Book Plunge: God Behaving Badly

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. Last time, there was a review done of Paul Copan’s book “Is God A Moral Monster?” This time, I’d like to take a look at David Lamb’s book “God Behaving Badly” answering the question of “Is The God of the Old Testament Angry, Sexist, and Racist?”

Once again, it is works like this that remind me that it seems the new atheists are doing themselves more harm than good seeing as they only dabble in theological writings if they even do that. When my wife and I have gone to the beach, which was on our honeymoon, I have a fear of water, although she did get me to go into the ocean about waist high. I normally stand on the edge and let the ocean lap at my feet, which I enjoy. In the ocean of theology however, the new atheists might not even do that but simply go and take a look at the ocean and think they can comment on its great depths.

To begin with, I really like David Lamb’s writing style. He makes good arguments, but he also regularly interjects them with humor. For instance, when he talks about Elisha and the two bears, he makes a remark that some people would probably think it is totally justified to punish all who dare insult a bald spot, saying his sons would have been finished off long ago. (Quite disturbing. I always try to show good respect for my balding Dad who has even less hair than Charlie Brown and who I always wear sunglasses around to prevent the glare)

These remarks are funny, and yet some of the remarks are both funny and serious. In discussing the chapter on if God is legalistic, Lamb takes us to the first two commands in Genesis and sums them up by saying that God’s commands to the new couple were “Have a lot of sex. Eat a lot of food.” Perhaps if the idea that food and sex were God’s creation to be enjoyed were taught more often, we might find people more interested in church.

It’s not just humor however. Lamb has a number of great insights. On page 44, he writes that death is the natural consequence of sin and we should be in fact thankful that more people aren’t slain immediately when they sin, which would be just, and realize that God is slow to anger and being gracious to us. When God gives punishment immediately, we instead think He’s mean. When He doesn’t punish us, we think we don’t deserve death.

Also, Lamb’s book brings together the Old and the New Testament. When he’s done discussing an aspect of God in the Old Testament, Lamb takes us immediately to the New Testament and shows us the exact same attitude in Jesus. In doing this, Lamb is dispelling the myth that there are two different gods, which goes all the way back to Marcion. His thoughts on New Testament passages are quite good as well.

This book is also I think much more textually astute than Copan’s, while Copan’s is more philosophically astute. This shouldn’t surprise us and I don’t mean this as a denigration of either book. Each scholar is writing from his field of expertise and my recommendation is that if the Christian wants to get the best of both words, then it is important that they read both books. Each will give them additional insight into the Old Testament text. Fortunately, like Copan’s, Lamb includes study questions, and again, wouldn’t it be incredible if we were studying a book like this in church instead of just devotional material?

Finally, at the end of a chapter, Lamb also shows what difference the Old Testament makes. Okay. God is not always angry, but there are times He does act in anger according to Lamb. (My stance could be a bit different due to my view of God’s impassibility) What does that have to do with us? Lamb applies what he has found out about God to the Christian life and gives tips on how we ought to live differently in response to the Old Testament.

Of course, there are some concerns of mine.

To begin with, Lamb’s book does have endnotes as well which I do believe were a direct result of the fall and are to be a plague of mankind until the return of Christ. May we all repent and pray that we be delivered into the glorious kingdom of footnotes before too long. (I’m sure the picture’s getting clear that I don’t like endnotes.)

I do think that in some chapters, Lamb’s responses are a bit weak. For instance, I didn’t really find the chapter on if God is rigid or flexible convincing, seeing as I don’t really go much for the open theist view of God. Lamb seemed to leave this one more up in the air to me. I think in future editions more expounding would be better for it seemed the further along I got, the less expounding there was.

Of course, in light of all of that, the book is still an important read overall and I highly appreciate and recommend Lamb’s work on helping us to come and appreciate the God of the Old Testament, who happens to be the same as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and encourage my readers to read Lamb’s book.