Tuesday 25 January 2011

Stark choices (1)

Once in a great while most of us encounter a book, whether fiction or non-fiction, that changes the way we view our world. Something 'clicks' as we read the text, and the lights are turned up.

Thom Stark's book The Human Faces of God is for me that sort of book. So much so that I intend to comment on it in a series of postings, each dealing with a chapter. The get the ball rolling, a few general observations.

The foreword is written by John Collins, a biblical scholar with an international reputation (I studied Old Testament at Otago with his weighty textbook as a constant companion.) The book carries endorsements by Dale Allison, Tony Campolo, James McGrath, Edward Babinski, Frank Schaeffer and John Loftus (among others.) That's an unlikely combination, and testimony in itself to the author's abilities.

Stark is a young scholar with fire in his belly. He writes from within the fold as a committed - but far from uncritical - Christian. In his sights is the concept of inerrancy of the Bible, and related assumptions that do far more harm than good. This is not a book intended to bring solace for conservative, Bible-believing Christians of whatever persuasion. More likely it'll deliver a kick in the solar plexus. But, no pain, no gain. For Stark there is no hiding away from the problematic texts in the Bible, whether on genocide, slavery, child sacrifice, the polytheistic roots of Yahwism or Jesus' misplaced conviction that the world was to end in the lifetime of his followers.

Needless to say, the apologists won't be happy. But if you're interested in approaching the Bible with integrity and honesty, and suspicious that the apologists are whistling in the wind anyway, then this may be one of the most important books you read this year. I has certainly been for me.

To be continued.


  1. I'm only halfway through it so far but it's a remarkable book. Stark seems to have taken an enormous amount of scholarly knowledge that typical lay Christians would either never hear about or be very hostile toward, condensed it in a clear way that convinces you it's true, and then shows you how it all fits into a modern, robust faith.

  2. Good review. Though I won't read it (having put aside concern about Christianity), it is good to know there is a book to recommend to Christians who need to lighten up.

  3. I do hope you raise Stark's chapter,
    "Jesus Was Wrong" about his Second Coming in the Olivet Discourse. Or was it Wright?

    In his own enlightened way, Stark articulates his "hermeneutic that makes room for the Spirit to speak through the text to the faith community".

  4. I read Thom's book, too. Although I acknowledge that he self-identifies as a "committed believer" I could never determine who he believes and to whom or what he is committed.

    I wrote a 12-part review of his book which begins at