Reviews Of Books -- By: Anonymous
WTJ 78:1 (Spring 2016) p. 159
Reviews Of Books
Iain Provan, Seriously Dangerous Religion: What the Old Testament Really Says and Why It Matters. Waco: Baylor University Press, 2014. Pp. 502. $49.95, paper.
In this volume Iain Provan provides a fascinating treatment of the contents and message of the OT, crafted to be both informative and culturally engaging. As biblical faith, and by implication the Bible itself, come under increasing scrutiny in secular society, Provan sets out to correct common misunderstandings about what, exactly, the Bible says. He does so by posing ten questions that every philosophical system addresses, such as “What is the world?,” “Who are man and woman?,” and “What am I to hope for?” (see pp. 11–12). Seriously Dangerous Religion, then, constitutes Provan’s “invitation to reconsider” how the OT in particular answers these ten questions. Moreover, as Provan works through these questions he sets the biblical answers against those from other religions and ideologies, ancient and modern, which he groups into three other competing “stories” or metanarratives (see pp. 5–11).
Provan draws predominantly from Gen 1–12, occasionally using other portions of the OT to fill in details. His rationale here is that failing to read the very beginning of Scripture correctly inevitably leads to reading the rest mistakenly as well. As he does this, Provan sets aside questions of historical or scientific interest (pp. 15–17), focusing rather on the truth claims that Scripture makes about humans, the world, and God. Provan’s target audience therefore is primarily readers open to thinking critically about their own presuppositions, particularly those influenced by alternative metanarratives to that of Scripture. The well-articulated and exegetically grounded answers to these ten questions that Provan draws from the OT are not easily summarized, particularly given Provan’s winsome, almost narrative style throughout this volume. Still, brief statements are worthwhile for each chapter.
In chapter 2 Provan addresses the nature of the world, discussing its finitude, createdness, order, and sanctity. Provan takes Eden as a “state of being” and “experience of being in right relationship with God and with creation” rather than a physical place, and thus recoverable (pp. 38, 40). Chapter 3 deals with God—his unity, uncreatedness, sovereignty, and Israel’s monotheistic faith, which contrasted with surrounding cultures—by viewing God as one who is holy and good, who blesses, loves, forgives, and delivers. In chapter 4 Provan discusses gender and finds that the cosmos was created for God’s creatures, with humans being most favored by our creation in the divine image and by our vocation to keep the...
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