Review: David Lamb’s “God Behaving Badly”

I came up with quite a few ways to begin this review, to be honest. Finally I tossed out all those ideas in favor of simplicity. You need to read this book; your fellow church members need to read this book! It’s not often that scholars attempt to bridge scholarly and churchly worlds, and succeed. David Lamb’s God Behaving Badly: Is the God of the Old Testament Angry, Sexist and Racist? (IVP, 2011) achieves a rare feat. Based on solid biblical scholarship, interwoven with deep theological issues, while couched in every-day language, the book negotiates difficult OT passages and topics with both care and humor. Lamb encourages the reader to wrestle with questions about God – is he legalistic, inflexible, and so forth, or not? There are discussion questions for each chapter, as well as endnotes for following up on various topics. (I also discovered some endnotes are actually hilarious asides rather than references to sources, and I ended up using two bookmarks: one for the chapter I was reading, and one for that chapter’s endnotes. I didn’t want to miss either one!)

To share one example, Lamb debates if God is inflexible; does he relent or not? He examines passages where God seems to change his mind (ex. Hezekiah’s death), as well as passages affirming that God does not change or relent. These are not easy questions to approach, but Lamb resists the conclusion that God’s character is unchanging, but his judgments can change (145). He returns to the contexts of the passages examined in the earlier part of the chapter, and concludes that God is inflexible or unchanging as regards his promises to bless, but willing to “relent” and grant mercy to the repentant person (151).

The issues and questions Lamb raises are ones Christians must face for themselves. They are also questions non-Christians and seekers ask, questions which deserve to be taken seriously and answered with careful study in the biblical text. In other words, there are a lot of people we all know who could benefit from this book. It’s the best book I’ve read all year, so borrow my copy, or find one for yourself!

About Stephanie Lowery

I studied systematic theology at Wheaton College Graduate School, studying under Daniel Treier and writing my dissertation on ecclesiological models in Africa. I grew up in East Africa, and am happy to have returned at long last!
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9 Responses to Review: David Lamb’s “God Behaving Badly”

  1. Melody says:

    Excellent, thank you. So I guess I’ll have to go read the book to find the answer to the question Is God sexist?

  2. David Lamb says:

    Melody, I’ll give it away. He’s not sexist, but there are texts that it seems like he is. I’d suggest reading the book.

    • David,

      How do the below-quoted verses inform your interpretation of the significance (if any) of Eve being formed second?

      “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.” 1 Tim 2:12-14.

      Thanks in advance,


      • David Lamb says:

        Jerry, that’s a good question. Paul makes two points in 1 Tim. 2:12-14. First that Adam was made first, and second that the woman was deceived and sinned. About the 2nd, Paul also says that sin entered the world through one man (Rom. 5:12). In Romans, he emphasizes Adam’s responsibility, in 1 Tim, he emphasizes Eve’s responsibility. Notice Paul’s two seemingly contradictory points are in tension. I can’t do justice to all of what Paul is arguing here about men lifting hand in prayer, women dressing modestly and women being saved in child-bearing, but it’s clear Paul is using Gen. 2 to speak to a scecific situation, that had several problems.

  3. Pingback: Review by Stephanie Lowery of “God Behaving Badly” « For Christ and His Kingdom « David T. Lamb

  4. I’m a little late to the game, but I enjoyed reading your book. It helped me out of a conversational jamb with a university student as we sat together in the middle of nowhere waiting for a broken down bus to be repaired.

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