God Behaving Badly

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?

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?  

Half price for God Behaving Badly @WTS Bookstore

Still don’t have a copy of one of IVP’s best-selling books?

The Westminster Theological Seminary Bookstore is running a serious discount on God Behaving Badly.  To get it, click here: WTS Books Newsletter.

WTS Bookstore

The retail price for GBB is $15.
Amazon, which usually has the best price, is currently selling it new for $11.47.
As of today, the USED price on Amazon is $8.23.  (Readers keep this book.)
Until June 26, 2013, WTS Bookstore is selling it new for $7.50.

If you want to get it half-price you only have 6 more days.

God_Behaving_Badly_CoverGod Behaving Badly would make a great gift for a graduating senior.  The issues the book discusses are hot topics on college campuses.  Over the past two years, I’ve spoken at over a dozen campuses, and students desperately want to discuss the problematic portrayal of God in the Old Testament.  Christians, agnostics and even atheists are troubled by what they read in the pages of the Old Testament.

(Click on the cover image on the left for a vimeo of my Swarthmore talk under “Description” or a review under “WTS Review”.)

Is God angry?  Why is he always smiting people and destroying cities, women and children?  Why would someone want to worship a God like that?

Is God sexist?  Wasn’t Eve responsible for the fall of humans?  Why are women 2nd class citizens in the Old Testament?

Is God racist?  God likes the people of Israel, but seems to hate all the nations around Israel, and he ordered the genocide of the Canaanites.

Is God violent?  Jesus was into peace, but YHWH is into war.  He likes to destroy people.

Is God legalistic?  Why is YHWH so legalistic in the Old Testament, but Jesus and Paul are into forgiveness and grace in the New Testament?  (You’ll be surprised at God’s first command.)

Is God inflexible?  Christians are viewed in popular culture as being stubborn and inflexible.  Does God change?  The Old Testament says God does, and he doesn’t change?  How do we reconcile these contradictory portrayals of God?

Is God distant?  Where is God when I’m in pain?  God is God-with-us, the incarnate deity, but all of the negative things we see about God in the Old Testament make him seem distant.

These and other questions are addressed in depth in God Behaving Badly.  Check it out.

The half-price discount expires June 26, 2013.

One Big Thing and Three Small Things

Jesus CrossThe big thing today is Easter.  Jesus rose from the dead.  Everything is small in comparison.

Last night at dinner, my son Nate said, “Hey, the last episode of ‘The Bible (on The History Channel) will focus on Jesus’ death and resurrection and it’s being shown on Easter Sunday.  Do you think that’s a coincidence?”  (He was joking.)  We’ll be watching tonight.

My brief assessment of “The Bible”: each week I’m disappointed about one aspect (e.g., too much violence), and elated about one aspect.  Last week (session 4), Jesus’ call of Matthew while telling the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector moved me to tears.  But even for the parts that are disappointing, it’s always helpful to see the stories enacted.  I’ve pre-ordered it (Amazon releases it on April 2, $29.96).

Have you been watching?  What have you thought about The Bible?  

Three minor announcements (these are the small things):

1) God Behaving Badly on Kindle for only $2.99 expires today.  I doubt this deal will be resurrected.

2) I can’t seem to watch “The Bible and You“, the Canadian documentary that includes interviews with famous people and less famous people (Shannon and myself).  Any suggestions?  The four preview clips work.  I have them listed on this blog.  Each 10 minute clip includes two 2-3 minute clips of the documentary, and 4-5 minutes of the 2 hosts talking about it.

3) Wheaton Old Testament professor John Walton is giving a lecture at Cairn University (used to be Philadelphia Biblical University) on Tues, April 2 at 7:00 at Holmes Hall on Genesis 1, 2, subject of his book, The Lost World of Genesis One.  I’m planning on going.  If you live local, you should go.  It’ll be good.  (Thanks to Gary Schnittjer for telling me about it last night at church.)

He is risen. Indeed.