveries (the dual nature of light, for example). To see God popping up willy nilly all over the place in human form in my mind displaces this significance and undermines Jesus’ role and uniqueness in the Trinity. In my line of thinking now, Jesus’ coming was far less special since Yahweh (or was that Jesus?) was doing it all over the place in the OT. The disciples understood the jaw-dropping nature of Jesus as God post-resurrection, but in the OT most people who encountered him as a person didn’t think much of it.

I realize this is not a single, coherent question so here goes: Is there a resource you can direct me to for a way to reconcile my misunderstanding of the Trinity with the OT accounts?

Respectfully, Jon

I replied, affirming him for his honesty and his question, made a few other comments, then recommended Christopher Wright’s, Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament (http://www.amazon.com/Knowing-Jesus-Through-Old-Testament/dp/0830816933/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1315338985&sr=1-1).  I asked for his permission to post this, hoping that others might have helpful recommendations. 

What books would you recommend for Jon?


  1. I find Terry Fretheim’s work (surprise surprise, right David?) informative on this issue. In his The Suffering of God he argues that moments of theophany are of central importance (he’s right) in understanding the God/Israel relationship in the OT. He says at several points that ancient Israel does not know a non-incarnate God, which has obvious links and tie-ins with what the New Testament proclaims. So, for your emailer, rather than seeing the ‘human’ appearances of God (theophanies) in a problematic light, see them rightly as a way of appreciating both the Old and New Testaments as a viable and unified witness to the Christian understanding of things.

  2. John, thanks for that. Fretheim appears to be the answer to all these issues. I look forward to reading more of him. I’m writing for IVP’s Dictionary of the OT: Prophetic books on “Word of God” and his article in ABD on “Word of God” has been very helpful.

  3. David, there are two scholars that I have said are, in my mind, right about (almost) everything. They are Fretheim and Brueggemann. In all seriousness, they have been formative for me in showing to me who and how God is in relation to Israel and the world, warts and all.

  4. John, Yes, I really like both Brueggemann and increasingly, Fretheim. Wise, insightful, fresh, provocative, engaging, text-focused. (Now if I could just make some progress on this IVP dictionary article…)

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