Interview with @MarkRoncace, author of Raw Revelation

Dr. Roncace, thank you for taking this time to “sit down” for this interview to discuss your latest work, Raw Revelation. Before we get to that work, can you give my readers some insight into your background. Where did you come from?

I am from Florida originally. Been teaching here at Wingate in NC for almost 11 years now. My story is a fairly typical one, I think: Grew up in a conservative Christian home (for which I am grateful). Then in college I encountered the academic study of the Bible and was really fascinated by it. And so here I am—writing about the book I grew up with.

You have written previous works, notably for SBL. Can you tell me why you chose the CreateSpace route rather than traditional publishing?

This book is aimed at a much broader audience—it’s a trade book, not an academic one. And as such it is much harder to find a publisher. I was lucky enough to connect with an agent who shopped it around for me, and we had one major Christian publisher take a pretty good look , but I did not quite land the contract. So, self-publishing with CreateSpace seemed like a good option.

What is the impetus behind this book?

There is so much great stuff in the Bible. But also so much really hard stuff. And I felt like people just don’t know about, and certainly don’t deal with, the difficult texts. People are busy, there are a lot of books to read, life is hectic. So I wanted to write a very accessible—fun, even—compact book that laid out all the tough, gritty aspects of Scripture, so that people could begin to wrestle with them on their own.

Tell me about Jesus. Worship, not worship, hang out?

Great question and a tough one. I suppose given those three options, I’d go with “hang out.” I prefer the human, earthly (and earthy) Jesus of the first three gospels. There the teachings of Jesus are edgy and the parables engaging and challenging. Jesus was a guy who made people think. I like that. Though I know that that perspective on Jesus is deeply reflective of who I am.

Dr. Roncace, what is the hope you have for your book?

I simply want people to be aware of the messy, complex, unpalatable parts of the Bible. Because they too are every bit as much a part of Scripture as the good, happy aspects that we like to dwell on. I hope that the book spurs people to read the Bible for themselves and to think carefully about it. What readers conclude about the tough passages really does not matter—as long as they wrestle and struggle and strive with the Word. To me, that is a big part of a life of faith.

How do you feel about people claiming their discovery of atheism based on your book?

I am confident that no one has or will “become an atheist” because of my book. But this is a perfect follow up question to my previous comment. In the process of engaging the Word, some people may not be able to swallow it raw. The may end up spitting it back out, rejecting it. While I think this will be a rare result (which, by the way, does not equate to becoming an atheist), and certainly not the desired one, it is a possibility for which we must allow—otherwise an authentic quest for truth, for a genuine life of faith, is compromised.

What do you think is the future of Evangelicalism and Christianity in general?

Boy, that is a big question for which I am not qualified even to hazard a guess. I think Christianity will continue to change and grow as it has during its first two thousand years. Humans will always be religious, and Christianity will continue to be one potentially wonderful way to live out that dimension of our existence.

What was that first few moments like after you discovered that inerrancy is a faulty doctrine?

I cannot say that I had that Aha! moment. I did not have a “conversion experience.” Honestly, I don’t really like discussions of “inerrancy” as I think that is a loaded term.

Do you think we’ll ever come to terms with sexuality in scripture and the lack of a definitive view of normative sexuality and normative family structures in scripture?

Short answer, no. The Bible does not give straight-forward (pun intended) answers on these questions. Instead, Scripture is a conversation of perspectives and, I would suggest, we should embrace that conversation of diverse voices when it comes sexual ethics and family models. That would be a good way to “come to terms” with the issues, wouldn’t it?

Ideally, what do you want your readers to say after they close your book?

“Wow, there’s a lot more to the Bible than I realized, and in some cases a lot less (like clear answers to big questions). I’ve got some great relationship-building to do with God as I grapple and argue with God’s Word.”

Thank you for joining me today. Are there any final words you would like me to pass one?

If you are unsure about the book, try reading the end first, the short “Final Suggestions” chapter. Maybe I should have begun with those words instead of ending with them. Or maybe I should have put them in both places. The objective is to provide a positive, supportive context for readers, without, of course, making it easy by sugarcoating the

 

Reviewing Raw Revelation: The Bible They Never Tell You About @MarkRoncace

The title alone unsettled many of my good friends and their normative evangelical sensibilities. By the time they flipped over to the back cover, or read the description plastered on Amazon or my blog, they had become enraged at the perceived goal of the book. How dare an author declare “God can be a misogynistic, genocidal maniac.” To top that off, the back cover plainly decares “The Bible does not forbid abortion or premarital sex.” Trying posting some of this stuff on Facebook and watch the reaction. Then, beg them to read the book in order to see the author’s position.

At first, I thought that the back cover description was a clever ploy, an over-used ploy, to draw in the reader only to show them how to successfully perform mind-bending gymnastics to ignore the minefield of Scripture; however, upon further inspection, I found the description to be an adequate indicator of the innards of the book. The author runs his case through the spectrum of post-evangelical philosophy to present a bible, a book of books, as a rough human response to God. Perhaps, rather, it is a rough divine response to rougher-still humans. Either way, what is revealed in these pages is not a caustic treatment geared to undermining one’s faith in God or a reliance upon Holy Writ. Instead, I have found a rather remarkable respect for Scripture, a respect allowing for the authors, redactors, and compilers of the canon to still speak today about their engagements with God.

Mark Roncace covered a variety of issues. He has written around the theme of a dinner, borrowing I have often heard in my childhood spent in a fundamentalist church, a further extraction of the concept of the Word of God acting as the bread/food of life. Here, he has six courses, each covering a variety of topics. In his first, he covers what we perceive as contradictions in the bible. For far too long, we have treated Scripture as if one author, namely God, put pen to paper in one setting, drafting a story in perfection. Yet, in reality, we have an untold number of human authors writings for centuries, each making their own inspired statement. So, we will have “inconsistencies,” as the author calls them (38). The second course deals with the meatier issue of the role and reaction of God throughout Scripture. We often feign ignorance when reading Joshua and Judges, or feel some sort of vengeful companionship with YHWH when he hardens Pharaoh’s heart only to slaughter the first born of Egypt in an act of justice. And then, there is Job. Well, there is always Job with the imagery of the divine and ruthless gambler looking down upon us. Course (chapter) 3 examines Jesus while courses 4 and 5 examine the Christian view on doctrine and life. In regards to these last two chapters, Christians (the more conservative ones anyway) tend to think that all doctrine and all Christian views on morality — well, current views on morality — are based squarely in the Text; yet, it is not. An objective viewer knows that homosexuality is not in Scripture. Abortion? Don’t ask. Course/chapter 6 ends with an almost plea to respect but not to idolize Scripture.

Throughout the work, there is notions of process theology, even panentheism. There is the notion of accepting some sort of syncretism, without going into the moronish view of biblical plagiarism. Finally, there is the use of logic and reason in an appeal to realize some of the idiotic views of inerrancy.

The author’s humor gets in the way at times, but I imagine it is meant to disarm the raging evangelical who is so intently reading, filled with rage, that the author takes care to add a dose of levity so as to not have reports of popped blood vessels sent his way. For me, as one who has struggled already with many of the issues raised in the book, I still find it rather insightful to watch how this scholar and believer tackles the bloody mess that is our Scriptural tradition and comes out on the other side enriched and nourished.

In the Mail – and it still hurts edition: Raw Revelation: The Bible They Never Tell You About

I received this from the author today:

The Bible is dynamic and powerful. But the Good Book isn’t always good. It can be confusing, disturbing, and sometimes downright ugly. So it’s been censored. It’s been robbed of its beauty and truth . . . by the church. Preachers of every ilk and denomination cook the Book, boiling away the unsightly and unpalatable passages. They never tell you that God can be a misogynistic, genocidal maniac, that Jesus encourages self-castration, that the Easter stories in the four Gospels are incompatible, that Paul was wrong about Jesus’ second coming, and that the Bible does not forbid abortion or premarital sex.

Fast-paced, hard-hitting, and entertaining, Raw Revelation calls Christians to resist the attractively packaged and processed Scripture and to dig in and deal honestly with the messy and tasteless aspects of the all natural Word of God. As Jesus himself says, believers are “to live on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God,” not only the words carefully selected and sanitized for Sunday sermons and sound bites. Regardless of your beliefs (or non belief), this book offers plenty of food for thought. At a time when wars are fought over religious differences, when the close association of Christianity and American politics puts the Bible in the public square, and when many people around the globe continue to believe in the Bible (even if they have not read it), everyone should know the uncensored content of the world’s all time best seller. So here it is. Real. Raw. Scripture.

100 percent of the proceeds from this book will be given to international Christian organizations.

Many thanks!