Christianity Today

CT Discusses a Genocidal God

How do we reconcile the loving God of the Old Testament with the harsh God of the New Testament?

28356That’s how I begin God Behaving Badly but the most recent edition of Christianity Today (July/August 2013) flipped the question around, asking how to reconcile the wrathful, legalistic God of the OT with the loving, gracious God of the NT.  I think that’s the way people are used to hearing it asked.

I love the fact that CT is addressing this subject.  We don’t talk about the problematic texts in the Bible enough, but atheists like Richard Dawkins are bringing them up in public forums.  Christians unfortunately don’t have good answers, probably because these subjects never get discussed in church.  I hope CT gets something started here.

CT addresses the topic with four articles:

1) A short intro by editor Mark Galli, “A Paradox Old and New.”  He mentions God Behaving Badly (thanks for that), as well as books by Paul Copan and Eric Seibert.  In the online version this article appears at the end of the Buchanan article (see next).

2) “Can We Trust the God of Genocide” a pastor’s (Mark Buchanan) response.

3) “Gentiles in the Hand of a Genocidal God” (titled “We are all Rahab Now” in the print version) by a philosophy professor at Eastern University.

4) “Learning to Love Leviticus” by Christopher Wright, one of my favorite OT scholars.

While we’re on the subject, here’s my take on the Canaanite Genocide, from Relevant Magazine (Sept-Oct 2011), “Reconciling the God of Love with the God of Genocide.”  To get the whole article, you’ll need to register with Relevant (or email me).

Here’s the CT excerpt of God Behaving Badly, the dreaded wedgie for a wedgie story:

When do you discuss the problematic God of the OT?  At church, Sunday school, dinner with your family, or never?  

Thinking about anger this week?

Christianity Today‘s Men of Integrity blog has been going through portions of chapter 2 of God Behaving Badly (Is God angry or loving?) in its daily devotions.

I mentioned this a few days ago, but I wanted to include all the posts for the week in one place if you are interested.  Here they are:

Sunday: Angry, Crabby and Snarky

Monday: Slow to Anger

Tuesday: Steadfast Love

Wednesday: Judgment Deferred

Thursday: Anger ‘and’ Love

Friday: Don’t just skip it



The Pursuit of God

“Tonight’s speaker is the sister-in-law of the author of that great book we were reading through as a fellowship this summer.”  This was how my wife Shannon was introduced yesterday before speaking at the InterVarsity chapter at Lehigh University.  The group had been reading The Pursuit of God in the Company of Friends by my brother Rich Lamb (IVP, 2003).  (My entire life I’ve been known as the younger brother of Rich Lamb the celebrity and author.)

Have you ever noticed that Jesus almost never spent time with his disciples individually.  Jesus also didn’t focus on speaking and preaching to the crowds, but he focused on being with the twelve.  Not huge crowds, not one-on-one.  Rich argues that in the Bible discipleship happens in the context of community.  Unfortunately, we don’t really know how to do that in the church.

Here is what David Neff (Christianity Today editor) says, “Everybody complains about American individualism, but nobody does anything about it.  Rich Lamb is the rare writer who actually sketches a practical map of the path from solitary Christianity to the place where we meet God in the company of others.”  Other endorsers include Kelly Monroe, George Verwer, Brian McLaren, Gordon MacDonald, Os Guinness, Ron Sider, Tom Sine, Don Everts, Paul Tokunaga, Steve Hayner, Mary Ellen Ashcroft, Leighton Ford, David Gill, Richard Peace.  An impressed group.

Derek Cooper, one of my colleagues here a Biblical Seminary, told me a few weeks ago that he just met a student named Dan that was going start to take classes here soon.  Dan so excited about a book that he was reading and discussing with a group of Christian friends that he had to tell Derek about it.  (As Derek told me this story, I assumed the book was going to be God Behaving Badly.)  Dan shows Derek the book, and Derek then tells Dan, “If you like Rich Lamb’s book, you should come to Biblical and meet his brother Dave.”  Some things never change.

How do you pursue God in the company of friends? 

“The trouble with this country…”: Upside 1

“The trouble with this country is that there are too many people going about saying, ‘the trouble with this country is…'” – Sinclair Lewis.

This is how Bradley Wright’s new book, Upside: Surprising Good News about the State of Our World begins.  Wright, a sociology professor at University of Connecticut, argues that things aren’t is bad as we think they are.  He believes pessimism is out of control: “We all know where we’re going, and we’ll arrive there in a hand basket” (p. 16).

Wright’s previous book, Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites…and Other Lies You’ve Been Told, was basically the cover story of Christianity Today in July 2011.  See

Upside has something for everyone, statistics for the academics, stories for people bored by statistics, and humor for people bored by statistics and stories.  (If you thought God Behaving Badly was too silly, you may not appreciate Wright’s humor.)

After an introduction (ch. 1) and a discussion of why we think things are bad (ch. 2), Wright looks at the major topics where he perceives people to be too pessimistic: finances (ch. 3), education (ch. 4), health (ch. 5), happiness (ch. 6), crime (ch. 7), marriage (ch. 8), environment (ch. 9).  He conclusion offers some practical next steps (ch. 10).

Why do we think things are bad?  Wright sees a combinations of factors including: the media (bad news sells), advocates (a crisis brings in donations), bad statistics (basically modified urban legends) and nostalgia (how sweet it isn’t any more)

The carrot and the stick.  I think Wright is more of a carrot person, as is my wife Shannon.  Carrot people are motivated by the positive.  (Our dog is total carrot canine.  He does tricks for carrots.)

I’m a stick person.  I converted because I wanted to avoid hell.  To be honest, I think I’m going to have difficulty with Wright’s thesis because I know what I need to get motivated, and it’s usually bad news.   But many people will get depressed or discouraged by worst case scenarios, and Wright makes a strong case that many of the things we think are bad, aren’t as bad as we think they are.  (My adjective for my Stanford application was “optimistic”– but dark scenarios still motivate me.)

I hope you’re looking forward optimistically to a few more blog posts on Upside.  The outlook is good.

How are you motivated?  Are you more of a carrot or a stick person?