God Behaving Badly

Is God Loving or Angry? on Vimeo (Swarthmore)

On Good Friday (4/6/2012) I spoke at the InterVarsity chapter at Swarthmore College on the second chapter of God Behaving Badly .  It was filmed.

The sound is pretty good, considered I wasn’t miked.

Here it is on Vimeo (37 minutes):
David Lamb – Is God Loving or Angry? on Vimeo.


David Lamb – Is God Loving or Angry? from Swarthmore Christian Fellowship on Vimeo.

God Behaving Badly at Bucknell.wmv – YouTube

My first youtube video (about 2.5 minutes).  Low expectations.  Basically, a talking head.

(No you can’t just click on the photo below.  I have the poor man’s version of WordPress, which doesn’t let you do that, you have to click on the hyperlink which then takes you to youtube.)

God Behaving Badly at Bucknell.wmv – YouTube.

On Feb 13 I’m speaking for InterVarsity at Bucknell University on the second chapter of God Behaving Badly.  Jesse North, IV staff at Bucknell asked for a promo video.

I’d never done a video before, so I got directions from the good IT folks at Biblical Seminary.  Downloaded Windows Movie Maker.  Recorded a few short clips, none of which had any sound.  Adjusted the settings.  Started recording.  Had sound. (It works better with sound–although silent is hot these days, see Oscar nominations.)  Set records for numbers of blinks in a 2-minute period.  Deleted a whole bunch of really lousy videos.  Kept the least lousy one.


Don’t ignore the problem

Richard Dawkins highlights the problematic texts of the Old Testament (e.g., the Canaanite genocide in Joshua; the smiting of Uzzah in 2 Samuel 6).  Atheists like Dawkins, after they bring up one of these problematic passages, like to say, “I bet you didn’t hear about that in Sunday school?”  And they are usually right.   Because Christians focus on the nice parts (e.g., Psalm 23; Jeremiah 29:11–“I know the plans I have for you…plans for your welfare and not harm”).

While I understand the desire to avoid the nasty bits of the OT (they are confusing and take work to understand), those of us who teach the Bible are not serving people when we skip over the parts we don’t like.  It’s a bit trite, but it’s hard not to think of that proverbial ostrich.

If the problematic bits of the OT get ignored in church, when will people encounter them?  At least 3 places.

1) When they are reading through their Bibles on their own.  What are they going to do when they get to the Levites concubine (Judg. 19)?  Since they’ve never heard a sermon on it, or never discussed it in Sunday school or in a small group, they will be confused without anyone to help them make sense of texts like that.

2) When talking to an atheist, who, like Dawkins, knows more about the problematic bits (Psalm 137:9- divinely authorized infant head-bashing?) than they do.  They will be surprised that there are passages like that in their Bible, and they will be embarrassed that the atheists know more about the Bible than they do.

3) When they go off to college and their Intro to the Bible or Intro to Religion prof, who is a big fan of the New Atheists like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, brings up the story of the angel of YHWH killing 185,000 Assyrians (2 Kings 19:35).  Or perhaps, a bit more familiar, the story of the flood, where God drowns all humans except Noah’s family.  (At what age is it appropriate to first expose people to the horrors of the flood narrative?  College?  Mid-20’s?)

As I’ve been talking to people about God Behaving Badly, people tell me story after story of being shocked by what they find in their Bibles and being angry that their church never taught on problematic texts.  The word that gets used frequently is “betrayed”.

If you teach the Bible, don’t ignore problematic texts.  They teach profound lessons about God and his character.  And people need to know how to deal with them.  Books like God Behaving Badly, or Paul Copan’s Is God a Moral Monster? can help us understand texts like these.

In what contexts have you talked to people about problematic texts?  What texts do people ask you about? 

Polygamy: Pro or Con? (GBB)

One of the questions I get asked a lot about God Behaving Badly is why didn’t I talk about this issue (e.g., homosexuality) or this passage (e.g., the flood).  I received an email recently from Sandra, who enjoyed God Behaving Badly, but asked a great question about polygamy.

I do however wish that under the chapter on sexism that you would have addressed the role of polygamy. Especially where God tells David through the prophet that he would have gladly given him even more wives in confronting David about taking Bathsheba. I can’t help but feel as though women were prized as virgins but men could sleep around and of course I cannot imagine having a husband on Monday, Wednesday & Fridays, while my sister or aother woman had him on Tuesdays and Thursdays! If it were not for the David passage I could dismiss it as God’s people acting pagan, but that does not seem to be the take by Nathan. Any advice?

I spent yesterday with a group of about 30 pastors and leaders from the Church of God, General Conference near Harrisburg, PA.  Over lunch I read them an excerpt from Sandra’s email and told them to discuss it over lunch.  As I walked around the lunch area I overheard some  good conversations.  Here is my paraphrase of three of their insights:

First, about polygamy in general, it was considered the duty of a man who was well-off to have multiple wives in order to provide for more people, almost like social security.  So, it’s not just that women were objects or possessions, but that a man that could afford to care for more people should do so as a social obligation.  (I need to think more about this, but I think it has some validity.)

Second, in 2 Sam. 12:8, the phrase that Nathan tells David “and if that had been too little, I would have added as much more” does not need to be limited to more wives.  I think that’s a reasonable assumption given the context, but in addition to wives, God has just told David that, 1) he anointed him, 2) he rescued him from Saul, 3) he gave him the house of Israel and Judah. While it seems like more wives is implied, it’s possible that God is  just saying he would have been willing to give him other things, perhaps like what he does to Solomon in 1 Kings 3–wisdom, riches, long life, etc.

Third, God was accommodating himself to what happened with kings back then.  God had set up the ideal in Gen. 2–one man, one woman in a lifelong committed relationship.  But he was willing to allow them to follow non-ideal patterns of their day.  A bit like he did with the monarchy and the temple.  Neither of which was his idea, and later he destroyed the temple and cut off the monarchy.  It’s pretty clear from the story of Solomon, and Deut 17:17 that many wives is a bad thing, even for kings.

How would you have responded to Sandra’s question?