Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Human Faces of God

Just started the extremely well be-blurbed book, The Human Faces of God: What Scripture Reveals When it Gets God Wrong (and Why Inerrancy Tries To Hide It) by the extremely cooley named Thom Stark, Wipf&Stock, 2010

From the beginning it is clear to me, this book will be dynamite for some, exploding naive faith to smithereens. I hope that it will be as constructive for conservatives, as I read on, as it is brilliant in outlining the difficulties in scripture. There probably won't be too much in these pages that will surprise biblical scholars. The sort of problems he outlines we have had to not only "live with" but also constructively negotiate for many moons, and it is one reason why I struggle with some forms of simplistic apologetics which is ultimately dishonest (or uninformed). But I must admit, I have still learnt a fair bit from his overviews of problems relating to Daniel.

I had the task of lecturing about the Histories recently, about matters that could cause a few problems for those of simplistic faith fed on certain apologetics. How to talk about the conquest and the theological dispute between the Deuteronomist Historian and other canonical texts, in a way that is both challenging AND constructive? I think I just about managed, but we need to equip the church to be able to tackle these issues, without dodging or fear, and I hope I am going to find Thom Stark a useful aid in this process.   


At 11/01/2010 8:09 PM, Blogger Andrew Esqueda said...

This sounds like a very interesting book--and a much needed one at that. Thanks for posting this

At 11/02/2010 11:35 PM, Blogger Chris Tilling said...

Thanks, Andrew, hope you enjoy it! Perhaps best to read with John Webster's Holy Scripture in the other hand!

At 11/05/2010 12:53 PM, Blogger Robin Parry said...

I have just read this book (finished it yesterday) and I both love and hate it.

It is well researched and well written. It has many fascinating discussions and it is certainly worth a read.

It is explosive! Guaranteed to shock not simply fundamentalists or evangelicals but also mainstream orthodox Christians.

BUT, whilst I agreed with a fair few of the authors analyses and of his critiques (not all of them) I found his constructive proposals utterly depressing.

The choice he offers readers seems to me to be to be a choice between an implausible fundamentalism (implausible for the kinds of reasons he identifies) or an ultra liberal view of the Bible. A few intermediate positions are briefly considered and dismissed as having insight but being inadequate. But in terms of helping evangelicals move away from ultra-inerrancy such a Stark choice (excuse the pun) will entice almost none.

If I thought that his was the only viable option on Scripture I think I would give up being a Christian (honestly).

However, I think that there are better ways to accommodate many of his insights in a high view of Scripture.

But, whilst I very much do not like where the author goes, I do admire him for going there and I do think that this book is excellent and thought-provoking. Very much worth a read and discussion.

I will certainly be re-reading it.

At 11/05/2010 1:00 PM, Blogger Robin Parry said...


second thought. Your comment on Webster's book in the other hand is interesting. One of the things about Stark's book that struck me is how un-theological it was.

Still — I think that he will force traditional Christians to rethink their theology of Scripture in ways that do better justice to the phenomena of Scripture itself. And that will be a great outcome of the book.

p.s., on Joshua and genocide check out the new book by Douglas Earl, "The Joshua Delusion?" (Eugene: Cascade Books). Earl's proposal is an attempt at a via media between a Stark-like position and a trad. evangelical position. It is closer to the kind of thing that I meant when I spoke of high views of Scripture accommodating Stark-like critiques.

At 11/05/2010 9:43 PM, Blogger Edwardtbabinski said...

I found the book fascinating. He communicates all the necessary questions based on recent scholarship, and places them in contrast with a belief in inerrancy such that the questions are undeniable.

Thom has also set up a blog for his book where readers can share their thoughts;

He may respond if you post there. He's also a very friendly guy.

And he's begun another blog as well, a community blog:


At 11/24/2010 7:11 AM, Blogger Edwardtbabinski said...

Thom recently wrote a marvelous in-depth review of another book that was just published, The Joshua Delusion. Thom's comments concerning The Joshua Delusion go into greater depth concerning some points raised about the conquests in his book:

At 12/19/2010 5:10 AM, Anonymous Nate Hardee said...

Hi Chris, I am sorry to be a late poster. But I echo Robin's sentiments about picking between ultra inerrancy and ultra liberalism. Is there no middle ground?


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