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God Behaving Badly: Is the God of the Old Testament Angry, Sexist and Racist? Paperback – May 28, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


"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." (George P. Wood, Enrichment, Spring 2012)

"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 200 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." (Nijay Gupta, www.nijaygupta.wordpress.com, December 2011)

"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." (Publishers Weekly, May 9, 2011)

"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." (Alison Siewert, New Ministry Developer, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and editor, Worship Team Handbook)

"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!" (Rev. Dennis R. Edwards, Ph.D., pastor, Peace Fellowship Church, Washington, DC)

"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 59 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." (Bobby Clinton, professor of leadership, School of Intercultural Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary)

"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." (Alan Hirsch, author of The Forgotten 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!" (Dan Kimball, author of They Like Jesus But Not The Church)

"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." (John Goldingay, David Allan Hubbard Professor of Old Testament, Fuller Theological Seminary)

"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." (Scot McKnight, Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies, North Park University)

About the Author

David T. Lamb (D.Phil., Oxford) is associate professor of Old Testament at Biblical Theological Seminary in Hatfield, Pennsylvania. He previously worked in campus ministry with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and has taught extensively in various crosscultural contexts. He is the author of Righteous Jehu and His Evil Heirs (Oxford).

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 205 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Books (May 28, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830838260
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830838264
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #53,165 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Randal Rauser on November 30, 2012
Format: Paperback
David Lamb's new(ish) book God Behaving Badly (GBB) covers much of the same terrain as Paul Copan's Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God (Baker, 2011). However, if Copan's book is targeted at the upper-level undergraduate or seminarian, Lamb's book carves out its own niche as a treatment readily accessible to the lay reader.

Let's start off with the title and cover. Both are great and demonstrate IVP's marketing craft at its best. One can also speak highly of the style of writing. While the disarming sidebar quips and steady pop culture references to The Simpsons and Calvin and Hobbes might wear on the nerve of the more somber academician, they are well placed for the target audience. All in all, a well executed effort.

The book consists of eight chapters. After introducing God's "Bad Reputation" (chapter 1) the book turns to address a series of troubling tensions in the biblical witness. Is God angry or loving (chapter 2), sexist or affirming (chapter 3), racist or hospitable (chapter 4), violent or peaceful (chapter 5), legalistic or gracious (chapter 6), rigid or flexible (chapter 7), distant or near (chapter 8)? In each case Lamb wrestles with a smattering of problem texts that seem to illustrate God's anger, sexism, racism, violence, legalism, rigidity or distance. In that wrestling he aims to rebut the charges while adding supplementary testimony that supports the alternative virtue (though, to be accurate, Lamb doesn't reject God's anger and violence but only improper anger and violence). Lamb then closes off by concluding that the favorable description is best supported by the evidence.
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The God of the Old Testament has consistently received a bad reputation since Marcion formulated the idea of two distinct deities between the testaments during the 2nd century. This idea has been articulated primarily due to the way God has `acted' in the narrative of the Hebrew scriptures, particularly in relation to His ordering the killing of thousands of people during many of the recorded battles. These episodes have resulted in very serious accusations that God is angry, sexist, racist, violent, legalistic, rigid and distant.

With these things in mind, David Lamb set out to address these specific concerns in his book God Behaving Badly. The book represents his attempt to "reconcile the supposedly contradictory portrayals of God in the two testaments," by addressing those passages that have often been used to further the two-deity argument.

Lamb's basic contention throughout is that many have concluded that God is angry, sexist and racist, etc, primarily due to a of misreading scripture. When the problematic texts are read within there appropriate contexts, all of the problems don't immediately disappear, but they do begin to take shape and take on a meaning that has often been missed.

In each of the issues, Lamb addresses the major concerns by helping us to better understand the most contested passages within them. He takes care to provide the reader with a clear and concise appreciation for the texts in question, while providing clarity on what actually happened, reasons why and what it means for us. At the close of each chapter, he normally includes a New Testament example from Jesus' ministry that coincides with the Old Testament emphasis within the chapter.
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New Atheist Richard Dawkins thinks lowly of God:

"The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully."

Ever since Marcion, even Christians have struggled to reconcile the Old Testament portrait of Yahweh with the New Testament portrait of Jesus.

In God Behaving Badly, David T. Lamb rehabilitates God's "bad reputation." More than that, he argues that "Yahweh and Jesus"--the divine names of the Old and New Testaments, respectively--"while they have distinct personalities, are both God and are essentially one. And most importantly, both are characterized by love."

Lamb structures each chapter around a contrast. Is God angry or loving, sexist or affirming, racist or hospitable, violent or peaceful, legalistic or gracious, rigid or flexible, and distant or near? In each case, he argues that Bible readers can choose to "ignore," "rationalize," or "work to understand" the Bible's diverse material. His book models the third option. Lamb acknowledges some measure of truth to both points of the contrast, if only at the level of appearance. But he also argues that the latter is the one that predominates Old Testament teaching.

For example, he says this about the angry/loving contrast:

"Yahweh does get angry--but always legitimately so--over evil, injustice and oppression...he's slow to anger and...what primarily characterizes him is love.
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