Dark Matter A Review and Reflection on the Morally-Problematic Aspects of Scripture -- By: L. Daniel Hawk

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 45:0 (NA 2013)
Article: Dark Matter A Review and Reflection on the Morally-Problematic Aspects of Scripture
Author: L. Daniel Hawk


Dark Matter A Review and Reflection on the Morally-Problematic Aspects of Scripture

L. Daniel Hawk*

Kenton L. Sparks. Sacred Word, Broken Word: Biblical Authority and the Dark Side of Scripture. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2012.

Eric A. Seibert. The Violence of Scripture: Overcoming the Old Testament’s Troubling Legacy. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2012.

Thomas Römer. Dark God: Cruelty, Sex, and Violence in the Old Testament. 3rd ed. Sean O’Neill, trans. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist, 2013.

The Bible is replete with texts and testimonies that chafe against Christianity’s proclamation of a loving and merciful God—God’s demand to Abraham that he sacrifice his son, God’s command that the Israelite exterminate the indigenous inhabitants of Canaan, announcements of eternal torment for those outside God’s Kingdom being only a few examples. These texts present portrayals of God’s character, purposes, and actions that cannot be easily harmonized or ignored. Many conventional responses are no longer adequate, not only because they do not address the complexity and diversity of biblical texts, but also because of a growing awareness that failing to deal with these texts, or to deal with them without questioning them, can lead to harmful or violent practices by those who view the Bible as an authoritative revelation of God.

The three books under review represent a sampling of a growing and robust conversation about what is commonly called “the dark side” of Scripture and the God portrayed within its pages. All commend a critical, questioning approach that interrogates received interpretations, refuses simplistic responses, and acknowledges the diversity of ethical perspectives that find expression in the biblical corpus. Each author aspires to offer guidance for the student or general reader and thus to the challenge of working through the moral and theological tensions in Scripture.

Sacred Word, Broken Word is the broadest in scope. Kenton Sparks writes self-consciously from a perspective shaped by “traditional Christian orthodoxy.” He joins many recent voices who are calling for a more direct interaction between biblical and Christian theology. With this in mind, he proposes addressing problematic texts and images with reference to the doctrine of The Fall. In short, Sparks regards texts, images, and portrayals of God that depict God as the perpetrator of innocent or undeserved violence as manifestations of human brokenness. Since the source of evil lies within humanity and not in a good God, those parts or scripture that attribute abusive or violence act...

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