God Behaving Badly
God has a bad reputation. Many think of God as wrathful and angry, smiting people right and left for no apparent reason. The Old Testament in particular seems at times to portray God as capricious and malevolent, wiping out armies and nations, punishing enemies with extreme prejudice.
But wait. The story is more complicated than that. Alongside troubling passages of God's punishment and judgment are pictures of God's love, forgiveness, goodness, and slowness to anger. How do we make sense of the seeming contradiction? Can God be trusted or not?
David Lamb unpacks the complexity of the Old Testament to explore the character of God. He provides historical and cultural background to shed light on problematic passages and bring underlying themes to the fore. Without minimizing the sometimes harsh realities of the biblical record, Lamb assembles an overall portrait that gives coherence to our understanding of God in both the Old and New Testaments. This expanded edition includes an updated preface, afterword, and appendix addressing the story of Noah and the flood.
"What is the book about? In a nutshell, it addresses some of the most common problematic stereotypes of the OT God: angry, sexist, racist, violent, legalistic, rigid and distant. In about two hundred pages, Lamb treats these topics in a well-informed, accessible and humorous way. The book is very persuasive overall, easy to read and extremely well-written. . . . So, for me, God Behaving Badly is the perfect textbook."
"Let's face it: God gets a lot of bad press—it can be a little embarrassing. So even the title of Dave Lamb's book gave me hope. Dave gives honest voice and deliberate attention to some of the most troublesome questions humans have ever asked, and brings not only answers but develops our view of God too. The most thrilling thing about this book is that I can recommend it to both the faithful and the skittish, to friends and students and people who think about God and aren't sure what to think."
"In many of our African American churches we frequently recite the refrain, 'God is good all the time and all the time God is good.' God Behaving Badly is an engaging, thoughtful, witty and helpful book that can give all of us Christian readers a bit more confidence when reciting that refrain. David Lamb gives sound guidance for understanding a difficult topic. Lamb offers an apologetic for not only believing in God but also believing that God is good—even as he is portrayed in the Old Testament. Professor Lamb's scholarship is sound, and his sense of humor had me laughing out loud. Not many theology books can do that! I'm going to use this book in class and enthusiastically recommend it to my congregants!"
"Dave Lamb's book is a popular apologetic that answers the question, Is the God of the Old Testament angry, sexist and racist? He prefaces his answers with a solid biblical interpretation guideline. The author emphatically states, 'When we approach Scripture, we must take the context seriously.' Dave really does that! The word context appears fifty-nine times, scattered throughout the book. Dave's solid contextual analysis of passages—which might appear to say, Yes, Yes, Yes in answer to the question about God's anger, his view of gender and his view of races—was a highlight for me. Dave's unraveling of many problematic texts in terms of contextual analysis is superb. In addition, his many, many masterful word studies shed light on his contextual analyses. Dave writes with winsome humor. He loves the Old Testament, and you can tell that as you read the popularly written, academically sound, easy-to-read flow of material in each chapter. After reading Dave's book, I am sure you will appreciate that Dave views the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament as one."
"It has been said that if you love something long enough it reveals itself to you—that love is a hermeneutical key to unlocking the mysteries of life itself. This is especially true for the Bible and the God of the Bible, for God is love and can only be truly known in love. David Lamb has loved his way into understanding Yahweh more fully; subsequently he can lovingly help us to 'see' and experience God in new and revealing ways."
"This is a book which not only should be read by those into apologetics but read by all Christians in our churches. It is striking right at the heart of one of the most pressing questions being asked today, and we cannot ignore this. God Behaving Badly is an extremely helpful book in wrestling with these very difficult questions in a winsome, biblical and readable way. If you are at all missionally living in our culture and aware of the questions being asked and challenges to Christianity, then you really cannot help but read this book!"
"David Lamb faces up to all the questions that most often trouble people about the God of the Old Testament. Written in a winsome and engaging way, this book is going to help many who wonder if the God of the Old Testament is indeed the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."
"I will require my college students to read this book. I became sensitive to the 'God questions' in the Bible because students asked me questions that came straight from troubled hearts. This book is written for students and speaks with wit and wisdom to the questions they have."
"I highly recommend this book to students, laypeople, and pastors as an excellent introduction to how to understand the Old Testament portrait of God in light of the questions raised by new atheists and struggling Christians."
"Lamb encourages readers to prove disturbing passages with an open mind, read feminist theologians, and engage in prayerful conversation. . . . This book will challenge, comfort, and provoke reflection."
Preface to Expanded Edition
1. A Bad Reputation
2. Angry or Loving?
3. Sexist or Affirming?
4. Racist or Hospitable?
5. Violent or Peaceful?
6. Legalistic or Gracious?
7. Rigid or Flexible?
8. Distant or Near?
Epilogue: Is the Answer Really "Yes, Yes and Yes"?
Afterword to the Expanded Edition
Appendix: Noah and the Flood: Moving Beyond the Arky
For Further Reading