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The Human Faces of God: What Scripture Reveals When It Gets God Wrong (And Why Inerrancy Tries To Hide It) Paperback – January 1, 2011
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Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
--Dale C. Allison, Jr.
author of Constructing Jesus
The Human Faces of God is one of the most challenging and well-argued cases against the doctrine of biblical inerrancy I have ever read.
--Greg A. Boyd
author of The Myth of a Christian Nation
I learned so much from this book that I can strongly encourage anyone who is seeking to move from simplistic proof-texting to a comprehensive understanding of the Bible to read this book carefully.
author of Red Letter Christians
This is must reading for Christians who have agonized over their own private doubts about Scripture and for others who have given up hope that evangelical Christians can practice intelligent, moral interpretation of the Bible.
author of Liberating Paul
[W]ith the help of this book, we may discover that the Bible when we read it in all its diversity and vulnerability does bring healing words to those who keep listening.
author of Embodying the Way of Jesus
Stark's book effectively demonstrates how the Bible, in practice, is the most dangerous enemy of fundamentalists.
--James F. McGrath
author of The Only True God
Stark provides a model for theology that is committed to hearing the voice of the victims of history, especially the victims of our own religious traditions.
--Michael J. Iafrate
PhD Candidate, Toronto School of Theology
This book is the most powerful antidote to fundamentalism that I've ever read.
author of Crazy for God --Wipf and Stock Publishers
About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
However, there is ample reason for the five star rating. Of all my reading, this book is the clearest and most concise dead fish slap against the face of Biblical inerrancy I have yet read. The author's writing is excellent, the tone is scholarly, it is amply footnoted, and it brought new material to my attention. Mr. Stark uses the Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy as his foil throughout the book as well as numerous quotes from defenders of Biblical inerrancy. Having spent nearly my entire life in this perspective, I never felt Mr. Stark was creating straw men or misconstruing evangelical/fundamentalist thinking on this issue. Mind you, he does not pull any punches, but the opposing viewpoint was presented honestly. At several points in the book he also presents alternative perspectives to both inerrancy and his own beliefs. In this regard, I feel Mr. Stark did a real service to the reader. His summaries of these positions were, of necessity, brief, however, the footnotes and citations have given me further direction to take my own studies. I don't imagine it is easy to write a scholarly theology book that is also accessible to the layman who can't read Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic but Mr. Stark more than succeeded here. If I had come to this book still believing in the concept of Biblical inerrancy, The Human Faces of God would certainly have destroyed that belief.
And this leads to my disappointment: Mr. Stark spends much more time on destroying rather than building. In the beginning of the book he advances the idea that the Bible can be authoritative while still containing error. It is not until the last chapter that he even begins to develop this idea and even in that chapter, it is only the last ten pages that deal with the value and place of the Bible as a whole, even if it is not inerrant. While the rest of the book demonstrates Mr. Stark's ability to think deeply and write well, this section just seemed muddled and poorly developed. For example, Mr. Stark argues it is up to the believing community, not each individual, guided by the Holy Spirit, to determine how scripture should be used in a certain context or situation. As a reader, though, I was left confused. Is this the universal catholic believing community or smaller community of believers such as a church or denomination? If it is a smaller community, and I pick and choose which smaller community I join, am I not still operating individually to determine which scriptures I will use in what way? Does the author feel the Bible is inspired in some way different than, say Aesop's Fables, the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, or The Lord of the Rings, which can also be used for moral instruction? And what support do I have to even believe in the Holy Spirit, anyhow? Near the end of the book, Mr. Stark uses the analogy of a courtroom to demonstrate how we might go about determining the value of different portions of the Bible. In a real courtroom, though, once a witness has perjured himself, all of that witness's testimony is, at best, suspect and it would be a foolish lawyer who would put a witness with a history of inaccurate testimony on the stand.
Despite this disappointment, I would recommend this book to anyone critically examining the idea of Biblical inerrancy. It is an excellent and accessible book that makes a great introduction to the topic and still offers value to reader already familiar with other similar work. If you are currently secure in your belief in Biblical inerrancy, though, think hard before you open Mr. Stark's book; the genie won't go back into the bottle easily. I would encourage Mr. Stark to follow up on his final chapter in a new book and more completely articulate his thinking. I may not end up agreeing but I would certainly read it and I hope to someday get through not believing what I used to believe and find there is something I can believe on the other side.
Recommendations for other books after you have read this one:
Timothy Beal: The Rise and Fall of the Bible: The Unexpected History of an Accidental Book (Another perspective on the value of the Bible without inerrancy)
Richard Friedman: The Bible with Sources Revealed (Mr. Stark touches briefly on the idea certain books of the Old Testament are blended from different account and different time periods. This book is an excellent resource for more on the Documentary Hypothesis).
Metzger and Ehrman: The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration (4th Edition)
F.F. Bruce: The Canon of Scripture
Finkelstein and Silberman: The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts (More on the archaeological evidence briefly mentioned in Mr. Stark's book)
The Oxford History of the Biblical World
Chapters 1-3 are aimed at the articulation of the doctrine of inerrancy itself. Stark uses the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy as his focal point to debunk. He does an excellent job of illuminating the contradictions, intellectual dishonesty and mental gymnastics of Biblical inerrantists. I have not seen such a strong argument against the doctrine of inerrancy as the one that was put forth in these three chapters alone.
In chapters 4-8 Stark pushes his argument further (much further) by turning his eye towards the Bible itself to root out the discrepancies. He demonstrates that early Israel possessed a polytheistic worldview similar to its surrounding neighbors. Then, he shows the reader that there are hints of child sacrifice as an acceptable (but not often occurring) practice in early Israel. Stark then sheds light on the acts of genocide in the OT. He not only critiques the immorality of such passages, but he also assesses their historicity. By the time he's finished with this chapter there isnt much to salvage for an inerrantist. Chapter 8 is the most controversial of all. Stark attempts to demonstrate that Jesus was wrong in His apocalyptic prediction of the end of the world. While I so badly did not want to agree with him, I could not find a hole in his logic.
The last two chapters deal with which scriptural readings will not work and which ones will. I had heard so much praise for Stark's last chapter that I felt a little disappointed at the end. Dont get me wrong, he has some brilliant insights. But, I was expecting more and at times he seems to be rambling on about his own views. This could not take away from his much deserved five-star rating because he accomplishes what he set out to do. Inerrancy (at least in my mind) is no more.
I'll admit that this book invoked many different emotions from me. Many times I disagreed with Stark (mostly in the last chapter) but many more times I found myself uncapping my highlighter. I agree with Stark that inerrancy is simply a shortcut and a way for believers to feel secure in their convictions. This negates the whole point of faith. Our foundation should be God Himself and not a book written by human authors. I don't pray to the Bible to save me, I pray to God.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Stark's position is essentially that inerrancy is not justified especially as it...Read more