What do I think of Joel Hoffman’s book published by Thomas Dunne? Let’s Plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out!
Someone sent me an email about this book wanting me to look through it and shred it. I ordered it at the library and went through and really, there is some stuff in here that is pretty good. The author is right that the Bible does not condone slavery for instance, which is a breath of fresh air to hear since so many people get that one wrong. Some passages are quite interesting and there is much to learn from this.
One obvious downside from the book unfortunately is the lack of notes. There are none whatsoever. Other scholars are not referenced. There is no way of knowing where exactly Dr. Hoffman gets his information from. Sure, he holds a Ph.D., but that doesn’t stand alone. One is not infallible for having one.
So if there were any sections I would want to comment on, most notably would be the one on the Bible and homosexuality. Does the Bible say homosexual practice is a sin? According to Hoffman, no. One wishes we could have moved past the arguments by now such as mixed fabrics and such. Hoffman realizes the passages in Leviticus are sandwiched between bestiality and incest, but that doesn’t seem to matter.
Hoffman also looks at Romans 1 and says Paul doesn’t say the behavior that the people were doing was wrong. It was just the result of what happened. God punished people with unnatural sex, but we don’t know what the term unnatural actually means.
In reality, we do. Paul uses language from Genesis 1 quite regularly such as speaking of the creator and using terms male and female. This is all a way of saying Paul has Genesis 1 in mind without explicitly saying such. Paul says that from what is seen, everyone knows that there is a God. It is a denial of the vertical reality to instead worship idols and the creation. The best example of a denial of reality on the horizontal level Paul can come up with is homosexual behavior. Male and female go together and belong together.
Nowhere in this does Hoffman interact with Matthew 19 and Jesus talking about marriage Himself. Note that Jesus does not just go to Genesis 2:24, but He also goes to Genesis 1:26-27 where it talks about mankind being created male and female. That is the foundation.
Hoffman does say elsewhere in the book that the Bible never condemns polygamy. Explicitly, this is so, but it warns of the danger of it and when polygamy takes place, it leads to problems. Polygamy was a borderline practice that was allowed for the time being, but did not represent the ideal. Genesis 1 and 2 have the ideal. One man and one woman for life.
Hoffman then says we should consider that there are people who could only find companionship with the same sex and they didn’t know about homosexuality like we do today. I highly question both. The latter is quite simple. They knew about homosexual behavior. Just read the Symposium and see that some people are paired up with the same sex. This isn’t new.
For the former, we have this strange idea that the only way you can find love is through sex. Yet even between men and women, this is not so. I love my mother, my sister, my aunt, and my mother-in-law. There is no thought of sex there at all. I share a special love with my wife and that is the relationship that my sexual thought is supposed to go to.
The idea is that to have true companionship, one must have sex, and this is false. Who is the homosexual supposed to love? The same person as everyone else. His neighbor. That does not have to be sexualized. There are plenty of people who live fine and happy lives without having sex. Those of us who are married should realize the Bible’s prescription that we do have regular sex, but those who are not if they are submitting to Christ will accept a lifestyle of celibacy until they get married.
I also want to look at abortion. The passage used is Exodus 21. Nowhere does he go to Psalm 139. Nowhere does he go to Jeremiah 1:5. Nowhere does he go to Luke 1 with John the Baptist leaping in the womb.
Even still at Exodus 21, the passage doesn’t work. The man is not trying to kill the child. He is doing something on accident and the death penalty is not there for accidental death. Even in the cases of it happening, the man could always go to a city of refuge and stay there.
Hoffman also concludes the whole book saying there are no miracles in the Bible. Miracles are extra-scientific after all. It is true that they have wonders, but Hoffman describes wonders as freedom from slavery or a sense of the divine or beauty or family or anything like that. These are wondrous things, but not acts of God directly every time.
It also doesn’t mean we have to give up miracles as they are understood. We can have both. Can I not appreciate the former things while still holding that God acts in the world? I see no reason I cannot.
Hoffman’s book again is a hit and a miss. Some things are good, but some things are not. A reader could gain some wheat and let the chaff go its own way.