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!