This is the second post in my three part series on David Lamb’s God Behaving Badly from IVP-Academic. You find my post on the author here, and a post with my personal reflections on the book will follow. Here I will overview the contents.
God Behaving Badly is a short, easy read coming in at just around 200 pages. Of these, only about 170 contain prose text; the rest consist of a table of contents, end notes, discussion questions, etc. I hate to throw out estimates because I know different people read at a different paces, but I imagine that many above average readers could finish the book in a couple of days (conceivably one day if someone had little else to do).
Lamb arranges the contents of the book topically. Of course, this lends to some subjectivity; however, I think he covers most of the issues related to God’s character in the Old Testament that readers may find difficult. He devotes chapters to the following: anger, gender issues, racial issues, violence, legalism, immutability, and transcendence. I think the subjectivity becomes evident toward the end of this list. Readers of the Old Testament may find theological issues like God’s immutability and transcendence problematic, but many may not consider these problematic matters of character. In other words, immutability and transcendence do not imply immorality. Lamb does allude to the subjectivity of the topics in the opening chapter: “I realize that some divine perceptions are more controversial (angry, sexist, racist and violent) than others (legalistic, rigid and distant), but all find some basis in the Old Testament and most appear in some form in Dawkins’s quote).” With this in mind, some people may only want to read certain chapters of God Behaving Badly.
One aspect of the book’s contents that deserves mention at the outset is Lamb’s use of references from popular culture. He uses references to popular culture throughout the chapters, but what I found most helpful is that he often does this at the beginning of the chapters when laying out the particular problem at hand. Here he makes reference to comics, television, modern young adult literature and more. In the next post, I will explain where I agree and disagree with Lamb; however, even though I do not agree with him on every point, this book is still a gem for me. Over the last several years, I have found myself teaching Old Testament introductory courses in a number of places. I usually have discussions about a number of the issues that Lamb discusses in God Behaving Badly. These popular culture references will provide a lot of helpful discussion starters (especially for someone like me who Rodney had accused of being out of touch with popular culture). I find that these kinds of references really help to engage students (e.g., I have very successfully used this video of Lewis Black to enter into a discussion of canon).
In sum, if you are looking for a short, easy read on the topics listed above from an evangelical perspective, you may want to pick up a copy of God Behaving Badly. If you teach Old Testament courses, either academically or in a church context, you may also want to get this book to give you some good discussion starters.