Missouri Pastor Kevin Glenn has taken on the controversial book God Behaving Badly to help his congregation wrap their heads around some of the more troublesome passages of Scripture that are often ignored by Christians and used as ammo by unbelievers to attack their faith.
Glenn shared with The Christian Post Tuesday that he invited author David Lamb to fly out from Philadelphia to visit Memorial Baptist Church in Columbia, Mo., to speak to the 400-500 members of his congregation. This past Sunday, Lamb discussed his book, God Behaving Badly: Is the God of the Old Testament Angry, Sexist and Racist?, as an introduction of sorts to Glenn's nine-part sermon series titled after the book. The pastor hopes to confront the confusion, frustration and ignorance among some believers in regard to God's character and the unity of the Old and New Testaments.
"We're in a college town here," said Glenn, noting that Columbia is home to the University of Missouri. "We have professors that attend our church, and a lot of college students and friends of college students. The climate of the town lends itself to questions and conversations, so in an environment like that people are very inquisitive about faith and the Scriptures on both sides. Those that want to grow have a lot of questions, but those that would maybe find some problems with faith – agnostics, atheists, friends of mine like that – are very well-versed in a lot of these troubling biblical passages. Unfortunately, a lot of Christians are not."
Lamb's God Behaving Badly: Is the God of the Old Testament Angry, Sexist and Racist? was published in 2011 by InterVarsity Press, and was written to encourage Christians to stop ignoring the "nasty texts" in Scripture that some atheists know very well.
"There's a group of authors, sometimes called the New Atheists...who are taking these problematic texts that the Church is largely ignoring and they are highlighting them and bringing them to the fore," said Lamb. "I think what these New Atheists are doing is – well they're ignoring the good texts, the nice texts, and just focused on the bad texts, whereas I think a lot of Christians do the exact opposite. Christians focus on the nice ones, these New Atheists focus on the nasty ones, but they're both ignoring the other side."
As the Old Testament professor shared, it's not uncommon for Christians to scratch their heads over passages like 2 Samuel 6:1-7, which describes King David bringing the ark of God to Jerusalem. As the oxen carrying the cart on which the ark rests stumble, a man named Uzzah grabs hold of the holy vessel to steady it, and is immediately struck dead by God.
"I think there are maybe three," Lamb shared with CP of the typical reactions readers might have in encountering such passages. "The first one is maybe confusion, because it just doesn't make any sense to them at all. … The next reaction might be is that they're either frustrated or angry at God, because that's in the Bible, or they're angry at their church, or their pastor or their parents or whoever should have taught them more about the Bible."
But Lamb, who teaches at Biblical Seminary in Hatfield, Pa., hopes Christians will instead take another route: get curious, study the passages, and talk about them.
"I think we need to stop ignoring these texts," said Lamb. "They're in the Bible."
Referencing 2 Timothy 3:16 which states that that all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable, the author added, "I think a lot of Christians don't actually believe that."
Based on reaction to Lamb's presentation this past Sunday, Memorial Baptist Church has been very open to the series, which Glenn launches into this coming Sunday.
"The response has been very very positive, and any doubts and misunderstandings about the title are now giving way to further understanding and curiosity," the minister shared, adding that he found people were more enthusiastic than anything.
Now that the introduction has test the waters somewhat, the minister plans to tackle next in the coming weeks fundamental questions raised during Lamb's visit.
"So I'm going back this Sunday to really talk about the importance of understanding the Bible as a whole, Old Testament and New Testament. The Old Testament makes up 80 percent of the Scriptures that we have – you can't just ignore that. I'm going to talk about the fact that when Jesus quoted Scripture, Jesus didn't quote the apostle Paul. Jesus didn't deal with temptation by quoting 1 Corinthians 10; Jesus dealt with temptation by quoting Deuteronomy. The Old Testament is the Bible that Jesus loved. I think followers of Jesus need to learn to love the First Testament."
Glenn said that by the end of the series he hopes the congregation will better understand the Scriptures and be able to better converse about the book of their faith with novice Christians and unbelievers.
"I'm hoping that the conversations help people better grasp, love and appreciate the Bible and the God of the Bible. That's our goal," he added. "I'm looking forward to the next few months to see what God does."