The Human Faces of God

The battle over the Bible is increasingly polarized between the absolutism of inerrantists who claim to speak for all Christians and the scorn of secularists who find easy targets for ridicule. With an engaging combination of honesty, goodwill, and wit, Thom Stark offers a vital third way. He explodes the “hermeneutics of convenience” of self-styled inerrantists, examines some of the most objectionable aspects of the Bible, and refuses throughout to sacrifice moral decency on the altar of inerrantist dogma—which is, after all, as much a human construction as the biblical criticism that inerrantists deride. 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.

 

Dr. Neil Elliott
Adjunct Instructor
United Theological Seminary
Author of Liberating Paul

Review & Commentary

One thought on “The Human Faces of God

  1. Review

    Most Christians think that they must either accept the Bible as divinely inspired in its entirety or reject it as a moral and spiritual guide.  But among theologians, this has never been a consensus position.  Like Bart Ehrman, Thom Stark offers the lay reader a window into the world where theologians and antiquities scholars wrestle with the ancient texts that comprise the Bible.  He provides an accessible introduction to the methods that scholars use to evaluate the history and intent of a biblical text. 

    In doing so, Stark confronts so called inerrantists head on, exposing what he calls a “hermeneutics of convenience” as they pick among a potpourri of interpretive methods, depending on whichever one best protects their dogmatic insistence that the Bible is God’s perfect and complete revelation to humankind.   One of his chapter titles sums it up:  “There are no inerrantists.”

    I recently reread The Sins of Scripture: Exposing the Bible’s Texts of Hate to Reveal the God of Love, by John Shelby Spong.  I am forever indebted to Spong’s patient tireless engagement in the process of reformation.  But I will confess that of the two books I learned more from The Human Faces of God.  Stark doesn’t simply expose the Bible’s endorsements of sexism, racism and genocidal violence, he helps us to understand where they came from, how they borrowed from or built other texts and traditions from the Ancient Near East, and how they inadvertently reveal the ongoing clash of ideas as the early Hebrew religion emerged and evolved into Judaism and then Christianity. 

    To read The Human Faces of God is not simply to partake of one side of a theological argument.  It is to acquire the tools of an archeologist, a set of scrapers and magnifying glasses for revealing the historical, cultural and political processes that sculpted the modern Bible.  It is to acquire a body of knowledge from which there is no going back.   

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