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The Human Faces of God: What Scripture Reveals When It Gets God Wrong (and Why Inerrancy Tries To Hide It)

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Does accepting the doctrine of biblical inspiration necessitate belief in biblical inerrancy? The Bible has always functioned authoritatively in the life of the church, but what exactly should that mean? Must it mean the Bible is without error in all historical details and ethical teachings? What should thoughtful Christians do with texts that propose God is pleased by hum Does accepting the doctrine of biblical inspiration necessitate belief in biblical inerrancy? The Bible has always functioned authoritatively in the life of the church, but what exactly should that mean? Must it mean the Bible is without error in all historical details and ethical teachings? What should thoughtful Christians do with texts that propose God is pleased by human sacrifice or that God commanded Israel to commit acts of genocide? What about texts that contain historical errors or predictions that have gone unfulfilled long beyond their expiration dates? In The Human Faces of God, Thom Stark moves beyond notions of inerrancy in order to confront such problematic texts and open up a conversation about new ways they can be used in service of the church and its moral witness today. Readers looking for an academically informed yet accessible discussion of the Bible's thorniest texts will find a thought-provoking and indispensible resource in The Human Faces of God. --Christians can ignore the facts that Stark brings into the light of day only if they want to be wrong.-- --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.-- --Tony Campolo 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.-- --Neil Elliot 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.-- --Ted Grimsrud 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 Cadidate, University of Toronto --This book is the most powerful antidote to fundamentalism that I've ever read.-- --Frank Schaeffer author of Crazy for God Thom Stark was a Fig Tree and Ledbetter scholar at Emmanuel School of Religion. His academic interests include second temple apocalyptic Judaism and Christian origins, as well as modern Christian and Islamic theologies of liberation.


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Does accepting the doctrine of biblical inspiration necessitate belief in biblical inerrancy? The Bible has always functioned authoritatively in the life of the church, but what exactly should that mean? Must it mean the Bible is without error in all historical details and ethical teachings? What should thoughtful Christians do with texts that propose God is pleased by hum Does accepting the doctrine of biblical inspiration necessitate belief in biblical inerrancy? The Bible has always functioned authoritatively in the life of the church, but what exactly should that mean? Must it mean the Bible is without error in all historical details and ethical teachings? What should thoughtful Christians do with texts that propose God is pleased by human sacrifice or that God commanded Israel to commit acts of genocide? What about texts that contain historical errors or predictions that have gone unfulfilled long beyond their expiration dates? In The Human Faces of God, Thom Stark moves beyond notions of inerrancy in order to confront such problematic texts and open up a conversation about new ways they can be used in service of the church and its moral witness today. Readers looking for an academically informed yet accessible discussion of the Bible's thorniest texts will find a thought-provoking and indispensible resource in The Human Faces of God. --Christians can ignore the facts that Stark brings into the light of day only if they want to be wrong.-- --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.-- --Tony Campolo 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.-- --Neil Elliot 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.-- --Ted Grimsrud 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 Cadidate, University of Toronto --This book is the most powerful antidote to fundamentalism that I've ever read.-- --Frank Schaeffer author of Crazy for God Thom Stark was a Fig Tree and Ledbetter scholar at Emmanuel School of Religion. His academic interests include second temple apocalyptic Judaism and Christian origins, as well as modern Christian and Islamic theologies of liberation.

30 review for The Human Faces of God: What Scripture Reveals When It Gets God Wrong (and Why Inerrancy Tries To Hide It)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    The largest problems I ever had with the Bible were not in the Bible itself. Rather, they were the attitudes the members of my "faith community" had towards Biblical events and their implications. It was refreshing to know that there was at least one other guy who understands what I've thought about since I was capable of thinking even though the people who were in charge of my spiritual education just didn't seem to be bothered by it at all. I got the impression he was as tortured by it as I wa The largest problems I ever had with the Bible were not in the Bible itself. Rather, they were the attitudes the members of my "faith community" had towards Biblical events and their implications. It was refreshing to know that there was at least one other guy who understands what I've thought about since I was capable of thinking even though the people who were in charge of my spiritual education just didn't seem to be bothered by it at all. I got the impression he was as tortured by it as I was. For one example, let's talk about the genocide in the Bible. Nobody in Bible class called it genocide, but it still didn't take much for me to recognize that when God told the Israelites to slaughter everyone, He included the children and the infants. Even if the verse stating that God does not make people suffer for the sins of others did not exist, I would hope that this would raise an eyebrow. Largely, it did not. I wrestled with it in the back of my mind for years while having it calmly dismissed on the rare occasion that I voiced my concern. And that was the problem.* For another example, the Gospel of the New Testament was described to me thusly: The Son of Almighty God came to Earth in the person of Jesus of Nazereth to die on a cross for the remission of the sins of all mankind and providing eternal salvation in Heaven for those who believe -- and eternal damnation and torment in Hell for those who play "Amazing Grace" on a piano in the church building, who stay home on Wednesday night, or who wear a skirt that's too short (doubly so if you're a man). In case you didn't catch that, the Good News is that most everybody is going to Hell. Nobody let themselves be shaken by this. And that was the bigger problem. If these problems sound familiar to you, then I suggest this book. It is a refutation of the idea that the Bible is inerrant. In other words, if it seems wrong to you that God would demand that Abraham sacrifice Isaac only to have his prophets condemn the practice of human sacrifice in later books, then there is probably something else going on there and this book explains it. The explanation is complicated and so I won't relate it here, but it's reasonable. However, if you are stuck on the idea that the Bible is one inerrant book written by a single mind and telling a single story, you won't like it. This isn't a perfect work. Some of his arguments go over my head or don't hold all the water, but as I am not required to read this book as the Definitive Work on the subject of Biblical inerrancy in the same way that people who have convinced themselves that the Bible is the Definitive Work on the subject of morality do, then I can wholeheartedly recommend it. Also, before anyone gets their noses out of joint, you should know that this book was written by a Christian and who does not advocate for the wholesale disregarding of the Bible. All he asks is for a critical reading of it in the context in which it was created and without the biases we cling to to assure ourselves that we are right and they are wrong. *The argument "Because God said to and so it was okay because God is the source of all morality" is addressed in the book. At length.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy

    I gave up on the doctrine of biblical inerrancy some time ago, having been convinced by a number of arguments against it. The Human Faces of God, however, has definitively settled the issue for me. I'm sure there are arguments to be made against this or that point in the book, but the weight of the evidence as a whole is overwhelming. Stark begins by engaging the "Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy" as a generally accepted statement of the doctrine. He proceeds to show how inerrantists incon I gave up on the doctrine of biblical inerrancy some time ago, having been convinced by a number of arguments against it. The Human Faces of God, however, has definitively settled the issue for me. I'm sure there are arguments to be made against this or that point in the book, but the weight of the evidence as a whole is overwhelming. Stark begins by engaging the "Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy" as a generally accepted statement of the doctrine. He proceeds to show how inerrantists inconsistently apply their principles (e.g., the historical-grammatical method). He demonstrates that innerantists are at odds with the hermeneutical principles of both the biblical writers themselves and the patristic writers. He then closes the first section by showing how inerrancy "stunts your growth" as a morally responsible person. Then comes the most substantial part of the book, where he presents five cases that disprove biblical inerrancy. Four are mostly related to the Old Testament: polytheism, human sacrifice, genocide, and government propaganda. The fifth is that as an apocalyptic prophet Jesus failed in his prediction of the imminent end of the world. This last one is admittedly the most controversial and the most difficult one for Christians to accept. He closes the book by evaluating (and rejecting) alternate ways of engaging the problem texts, i.e., allegorical, canonical, and subversive readings. His preferred method is what he calls "confrontational reading". He does not take the way of Marcion, who excised the problem texts. Rather, Stark says we must retain the problem texts as "condemned texts" - and in doing so we discover their real value as Scripture. He ends by stating that there is no inerrant authority which can answer all our questions and remove all our doubts. This is not to embrace a nihilistic relativism, he says, but to recognize the Bible as our example of the argument believers have among themselves and then to engage in that same argument today. The five cases he presents against inerrancy are argued strongly. As I said, I know the "Jesus was wrong" case is controversial and I plan to do some more reading on that subject. Nevertheless, I do not (and Stark does not) see it as a threat to the Christian faith. I remain unconvinced that the alternative methods of reading the problems texts need to be rejected. I don't see why we can't take the "condemned texts" and then use them for other purposes, such as allegory. It's true that literal readings could slip back in and do their damage, but if that happens then it's our fault for not being diligent. All in all, I highly recommend this book for those who are open to a non-fundamentalist way of reading the Bible.

  3. 5 out of 5

    James Chappell

    Thom Stark's 'Human Faces of God' is one of the most intellectually honest, raw and unflinching looks at the nature of scripture that I have ever read. Mr. Stark is a Christian, and although many of an evangelical and/or fundamentalist bent might disagree with this statement, I believe him without reservation. I am nowhere near Stark's level in terms of knowledge of scripture, but people like Stark are the reason I am no longer afraid to venture out of my comfort zone. Many people with good inten Thom Stark's 'Human Faces of God' is one of the most intellectually honest, raw and unflinching looks at the nature of scripture that I have ever read. Mr. Stark is a Christian, and although many of an evangelical and/or fundamentalist bent might disagree with this statement, I believe him without reservation. I am nowhere near Stark's level in terms of knowledge of scripture, but people like Stark are the reason I am no longer afraid to venture out of my comfort zone. Many people with good intentions have 'warned' me about him, and although I was hesitant about reading this, I needn't have been. The book did not threaten my faith. It affirmed it. Some have told me that Stark is barely a Christian. That he is as close as you can get to an atheist without actually leaving Christianity. They said that he's pals with John Loftus and Ed Babinski, both of whom have supported his book, and that they only endorse it because they think he's about to fall off the wagon. Those people are mistaken. Stark is just a guy who found a different meaning in scripture than more conservative Christians. He followed the evidence where HE felt it led, and came to his own conclusions. He didn't simply ask questions that narrowed his range of possible destinations to those that bring him comfort. And he admits his struggles, something which people like myself, not to mention atheists (see Loftus and Babinski) and other believers (Boyd, McGrath...) have commended him for. Now although I loved the book, I did not agree with everything in it because I do not know enough to hold a position for or against it (I remain agnostic on the issues). I say this as a lay individual with less knowledge than Stark but one who intends to follow the same evidence he followed. I may not reach the same conclusions, but I will follow the evidence and I intend to find my own position in a manner that is as intellectually honest as Starks, despite the discomfort it may bring. So what made me uncomfortable, but willing to investigate further, despite my love of Stark's book: 1. The idea of polytheism in the times of the ancient Israelites, and the idea that the Israelites acknowledged the existence of tribal gods such as Kemosh. 2. The idea that child sacrifice,although rare, was something that the Israelites did themselves. 3. The idea that the slaughter of the Caananites (among others) was NOT commanded by God and was in fact only claimed to have been instructed by God in order to validate the conquest of Canaan. 4. The idea that Jesus was fallible and wrong when he said that the parousia would occur within "this generation", meaning the one his disciples lived in. Some elements left me with other questions, the most pertinent being how one distinguishes the voice of God in the bibles from the voices of men. I hear scholars like Amy Levine talk of catching glimpses of God through scripture. I want to know how, if views similar to Stark's are true, this is to be done. Where does political polemic end, where does myth end, and where does the voice of God begin? Or does He simply speak through us? What I did love more than anything was the cudgel Stark brought to the Chicago Statement on inerrancy. Now I am all for inerrancy of purpose in the Bible, but after reading Stark's book, I can no longer go beyond that. Retreating away from that type of inerrancy does not mean denying inspiration, and Stark acknowledges this. He just demolishes the Chicago Statement and exposes the many problems it creates when reading scripture. One simply cannot adhere to the statement and be without cognitive dissonance. Now I can read the bible in the knowledge that it doesn't have to be inerrant in the way the Chicago Statement says it must be. I may not be on board with all Thom Stark has to say, but damn I admire the guy because all he wants us to do is be honest with ourselves.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Anderson

    I feel like I want everyone I know to confront the issues raised in this book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kristofer Carlson

    The Human Faces of God: What Scripture Reveals When It Gets God Wrong by Thom Stark My rating: 4 of 5 stars Faith can be a fragile thing. It is possible to lose your faith when confronted by facts that don't fit into your mental model. With that in mind, I cannot recommend this book to my Protestant friends, particularly those who are inextricably wedded to a literalistic interpretation of the bible. This book has the potential to change your perception of scripture and, with nothing to replace it The Human Faces of God: What Scripture Reveals When It Gets God Wrong by Thom Stark My rating: 4 of 5 stars Faith can be a fragile thing. It is possible to lose your faith when confronted by facts that don't fit into your mental model. With that in mind, I cannot recommend this book to my Protestant friends, particularly those who are inextricably wedded to a literalistic interpretation of the bible. This book has the potential to change your perception of scripture and, with nothing to replace it, destroy your faith. The Bible is not what we are so often told it is, particularly when we claim to be biblical literalists and interpret the text solely according to the historical-grammatical method. The fact is that no one is a biblical literalist, as the author aptly demonstrates. What are we to make of the evidence that our scriptures contain multiple points of view about who God is? About the existence of other gods? And even (God forbid) child sacrifice? The fact that we explain these away instead of taking them at face value is evidence that we are spiritualizing the scriptures, reading into them our point(s) of view. If we come face to face with the obvious differences of opinion within scripture regarding fundamental things, what are we to do? For many, having no explanation and unable to integrate what they know into their religious perspective, they lose their faith. I don't think that is what the author is trying to do, yet the author exposing these issues without providing a completely satisfactory solution. Most of what Thom Stark describes is known to the Christian world -- just not the Protestant world, and in particular the Evangelicals and Fundamentalists. For most of the world's Christians, the Bible is Sacred Scripture because the Church says it is. The Bible was written within the Church, declared to be scripture by that same Church, and interpreted within and by that Church on the basis of a living Holy Tradition (also known as the general consensus of the Church Fathers). When Peter wrote that Paul's letters were scripture, which ones? Paul wrote at least four letters to the Corinthians; we have only the second and the fourth. Again, in Ephesians 4:15,16 Paul tells the Ephesians to read in church the epistle he wrote to the Laodiceans. The missing Pauline epistles were determined by the Church not to be scripture, while others became part of the New Testament. Thom Stark contrasts the literalist, historical-grammical hermeneutic with three other hermeneutical methods of dealing with problem texts, each of which come up wanting. These are the allegorical, the canonical, and the subversive readings. Stark recognizes that those employing the allegorical method recognize the problematic nature of some texts (particularly the genocidal narratives of the conquest of Canaan), yet argues that when this reading becomes the traditional meaning, it prevents people from confronting the problem texts directly, and dooms us to repeat the conquest narratives (as in the Crusades, the Colonial era, and Manifest Destiny) instead of learning their lessons. The Canonical Method recognizes that the scripture was created within, by, and for the community of faith. Stark argues that the determination of what is and is not scripture was not created by the faith community, but by the elites within that community. The argument seems to be that because the process was not democratic, it may be that the elites chose those scriptures most amenable to their point of view and the maintenance of their status. This is a highly problematic argument, as it reads the modern western culture back into the situation as it existed in the past. Moreover, it ignores the fact that in the early church, bishops were sought out for persecution; some early records show that the term of a bishop was typically in the low single digits, and bishops often died as martyrs. To be elevated to the position of bishop was, in many cases, a death sentence. And finally, the idea that the Holy Spirit moved within the community of faith apart from the bishop was foreign to the early church. The Subversive Method points out that in many cases a meaning can be given to a text that subverts its obvious meaning. In some cases this is justified; the Revelation of St. John is full of coded language suggesting the end and judgement of the Roman Empire. Even Jesus' call to 'Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and give to God what belongs to God" has a subversive message---since everything ultimately belongs to God, nothing rightfully belongs to Caesar. But it is possible to subvert the subversive message to justify confiscatory taxation, as took place in the Byzantine Empire, and under the Medieval popes. It is also possible to use scripture to justify racism, slavery, polygamy, and the subjugation of women. Stark offers an alternative approach: viewing certain texts as condemned texts. Their status as scripture would be precisely because of what they reveal about us, and about what they fail to say about God. Under this reading, the text is valuable as an example of what not to do and how not to think. For example, few Fundamentalists think the fatalistic message of Ecclesiastes is an example for us to follow, but rather an example of just where an idolatrous and hedonistic life ends up. So too we don't accept Satan as a role model to follow, even though his seven-fold "I will" is recorded in the book of Isaiah. What Stark fails to recognize is the vibrancy of Holy Tradition as a guide for the interpretation of the text. The fathers recognized the problematic nature of some of scripture; not only that, but they wrote about it, and we use their writings today to help us deal with the same problems. We don't hide these texts away, we don't pretend they don't exist, and we don't explain them away. Just as the church has determined the canon of Sacred Scripture, so too the church has passed on the methodology of dealing with problem texts. This methodology is different on a case by case basis. In fact, there are competing hermeneutics within Holy Tradition, just as there are competing views about God within Sacred Scripture. None of this is either a revelation or a problem for the Orthodox. All the hermeneutics described by Stark are present to some degree or another, in some place or another, within Holy Tradition. I finish this review as I began. If you are a Fundamentalist or Evangelical Protestant, avoid reading this book, as you lack the cognitive framework for dealing with the information.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Avery

    When I was a little kid (1999), I went online to get help understanding some of the many bizarre passages of the Old Testament. At the time, the main commentary available which really spoke to my heart was the Skeptics' Annotated Bible. Now these days I feel very conflicted, because that website is simply devoted to ridicule. Surely there is more to the Old Testament than that. This book seems like a good place to start. It still focuses on the inherently funny absurdities of trying to harmonize When I was a little kid (1999), I went online to get help understanding some of the many bizarre passages of the Old Testament. At the time, the main commentary available which really spoke to my heart was the Skeptics' Annotated Bible. Now these days I feel very conflicted, because that website is simply devoted to ridicule. Surely there is more to the Old Testament than that. This book seems like a good place to start. It still focuses on the inherently funny absurdities of trying to harmonize the Old and New Testaments, but instead of just laughing, I'm really learning something about the text of the Old Testament and the ancient Israelites who produced it. It's still a polemic, but it goes deeper, and you can read it together with scholarly commentaries on the difficult passages he discusses. (helpful link) The author puts so much effort into laughing at Evangelicals that you might think he's an atheist. Actually, as he admits in the final chapters, he's a Marcionist: he believes that the Old Testament God is not the same Being as the New Testament God. So I dutifully dug into Tertullian's Against Marcion to see how the Church responds. What I found was very interesting. Tertullian was aware of some of the passages Stark cites, and in response, he reads the Old Testament through the lens of Greek philosophy. So, for example, Biblical references to Yahweh being a young upstart at a heavenly conference of gods are acknowledged, but Tertullian rejects their meaning, because the essence of the word "God" is not found in polytheism, only in the revelation of the living Christ as articulated in the Nicene Creed. I can simultaneously understand what Tertullian is saying and agree in some sense, while still being able to see the limitations of Greek philosophy in a pluralistic world. Anyway, Stark completely ignores the real theological history of what he's claiming so I can only rate this 4 stars, but it was quite a fun read. P.S. An interesting aside in the book is that Stark admits that the Qu'ran actually has a much stronger case for inerrancy than the Bible. I ruminated on this throughout the book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Paul Patterson

    This is one of the clearest, but densely written, books I have read on how to approach the Bible as a modern person. Often when people assert the Bible is entirely without error, they are merely witnessing to the fact that they have not thoroughly read the text. Unfortunately, those who have discovered the 'darker side' of the Bible quit reading or thinking about it due to its ever so human character. Thom Stark follows another path in which he affirms that there are inaccurate, even terrifying This is one of the clearest, but densely written, books I have read on how to approach the Bible as a modern person. Often when people assert the Bible is entirely without error, they are merely witnessing to the fact that they have not thoroughly read the text. Unfortunately, those who have discovered the 'darker side' of the Bible quit reading or thinking about it due to its ever so human character. Thom Stark follows another path in which he affirms that there are inaccurate, even terrifying texts, within the Bible yet it has a deep and abiding message to those who read it. Read as a human document that is nevertheless the carrier of revelation certainly imbues the task of studying scripture with ambiguity but it can strengthen your faith and develop your moral character. He symbolizes this way of reading as a mirror to our human selves. Like our selves the bible has competing voices. At first it is difficult to shake off the realization that the Bible in certain parts seems to affirm: polytheism, child sacrifice, genocide, ideological propaganda and even that Jesus may have had an ineffectual understanding of the final judgment. Read Thom and see if all this is in fact present in the text and ponder his solution, whether you agree or not it will certainly challenge you and have you reading on a deeper level than ever before. My only criticism of the book is that Thom seems to depend exclusively on historical critical interpretation of the Bible rather than applying the many other ways of reading the Scripture to augment this one. Thom's reading of the Bible is what I like to call a way of critical discipleship. My favorite phrase from the book is, "In the beginning was the Argument." A witness to the many voices converging in one amazing revelatory book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Thom Stark

    "Christians can ignore the facts that Stark brings into the light of day only if they want to be wrong." —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 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 "Christians can ignore the facts that Stark brings into the light of day only if they want to be wrong." —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 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." —Tony Campolo 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." —Neil Elliott 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." —Ted Grimsrud 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." —Frank Schaeffer author of Crazy for God

  9. 4 out of 5

    Justin Powell

    An absolutely fantastic book and highly recommended to everyone. Bible believing fundamentalist, or not. Of course being an A-theist, I completely disagree with his theological conclusions, or modified interpretations, but I will say that if Christianity is here to stay, this is where Christians need to head. Intellectually, and theologically, I'd imagine this is the last step for a Christian before they make the jump to Non-religious, A-theist, etc. An absolutely fantastic book and highly recommended to everyone. Bible believing fundamentalist, or not. Of course being an A-theist, I completely disagree with his theological conclusions, or modified interpretations, but I will say that if Christianity is here to stay, this is where Christians need to head. Intellectually, and theologically, I'd imagine this is the last step for a Christian before they make the jump to Non-religious, A-theist, etc.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ian

    The author has a particular axe to grind against "inerrantists" - fair enough, there is no doubt that the Bible contains errors and contradictions, but that in itself doesn't undermine its message. However he also argues against early Hebrew monotheism and in doing so seems to rely mostly on a few texts from the 2nd Book of Kings which are open to interpretation and are by no means as clearly cut polytheistic as he seems to think. The fact that the meaning of some of the texts he uses as evidenc The author has a particular axe to grind against "inerrantists" - fair enough, there is no doubt that the Bible contains errors and contradictions, but that in itself doesn't undermine its message. However he also argues against early Hebrew monotheism and in doing so seems to rely mostly on a few texts from the 2nd Book of Kings which are open to interpretation and are by no means as clearly cut polytheistic as he seems to think. The fact that the meaning of some of the texts he uses as evidence is unclear should give reason for pause but it doesn't. This isn't to say that the Israelites didn't struggle with the concept of monotheism; in fact much of the Old Testament is taken up in their repeated faithlessness to their God and consequential judgements visited upon them. He also spends a lot of time undermining the ethical nature of the God of the Old Testament based on the genocide by the Israelites of the original inhabitants of Canaan ostensibly at God's command and other similar incidents. For example, he argues that Yahweh demanded child sacrifice and part of his evidence is Micah 6:6-8. Yet it is clear form the passage as quoted by him that it is an example of hyperbole i.e. it is a rhetorical device. These kinds of arguments aren't new: first century Gnostics made similar claims and argued that the God of the Old Testament was evil and not the same as the God of Jesus.) Finally towards the end of the book, he launches into a discussion of Jesus failed prophecies about the end of the world. There are plenty of positive reviews on the back cover of the book, some of which appear to be from atheists; those that appear to be from Christians seem to have missed the point that if the author is correct then his arguments don't just undermine fundamentalism, they also undermine Christian belief itself. I didn't find the arguments very convincing (and I can't even claim to be a Christian), but I'm sure others will. BTW: There is no index which isn't very helpul. And he doesn't refer at all to Talmudic interpretations; surely it would make sense to see how the people whose holy book he is critiquing interpret the passages that he has issues with.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Norman

    Thom's book raises some interesting arguments against inerrancy - and in my opinion a lot of what he says makes sense - however - I'm not sold. The interesting thing about this book is that 0% of what Thom is saying is new. OK - I don't have scientific support for this - and you could say this about pretty much any book talking about holy scriptures. All of these ideas have been recycled by theologians since the dawn of man. The reason I'm not sold on what Thom says in this book is because of Th Thom's book raises some interesting arguments against inerrancy - and in my opinion a lot of what he says makes sense - however - I'm not sold. The interesting thing about this book is that 0% of what Thom is saying is new. OK - I don't have scientific support for this - and you could say this about pretty much any book talking about holy scriptures. All of these ideas have been recycled by theologians since the dawn of man. The reason I'm not sold on what Thom says in this book is because of Thom's 'tude. In my opinion, Thom comes across as a little bit overconfident about his position - and whenever someone talking about God is quick to say that they have the one right viewpoint - red flags. Also, Thom is quick to say that those who dissent with his opinion are "deceiving" and "manipulating" data intentionally - as if Thom is inside their mind to know what their intentions are. Another red flag. Lastly, Thom makes his point while using words like "obviously" - when clearly things are not obvious or else there would not be so many dissenting viewpoints on what he sees as "obvious." The funny (or sad) thing is that there will be good rebuttals to what Thom posits in this book - and then Thom will have a rebuttal - and then there will be a rebuttal to that. And around and around it goes. Who is right? Thom has his stack of ideas - and his dissenters have their stack of ideas. Who is right? I'm not sure. But I know that I'm not sold on an idea when - as I see it - it goes against what Jesus spends much of his time talking about - loving your neighbor - not questioning their motives as Thom has done in this book. Thom is a gifted writer and thinker - but reasoning is just one facet of truth. If this topic interests you, I recommend The Bible Made Impossible by Christian Smith or No Argument for God by John Wilkinson

  12. 4 out of 5

    Richard Williams

    it's an important and significant book, for several reasons. first because it shows how it began as an online discussion, it is much the better for being a result of a discussion/debate, there are several places were i thought it was several voices thinking about and discussion the issues. second because it is a good repository of lots of details connected to good arguments, it makes a good book to give to someone thinking about these issues. to the point, concentrated, well written, interesting, it's an important and significant book, for several reasons. first because it shows how it began as an online discussion, it is much the better for being a result of a discussion/debate, there are several places were i thought it was several voices thinking about and discussion the issues. second because it is a good repository of lots of details connected to good arguments, it makes a good book to give to someone thinking about these issues. to the point, concentrated, well written, interesting, even when you disagree or are a bit distressed about the ideas it reads like a discussion not a one way lecture. from the top, it is an attempt to come to honest grips with the bad things God tells people to do, foremost are the genocides in the conquest of Israel, secondarily things like slavery, an issue i seem to come back to repeatedly. there are a number of ways of approaching the problem, if i had to i could probably plot them on a liberal conservative axis. his big point is to examine the inerrancy viewpoint as both inconsistent and incoherent, inconsistent as it doesn't take everything in a grammatical-historical manner as claimed and incoherent as it really doesn't deal with the theodicy issues that genocide/slavery/polytheism/child sacrifice etc etc pose for believers. the book deserves a critical reread with a yellow highlighter and laptop nearby. it ought to lead me into some more interesting thinking. i didn't give it 5 stars because i think it incomplete, the last chapters were provocative yet didn't lead to research on my part. feel rushed to print, inadequately defended. note: most conservative Christians will just get mad and quit reading. don't give up, ask questions both to him and to the text being looked at.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ronspross

    Not done with this book, but it begins very well, beginning with an illustration of one of its theses -- that the Bible is a book arguing with itself ... what else would you expect from a Jewish publication? :) -- showing how the book of Jonah is a push-back from the xenophobic book of Ezra. I will probably react to my fundamentalist past until the end of my days, and so some of the chapters titles alone are very gratifying, even before reading: "Inerrantists Do Not Exist: Dispelling a Myth of B Not done with this book, but it begins very well, beginning with an illustration of one of its theses -- that the Bible is a book arguing with itself ... what else would you expect from a Jewish publication? :) -- showing how the book of Jonah is a push-back from the xenophobic book of Ezra. I will probably react to my fundamentalist past until the end of my days, and so some of the chapters titles alone are very gratifying, even before reading: "Inerrantists Do Not Exist: Dispelling a Myth of Biblical Proportions", "Inerrancy Stunts Your Growth: and Other Fundamentalist Health Hazards", "Making Yahweh Happy: Human Sacrifice in Ancient Israel", "Blessing the Nations: Yahweh's Genocides and Their Justifications", "Jesus Was Wrong: or, It's the End of the World as We Know It and I Feel Fine." Although I haven't read it yet, I'm sure the chapter titles are meant to be provocative and not to be taken literally. Therefore the fundamentalist, in order to understand this book, will have to read it through different interpretive lenses than those through which he (thinks he) reads the Bible.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    This book is basically a critique of inerrancy (belief the bible is without error of any kind). I've been struggling with this debate for a while-many close friends and family aren't aware (I would imagine there's a strong fear culture and peer pressure in the southern baptist community). This book more or less answered my questions. It critiques inerrancy methods, gives examples of errancy, then wraps it up with suggestions moving forward. There are pieces here and there I disagreed with, but the This book is basically a critique of inerrancy (belief the bible is without error of any kind). I've been struggling with this debate for a while-many close friends and family aren't aware (I would imagine there's a strong fear culture and peer pressure in the southern baptist community). This book more or less answered my questions. It critiques inerrancy methods, gives examples of errancy, then wraps it up with suggestions moving forward. There are pieces here and there I disagreed with, but the author leaves room for different communities of Christians . For most of the book it was disorienting, and I was prepared to give it a four (for not warping it up), but then read the last chapter where he demonstrates a reasonable way forward (with room for different communities to stretch). The book is worth the last chapter alone. For any of my inerrancy friends who think any other position isn't worth your time, or you just want a better grasp of the Others, read this book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lynne

    Wow. I really had high hopes for this book. Those were quickly dashed and stayed dashed to the end. If you are part of the progressive Christian "Jesus was just a really good guy and all that stuff about the Bible actually being true is just as silly as the secular progressives say it is", then this is another book to add to your "to read" pile. If, however, you are looking for something that isn't just one more overly academic, other-side-of-the-same-coin-as-fundamentalism book, then look elsew Wow. I really had high hopes for this book. Those were quickly dashed and stayed dashed to the end. If you are part of the progressive Christian "Jesus was just a really good guy and all that stuff about the Bible actually being true is just as silly as the secular progressives say it is", then this is another book to add to your "to read" pile. If, however, you are looking for something that isn't just one more overly academic, other-side-of-the-same-coin-as-fundamentalism book, then look elsewhere. I almost bought this book based just on the reviews. Glad I got it first at the library and saved my bucks.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Paul Froehlich

    There are a number of biblical verses that Christians don’t memorize and about which pastors don’t preach. For example, “Anyone who beats their male or female slave with a rod must be punished if the slave dies as a direct result, but they are not to be punished if the slave recovers after a day or two, since the slave is their property.” (Exodus21:20-21) The Human Faces of God is a provocative book that addresses parts of the Bible that seem to conflict with biblical principles, passages that b There are a number of biblical verses that Christians don’t memorize and about which pastors don’t preach. For example, “Anyone who beats their male or female slave with a rod must be punished if the slave dies as a direct result, but they are not to be punished if the slave recovers after a day or two, since the slave is their property.” (Exodus21:20-21) The Human Faces of God is a provocative book that addresses parts of the Bible that seem to conflict with biblical principles, passages that believers were never taught in Sunday school. These might be called the forgotten parts of the Bible. This book is a direct challenge to conservative evangelicals who believe in the inerrancy of scripture. Thom Stark calls them “inerrantists.” In 1978, leading Evangelicals from around the world, including Francis Schaeffer, met in Chicago to draw up a statement of their doctrine of biblical inerrancy. That Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy remains authoritative in orthodox evangelical circles. It claims that the Bible was inspired by God and is without error in everything it affirms. It was adopted in 2006 as the Evangelical Theological Society’s official definition of inerrancy. This book is an argument against the fundamentalist approach to Christianity, as embodied by the Chicago Statement, and “in favor of a different, more ancient way of reading” the Bible. Stark has found every difficult, even embarrassing, passage in Scripture. He thinks if he makes a big enough pile of things repellent to modern ears, then the other side will cry uncle. Yet inerrantists believe that if God is for something, that automatically justifies it, even when the action, such as ethnic cleansing and taking sex slaves, violates the Golden Rule and love your neighbor as yourself. Here are more examples of such passages: * Yahweh instructs Israel to destroy all the Canaanites, including women and children, but not to destroy the trees. (Deut 20:16-19). * It is God’s will to punish parents by dashing their infants’ heads against rocks and raping their mothers. (Isaiah 13:16) * The Bible describes how the “sons of God” impregnated women, (Genesis. 6: 1-4). and says their offspring were giants called Nephilim (Numbers 13:33). * The reason Paul gives for banning women from authority or teaching in the church is that they are inherently intellectually inferior to men, since Eve was the one deceived. (1Tim 12-14) * Yahweh repeatedly says he will punish disobedient parents by making them “eat the flesh of your sons and daughters” (Leviticus. 26:29; Ezekiel 5:10; Jeremiah 19:9). * Yahweh tells King Saul to exterminate the Amalekites, including their children, slaves, and animals. (1Sam 15:2-3) The reason offered was revenge for something that had happened 400 years earlier in Exodus 17 when the Amalekites fought a battle with Moses’ troops and lost * Yahweh had a track record of punishing children for their parents’ sins. Yahweh drowned all the children on earth in the great flood. He burned alive all the children in Sodom and Gomorrah. In Exodus 12, Yahweh decided to kill every firstborn child in Egypt, in order to punish Pharaoh. Stark asserts that nobody could really believe that all of the outrageous passages are God’s will.. I’m afraid Stark underestimates the human ability to justify anything. Christians who can defend genocide, after all, have no problem defending lesser outrages. Christians say God is good, all the time. Inerrantists also say, if God does something, that makes it good. In other words, “morality consists of God saying to us, ‘Do as I say, not as I do.’” Genocide is wrong, except when the Israelis did it; in that case, it was wholly justified. Stark contends God never did order genocide. “These accounts reflect a standard ideology that Israel shared with many of its ancient neighbors.” Besides, most perpetrators of genocide justify it by citing divine will or national destiny. Stark brushes aside “all apologetic evasion. Human sacrifice and genocide are atrocities, whether we find them in the Bible or not.” He also cites significant evidence that most of the genocides did not occur. Stark writes that his goal is to encourage Christians to think more deeply about what they believe, and to adopt a more mature faith. Stark hurts his case, however, by challenging the honesty of those who disagree with him. It’s better to disagree while according to the other person motives no less pure than one’s own. Besides, the already limited extent to which people are willing to reconsider what they believe is surely reduced when their character is under attack. For those who love the Bible, Stark’s book is a fascinating read, though a bit repetitious. He makes plausible arguments, for example, that early-on, the Hebrews believed in polytheism and practiced child sacrifice. Another suprrise is that King David did not slay Goliath, it was actually another warrior, Elhanan, who got credit in the oldest version. (2Sam 21:19) In short, even those who have read the Bible for decades will learn, although some of what they learn may be discomfiting. ###

  17. 4 out of 5

    Alan Fuller

    Thom Stark sees the Chicago inerrantists as the rats of Bible interpretation. To get rid of them he burns down the barn (the Bible). Stark uses the historical-critical method of Bible interpretation, which sees the acquisition of land and consolidation of power as the real motive for biblical writings. The father of the historical-critical method was Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677). Some of Spinoza's contemporaries called his book, "a book forged in hell . . . by the devil himself." It seems strange t Thom Stark sees the Chicago inerrantists as the rats of Bible interpretation. To get rid of them he burns down the barn (the Bible). Stark uses the historical-critical method of Bible interpretation, which sees the acquisition of land and consolidation of power as the real motive for biblical writings. The father of the historical-critical method was Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677). Some of Spinoza's contemporaries called his book, "a book forged in hell . . . by the devil himself." It seems strange that ancient writers would write in a way that could only be understood using post-Enlightenment methods. Did they foresee this future development? Stark makes some assertions that need verification. For instance: "The predictive prophecy in Daniel 11 is stunningly accurate, right up until about 164 BCE." (Dan 11:45) Historical interpreters cherry pick events between 549 BC and 164 BC and shoehorn them into Daniel 11. Many of them are not consecutive events as the chapter presents. Jerome wrote: "And so that writer [apparently Tertullian] is in error who records as the fourth king that Darius who was defeated by Alexander, for he was not the fourth king, but the fourteenth king of the Persians after Cyrus. It was in the seventh year of his rule that Alexander defeated and slew him. Moreover it should be observed that after he has specified four kings of Persia after Cyrus, the author [i.e., Daniel] omits the nine others and passes right on to Alexander. For the Spirit of prophecy was not concerned about preserving historical detail but in summarizing only the most important matters." Stark acknowledges that early Christian interpretation included allegory. 2Co 3:6 Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. Paul acknowledged allegory (Gal 4:24), and the Book of Hebrews says the OT stories were about faith and written for us (Heb 11:40). The OT says ancient writers wrote wisdom metaphorically (Pro 1:6, Hos 1:10). Ancient Mesopotamian stories similar to the Bible's, such as “The Debate between Winter and Summer,” and "The Epic of Gilgamesh" are believed to be allegorical. Paul explains that God reveals Himself in nature and that's where ancient beliefs came from (Rom 1:20 compare Psalms 19:1). Plato and Aristotle made similar claims. Philo of Alexandria said the rules for allegory were based on Natural Philosophy, not embarrassment over the OT. Even before writing, ancient temples were astronomically aligned (archaeoastronomy) and some cave paintings are believed to represent star charts. Here is another of Starks assertions. "...for instance, Job and Ecclesiastes’ denial of the possibility of the afterlife." (Job 19:25) For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: (Job 19:26) And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: That sure sounds like some sort of afterlife to me. He says the Quran has fewer contradictions and errors than the Bible. Perhaps he believes Judas died on the cross and Mary was part of the Trinity as the Muslims do. Stark complains about the genocides and atrocities found in the OT, even though he doesn't think they really happened. The Bible gives a litany of reasons for the punishments (Lev 18:27, 20:23, Deu 9:5). The Canaanites weren't even fully human but the descendants of Nephilim (Num 13:33). How could God be a righteous God if He didn't punish unrepentant evil? The book takes what I would call a millenarian view of the kingdom of God, based on earthly structures of authority and power. There is no consideration for the spiritual kingdom (Rom 14:17, Luke 17:20-21). Jesus spoke of the similarities of the kingdom to faith and doctrine. (mustard seed - Mat 13:31, 17:20, Mark 4:31 Luke 13:19, 17:6, also leaven) The author sees the god of the Bible as created in the image of man. He sees himself in the monstrous image. I hope he doesn't see me. I don't consider myself a monster or a god. "Upon what do we build our worldview, our ethics, our politics and our morality? The answer is that there is no foundation." Stark Stark says we have to do moral reasoning in context. I guess if we were in the context of Nazi Germany our moral reasoning would be a little different, although the author doesn't believe in national allegiances of any kind. ...“new creation.” What that will look like, none of us can pretend to articulate in the abstract. It looks like people caring for people just because we are all people." "I am a Christian because my parents were Christians, as were theirs, and so on. I am a Christian because I chose to be a Christian. I am a Christian because I am a white male living in the West. I am a Christian because I happen to like Jesus, warts and all." (Kindle loc. 7664) Stark is a Christian because he chooses to be and Jesus was a nice guy. It doesn't have anything to do with faith or grace. It has to do with his self-determination. His statement reminds me of some other Bible verses. (2 Th 2:4, Isa 14:13, Mat 6:9, Mar 14:5, John 12:5)

  18. 5 out of 5

    John Martindale

    Thom Stark is a reasoner after my own heart. He is simply a master at argumentation, both in presenting solid evidence in favor of his conclusions, and ingeniously showing the weakness, inconsistencies, and fallacies in his opponents reasoning. I so resonate with how his mind works. I really appreciate finding a Christian who willing to approach scripture ethically, who is utterly unwilling to justify and condone evil. Several years ago a friend had me read the chapter in this book on the Canaan Thom Stark is a reasoner after my own heart. He is simply a master at argumentation, both in presenting solid evidence in favor of his conclusions, and ingeniously showing the weakness, inconsistencies, and fallacies in his opponents reasoning. I so resonate with how his mind works. I really appreciate finding a Christian who willing to approach scripture ethically, who is utterly unwilling to justify and condone evil. Several years ago a friend had me read the chapter in this book on the Canaanite Genocide, and the book left a mark on me then; revealing just how vacuous and tenuous the attempts of the apologist are in their defense of the indefensible. I had long felt the sense that the evangelical arguments were problematic, but seeing their cracks and chasms coherently pointed out definitely had an impact. I glanced at other parts of the book then, parts were still pretty threatening; "God" commanding human sacrifices, Jesus being wrong on the Apocalypse... I also looked at the end of the book to see his positive approach to reading scripture which didn't seem very satisfying to an evangelical still longing for a sure and infallible foundation. But yeah, Now some 5 years later, thoroughly deconstructed, unable to find ways to salvage the old certainties, unable to avoid the mountains of evidence, or to avoid the innumerable problems in the text, I now have returned and gone through the book as a whole, most of the content was familiar to me due to becoming acquainted with Old Testament scholarship over the last few years, but yeah, his reasoning in chapters 2 (Inerrantist don't exist) and 3 (Inerrancy stunts your growth) was fresh and illuminating. I think I want to re-read these. In light of the chapter "Jesus was wrong, or its the end of the world and I feel fine" I do kinda want to attribute the false prophecies on the end of the world to the writers of the New Testament. I rather say the writers of Gospels were wrong on such a foundational issue, rather than that Jesus was. Possibly, Jesus had prophesied that temple would be destroyed, and later Christians feeling increased hostility towards the Jews, mingled Jesus' odd non-Danielic idiosyncratic usage of "Son of Man" with their interpretations of Daniel (as is seen in the book of Enoch) convincing themselves that Jesus would return right after the destruction the temple. Having been convinced they put those words in Jesus' mouth, doing the same thing the writer of Daniel did, recounting passed events up to the present (Jerusalem surrounded by their enemies) as if Jesus had predicted it, but then moving on with their own prophecy into the immediate future, which of course didn't materialize. And yet, though this is what I want, I still can't escape how much of Jesus' ethic, how utterly black and white he was, the intensity of his demands, his ministry enacting the inauguration of the Kingdom of God with miracles and exorcisms, and Paul and the other earlier writers of the N.T who were so confident of the imminent return in their life time, all does seem to imply the authenticity of a mistaken apocalyptic message. Even if the main discourses were post hoc, it still seems highly likely that Jesus was a failed apocalyptic prophet. It is orthodox to recognize the genuine humanity of Jesus, which would include ignorance, but it is a rough pill to swallow that He was this human, that God didn't let him in how just how wrong he was. If one affirms Jesus was thoroughly apocalyptic (and thus thoroughly wrong) but also the Son of God who was resurrected and ascended, then my goodness, that must have been one of the biggest cosmic "Oops" upon returning to heavenly bliss. Jesus would be like "Father, seriously...!" And I couldn't imagine the divine discomfort for Jesus as Revelation was being penned, the "Oh my Gosh, what did I unleash...?" My goodness, surely one of the most momentous events in history has to be the book of Daniel being embraced as Scripture. The book of Daniel gave a suffering people the false hope that their enemies would soon be destroyed, an everlasting Kingdom established and the Jewish martyrs resurrected immediately following Antiochus Epiphanies downfall. Despite it being a false prophecy, still some embraced as Scripture and reinterpreted it for the near future. Whether it was Jesus or his followers, the reinterpretations of a failed prophecy took a hold of them too, and thus one could likely say without Daniel, there would be no Christianity, no 2 Thess, and no book of Revelation. Bizarre to think how a forgery written in the 2nd century BC could so radically shape history, a failed prophecy being reinterpreted and reapplied generation, after generation all the way into the present day. Seriously what is more dangerous than turning a prophecy for their immediate present time into scripture? For when the prophecy doesn't happen, being unmoored from the historical context, it is forever future, never falsifiable and ever able to inspire fanatics . All the ways people have prepared and acted, the ethics and ideas shaped by the delusions, the wars and movements all inspired from apocolypticism... sigh

  19. 5 out of 5

    Mike Day

    The Bible is not error free. If you think it is, read this book. That being said, chapter 5 entitled "Making Yahweh Happy" is going to take some time for me to digest. A more detailed review of this book will be written shortly. The Bible is not error free. If you think it is, read this book. That being said, chapter 5 entitled "Making Yahweh Happy" is going to take some time for me to digest. A more detailed review of this book will be written shortly.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Vegantrav

    The Human Faces of God is a concise, pointed critique of the doctrine of biblical inerrancy--the idea that the Bible (both the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament) is a divinely inspired book containing no errors of any kind and containing no morally questionable elements. In his critique, Stark draws upon academic analyses of the biblical texts that are common knowledge to anyone familiar with the past century of biblical scholarship, so there is nothing really new in Stark's arguments, The Human Faces of God is a concise, pointed critique of the doctrine of biblical inerrancy--the idea that the Bible (both the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament) is a divinely inspired book containing no errors of any kind and containing no morally questionable elements. In his critique, Stark draws upon academic analyses of the biblical texts that are common knowledge to anyone familiar with the past century of biblical scholarship, so there is nothing really new in Stark's arguments, but he pulls together the materials in a cogent fashion that allows him to a make an extremely strong case: the Bible is a flawed work of humans; it is riddled with errors and internal inconsistencies and is often directly contradicted by the findings of modern archaeology; there is no overarching theology of the entire Bible, but rather there are numerous and often conflicting theologies from the various authors; all too often, the Bible patently endorses atrocities (genocide, human sacrifice, and rape); the earliest religion of the Hebrew people was polytheistic and only gradually evolved into monotheism; and Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet who was simply wrong about his predictions of the imminent end of the world. Stark argues in straightforward, logically rigorous fashion, drawing examples from the biblical texts and using the work of numerous well-respected scholars to support his conclusions. He also presents the views of the inerrantists and conservative apologists, showing them to be biased, tendentious, and often intellectually dishonest. For example, he critiques William Lane Craig's defense of the Israelite genocides as well as N.T. Wright's attempt to re-imagine Jesus's apocalypticism. Overall, Stark presents an impressive, cumulative case for his position that the Bible is anything but the divinely inspired, inerrant word of God.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Anthony Lawson

    Thom Stark's "The Human Faces of God" is an excellent read and highly recommended. Stark's position is essentially that inerrancy is not justified especially as it was expounded by the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. He then proceeds through various chapters to demonstrate the many errors and problems with the Bible. These problems include polytheism, that Yahweh was only one god among many national deities, human sacrifice, the mistaken views of eschatological expectation, genocide, et Thom Stark's "The Human Faces of God" is an excellent read and highly recommended. Stark's position is essentially that inerrancy is not justified especially as it was expounded by the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. He then proceeds through various chapters to demonstrate the many errors and problems with the Bible. These problems include polytheism, that Yahweh was only one god among many national deities, human sacrifice, the mistaken views of eschatological expectation, genocide, etc. Mr. Stark also deals with the various approaches that try to either downplay or evade the severity of these problems. He concludes that these morally and theologically problematic texts must be accepted and seen as condemned texts. Here is what he says: "The only honest answer to the question I have been able to come up with is this: they must be retained as scripture, precisely as condemned texts. their status as condemned is exactly their scripture value. That they are condemned is what they reveal to us about God. The texts themselves depict God as a genocidal dictator, as a craver of blood. But we must condemn them in our engagement with them - sometimes with guidance from other passages of scripture, sometimes without. That they stand as condemned is what they mean for us as scripture." Whether one ultimately accepts how Stark handles the various problems, one must acknowledge that these problems do exist.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Frank Roberts

    A very mature and honest look at the Holy Bible. Stark takes apart the arguments of those who claim inerrancy for the scripture, both showing how they themselves interpret selectively, and by showing they have no leg to stand on in the actual text. He also examines many of the issues in the Bible, from the genocides, human sacrifices, etc. of the Old Testament to the failed apocalypticism of the New Testament. Plainly, an honest reader cannot accept the premise that the entire Bible is consisten A very mature and honest look at the Holy Bible. Stark takes apart the arguments of those who claim inerrancy for the scripture, both showing how they themselves interpret selectively, and by showing they have no leg to stand on in the actual text. He also examines many of the issues in the Bible, from the genocides, human sacrifices, etc. of the Old Testament to the failed apocalypticism of the New Testament. Plainly, an honest reader cannot accept the premise that the entire Bible is consistent, morally sound or unfailingly the Word of God. He also examines the various approaches that have been taken to reconcile these Biblical issues, and suggests his own. As he argues, for God to give us one book that has all the answers, and which is the ysure foundation and recourse for all questions, is both patently what God has not done with the Bible, but would also be a weakness--a shortcut to the hard work of reasoning and searching and growth. Clinging to such an idea is a mark of an immature faith, and a refusal to enter into the ancient and ongoing conversation of humanity trying to work out God's will. Not a book for the faint of heart, but definitely recommended to those willing to think deeply about the Bible.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Geoff Glenister

    This book came recommended to me by more than one person, and was even recommended by Amazon based on other books I've read. So I knew I'd like it. I didn't expect to love it the way I did. I've read other books that deal with the problems inerrancy creates, but this is among the best. Stark is incredibly thorough in his examination of the problems for inerrancy, and directly outlines the inconsistencies in the logic of inerrantists. His work is scholarly and professional, and deserves quite a b This book came recommended to me by more than one person, and was even recommended by Amazon based on other books I've read. So I knew I'd like it. I didn't expect to love it the way I did. I've read other books that deal with the problems inerrancy creates, but this is among the best. Stark is incredibly thorough in his examination of the problems for inerrancy, and directly outlines the inconsistencies in the logic of inerrantists. His work is scholarly and professional, and deserves quite a bit of respect. I wish all my Christian friends would read this one.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Raborn

    This is a powerful critique of the doctrine of inerrancy. Stark might go farther that I am comfortable with, but he goes a long way towards helping us deconstruct an unhealthy view of the Bible and reconstruct a discerning view of the inspiration of Scripture. Stark argues that inerrancy stunts our moral growth, and I would definitely have to agree with him. This book will probably make you uncomfortable and help you at the same time.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    As a critique from within a Christian frame, this ( thus far ) is brilliant, well thought out and perhaps a hugely important pice of work to counter the current crop of inerrantists and apologists ( at least those of the WLC school ). As an ex Christian I Achebe learned a lot that is new to me, my only ( though major ) criticism this far, is that he is still a believer alas.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Theron

    I'm still ruminating about this book, but suffice it to say it was a challenging and difficult read. Not for the faint of heart or unwilling to question fundamental assumptions concerning God and the Bible. I'm still ruminating about this book, but suffice it to say it was a challenging and difficult read. Not for the faint of heart or unwilling to question fundamental assumptions concerning God and the Bible.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Nyx

    Excellent, and very hard to argue against!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Theron Mock

    I'm still ruminating about this book, but suffice it to say it was a challenging and difficult read. I'm still ruminating about this book, but suffice it to say it was a challenging and difficult read.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mx

    The last chapter is a throwaway otherwise I'd have gone 5 stars. The last chapter is a throwaway otherwise I'd have gone 5 stars.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jason Gordon

    Thom Stark is the Noam Chomsky of biblical exegesis. I'll have the review updated tomorrow. Thom Stark is the Noam Chomsky of biblical exegesis. I'll have the review updated tomorrow.

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