God Behaving Badly

Why is the Bible so violent?

During the time of Noah, God wiped out humanity with a flood (Gen. 6-9).
During the time of Moses, God killed all the Egyptian firstborns and then drowned their army in the Red Sea (Exo. 12, 14).
During the time of Saul, God told Saul to completely slaughter the Amalekites (1 Sam. 15).
During the time of David, God smote Uzzah for merely trying to stabilize the Ark of the Covenant (2 Sam. 6).
During the time of Hezekiah, God destroyed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers (2 Kgs 19:35).

Why is the Bible so violent?

To hear my 38 minute response to this question, click on the video.

Christ Community Church (a multi-campus church in the Chicago suburbs) invited me to speak on violence in the Bible as a part of their summer of 2017 sermon series entitled, “Elephants, the questions we can’t ignore.”

The video begins with an moving 2-minute story that answers the question, “Do elephants really never forget?”  I appear at the 2:05 mark.

To listen to the audio, click here.

I don’t cover all the incidents of violence in the Bible, but focus on what I believe to be the most troubling one, the Canaanite conquest recorded in the book of Joshua.  Some of this material appears in God Behaving Badly, or in my Relevant article on the Canaanite Genocide.



Eight Reflections on Urbana 15

Urbana FamilyMy family arrived home at midnight last night after an amazing five days in St. Louis at Urbana 15, a gathering of 16,000 students and leaders who are interested in missions, specifically what God is doing around the globe.

It’s impossible to encapsulate the Urbana experience in a short blog, but here are eight reflections upon our five days in St. Louis.

    1. Urbana is a great place to hear from God.  Through challenging speakers (Christina Cleveland, Francis Chan, David Platt, Patrick Fung, and many more), international worship, and manuscript Bible study, we had many opportunities to hear from God. One of my favorite speakers was Allan Matamoros, a man from Costa Rica whose name means “Muslim killer” and yet he’s given his life to love and minister to Muslims.  Click here for videos of the General Sessions.
    2. Seminars are a blast. My seminar was on God Behaving Badly. Apparently my fears of low-turnout were unfounded, as the 400 chairs filled up quickly, with people forced to stand or sit around the edges of the room. (I think they confused me with David Platt.) They had to shut the doors 5 minutes early. Afterwards, they sold out of both my books.  I loved talking about troubling texts with curious students, and was happy to see Nate and Noah in the audience. Click here for an audio of my seminar (112 minutes).
    3. Manuscript Bible Study is still powerful in big groups. I’m used to doing manuscript study of Scripture in groups of 10-20. However, Shannon led a study of 800 people on four passages from Matthew’s gospel and it was phenomenal. The 16,000 attendees were divided into “small groups” of 200-800. How did the discussion work? Great question. Each study leader had a team of helpers. Shannon had 7 “minions” who facilitated discussion, ran mics around the room, and in my case managed technology and synthesized students’ questions. Noah came to Shannon’s study (Nate went to a different one with Swarthmore friends). The students loved it and kept saying they wanted to study Scripture like this with friends back home.
    4. It’s impossible to control gifted, prophetic speakers. Several times one of the speakers made an unscripted, controversial comment. However, we shouldn’t be surprised when prophetic people state things in insensitive ways. If we make the mistakes the focus, Satan wins. Let’s keep the focus on what God is doing around the world.
    5. The Directors of Missions for IV-USA (Tom Lin) and IV-Canada (Steve Colby) have something in common.  My brother, Rich Lamb helped bring them both on IV staff.  Rich was staff at UC Santa Cruz in the mid-1980’s when Steve Colby was a student, then at Harvard in the late-1980’s and early 1990’s when Tom Lin was a student.  Thanks Rich, for investing in these two quality leaders.
    6. Christians need to pray for the persecuted church. The freedom of religion we in the West take for granted cannot be assumed in many other parts of the world. Over 75% of the world live in areas of religious restriction. At Urbana we heard stories of men and women who, despite persecution and imprisonment, prayed for and loved their persecutors in costly ways. Click here to learn more about Open Doors, a ministry to persecuted Christians.
    7. I’ve missed Urbana. I went to six Urbanas as a student and as a staff (’81, ’84, ’87, ’90, ’93, ’96), but haven’t attended over the past twenty years. During this period, Shannon attended most of the Urbanas because she was on staff with IV, the organization that runs the event, but since I was no longer on staff I stayed home with the boys. This time it was awesome to attend as a family of four.
    8. Driving 900 miles to get home in one day isn’t too bad if you have four drivers. We were eager to see our dog, Tiglath.

Where you at Urbana 15? What did you think?

Talking to Atheists

Ursinus College“What about all the contradictions in the Bible?”

I was speaking at Ursinus College on Wednesday night hosted by the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship group there on the topic, “Is God Angry or Loving?” based on ch. 2 of God Behaving Badly–a talk I’ve given multiple times on campuses and at churches.  And while I love speaking on my book, the highlight of the evening came during the Q & A time (I like to call it Q & Q- because I like to ask questions), when students like Mandy asked me about all those biblical contradictions.  Mandy was one of at least two self-identified atheists who came to the meeting and asked questions.

I left the campus after 11:00 pm thinking about several things that impressed about the evening.

1) The Christians at Ursinus were talking to atheists and inviting them to hear a strange Old Testament professor talk about God.  I don’t speak to any atheists on a regular basis.

2) The atheists at Ursinus were willing to come listen to this strange OT prof.  I’ve never gone to hear an atheist speak (although I bought and read much of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion).  

3) The atheists at Ursinus were willing to ask questions to this strange prof.  I’ve been at a lot of these types of Q&A discussions, and this one was lively, engaging, and yet still civil.

Matthew asked, “How does one determine which laws from the Bible are meant to still be obeyed and which ones can be ignored?”  I asked him how does he decide and he said, “I don’t.  I’m an atheist.”  I replied, “Great, so you’re off the hook.”  We laughed.

I said, “Laws that get repeated in other parts of the Bible we know are important, like when Jesus said the two greatest commands are: 1) Love God completely (Deut. 6:5) and Love your neighbor as yourself (Lev. 19:18)–both of those are definitely still valid.  And while I prefer all cotton, I don’t worry too much about the commands to not mix different types of clothing materials (Deut. 22:9-11).”  I told Matthew, I’d love to have him in class someday.  He and Mandy were asking good questions.

How would you have responded to Matthew or Mandy?