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