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Sacred Word, Broken Word: Biblical Authority and the Dark Side of Scripture Paperback – April 4, 2012
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-- author of Naked Spirituality: A Life with God in 12 Simple Words
"Kent Sparks addresses the crucial and often painful question that I hear people asking around the world -- from seminary students to their professors, from spiritual seekers to seasoned pastors, from ex-believers to new believers: What do we do about the Bible's dark passages, the places that justify genocide or conflict with one another or can't be squared with scientific data? Sparks doesn't follow the typical all-or-nothing responses to either left or right, but offers an honest, humble, creative, faithful, and robust approach to Scripture that presents it as part of God's good-but-broken creation that is being redeemed in Christ. Highly recommended."
Dale C. Allison, Jr.
-- Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
"Incisive and honest, sophisticated yet clear, this volume will prove to be of immense value to those who wrestle with the nature of Scripture. Sparks illuminates a number of troubling and complex issues, and his readers will find their thoughts moving in new and promising directions."
-- North Park University
"The moral problems of the Old Testament, including what justice means, how peace can be gained, and how love is to be known, can be examined from a number of angles. . . . The only acceptable approaches are those that struggle with the text as Scripture, as God's Word, and seek to find in that text what God might be saying to us today. Sacred Word, Broken Word is among the angels in pursuing this type of approach. Not all will agree, but I pray that this book will ignite a conversation about how to read the Bible better."
William J. Abraham
-- Perkins Theological Seminary, Southern Methodist University
"Sparks sets a new benchmark for work on the theological and philosophical reception of Scripture. Written with elegance, this is a book of seasoned scholarship that is accessible, spiritually sensitive, constructive, and provocative. Above all it is written from a heart attuned to the depths of human suffering and misery."
“This is a helpful book for committed believers, but also perhaps for all sincere wrestlers with the scriptures as the Word of God.”
Journal for the Study of the New Testament
“Spark’s book is valuable because it represents a candid wrestle with notoriously complex issues without folding into well-work solutions offered by opposing sides of the debate. Sparks adopts an ecumenical tone, further adding to the appeal of a book which will be appreciated by all those interested in theological interpretation of Scripture.”
Choice (American Library Association)
“Sparks invites readers, especially those of a more conservative nature who are troubled by much that they read in the Bible, to enter carefully into an open reading of the Bible, which, despite its brokenness, points its reading to God. Recommended.”
About the Author
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Top Customer Reviews
Sparks starts off his book by drawing a parallel between creation and the Bible. Sparks argues that just as God's good creation is marred by the fall, so is God's good word marred by the human author's falleness. Thus he says, "The presence in Scripture of this distortion no more compromises its status as God's word than the distortion in humanity compromises its status as God's creation." Sparks demonstrates that discrepancies and problems in scripture are due to the falleness of the human authors and are not attributable to God. By the title of the book one might also assume that Sparks would spend a good amount of space delving through the troubling Biblical passages to illuminate its "dark side of scripture" (which he does do but only briefly) but instead Sparks intends to spend most of the book demonstrating how his approach to scripture can be utilized within Christian tradition.
Sparks begins by anticipating some theological objections to his view of scripture: What is the nature of inspiration?; How can the Bible be authoritative if it has been influenced by human sin?; With this view of scripture, in what way can it be called God's word? Sparks satisfactorily deals with all these questions and many more. But one of the most important questions that Sparks anticipates is how we can know which interpretations of scripture are correct if scripture indeed contains fallible aspects.Read more ›
Despite what you might think from the title, this is not a book that gloats in exposing all kinds of problems with the Bible. It takes for granted that certain problems exist, the Canaanite genocide being the prime model, and then asks what we do with them. Sparks argues that rather than explaining them away as inerrantist apologists do, or allegorizing them as many early Church fathers did, we should simply recognize that they are reflections of incorrect or even twisted views of the authors.
If one accepts this view, then a major problem is how to sort out what is the true message from God, the "gold," and what is, as Luther said of epistle of James, "straw." Sparks does address this in some detail in the latter part of the book. While his ideas will certainly not solve the whole issue, they do provide some hope that the task is a reasonable one.
If you are a strong inerrantist, then you probably will not appreciate this book unless you read it to find cannon fodder. On the other hand, if your faith is troubled by what seem to be the questionable or outright unethical stories and teachings of the Bible, then Sparks may have a good word for you.
Note on Kindle version: I didn't find any significant problems with the Kindle version, which is a relief after struggling through so many books that are full of typos and other errors.
This is all because of another big, often neglected, idea boldly addressed by Sparks - balance. He tries to convince us that the Bible is a balanced book. It's not all God or all human. Rather it is about God's self-revelation, through human beings to human beings. The balance is one chosen and permitted by God himself. He has chosen to build his Kingdom through us, empowered by the Holy Spirit. An account of this mission of God, up to about 1900 years ago is presented in the Scriptures. They represent an action filled dialogue between Creator and created in which both are allowed to think and have their say. To understand, we must look both at the details of the conversation, and stand way back to consider the whole thing at once. And, whether looking up close or standing way back, we must always keep our balance.
It's sort of like the fellow who the other day crossed Niagara Falls on a tight rope. Those on the bank were safe and secure admiring the majesty of the falls and getting soggy from the spray. Safe, secure, certain, and wet, but seemingly not in great need of balance.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Protestantism in general and Evangelicalism in particular is in dire straits, although many fail to recognize this (presumably because they prefer to focus on short-term and/or... Read morePublished 19 months ago by Ole Jørgen Anfindsen
This book offers a really helpful perspective on Bible interpretation. I only wish the author had spent a little time giving examples of how he himself interprets the most... Read morePublished 24 months ago by Kristen Rosser
A while back I read "God's Word in Human Words" by Kenton Sparks. "Sacred Word, Broken Word" was a refreshing summary and more readable popular-level book about... Read morePublished on August 22, 2014 by Jeremy Myers - Writing at RedeemingGod
This volume takes a refreshing and honest look at the Bible. This I find very helpful even for African theologians who need a massive rethink towards building a truely honest and... Read morePublished on March 2, 2014 by Mungete Chinkumbi
This book helped me get past my fear that my frustration with the Bible made me a bad Christian, and become more open to seeing it in a new light. Read morePublished on February 17, 2014 by H. Roach
Every chapter a light bulb went off in my mind. Needless to say this book was challenging in a great way.Published on September 24, 2013 by Lisa B
Of course after reading the heading any new Christian is going to want to read the book. Sparks will certainly challenge one's faith in scripture but I think it will potentially... Read morePublished on September 20, 2013 by Mathew Kramm
Finally! Someone who thoroughly muddles up the "clarity" of scripture! Respect for the bible as what it is instead of what our broken minds have made it. Biblicists beware!Published on September 8, 2013 by cool
Kenton Spark's "Sacred Word, Broken Word" is a trenchant work of theology that should be read by Christians of all stripes, whether evangelical inerrantists or progressive... Read morePublished on October 23, 2012 by H.E. Pennypacker