Had fun doing this interview with Drew Dyck (of Leadership Journal) and Dan Kimball (pastor of Vintage Faith church in California), on why the tough passages of the Bible are important. Read the whole interview here.
You don’t have to read Richard Dawkins anymore to encounter objections to the Christian faith. Just log onto Facebook or Twitter. Many of the objections center on the “problem passages” of Scripture, those stories where God seems capricious or cruel. The Genesis flood, the Canaanite genocide, Levitical laws, Sodom and Gomorrah, Ananias and Sapphira—all have become fodder for Internet memes and reverse apologetics sites attempting to undermine the Bible and the God it proclaims. We can no longer avoid these parts of the Bible. So how can we teach them in honest and redemptive ways? We talked to two pastors who have tackled the topic head-on. Joshua Ryan Butler is pastor of outreach at Imago Dei Church in Portland, Oregon, and author of The Skeletons in God’s Closet (Nelson, 2014). Dan Kimball is a teaching pastor at Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, California, and author of the forthcoming Crazy Bible? (Zondervan, 2016). Leadership Journal managing editor Drew Dyck sat down with Butler and Kimball.
Many Christians avoid the hard passages in the Bible. Both of you were drawn to them. Why?
Josh Butler: When I was writing Skeletons in God’s Closet, I imagined writing to myself 15 years ago. That’s when I was a new Christian and confused about how some of these “problem passages” could be reconciled with the goodness of God as encountered in Jesus. So part of it was personal.
The other reason was pastoral. People in our church and community are wrestling with these topics. Some have friends and family who are leaving the faith because of it, and they don’t know how to address them. We did a class at our church addressing this topic called “Is God Good?” It was by far the best-attended class I’ve ever taught. There’s a real hunger to learn about this.
Dan Kimball: For years I kind of swerved around those tough verses. I just thought, Well, somebody’s figured those out. But then I received a series of emails from a guy named Brad, asking about blood sacrifice and the strange things in Leviticus. One of his questions: “Why does the Bible say a woman has to marry her rapist?”
I’d try to answer them, but then I’d get another one from him almost instantly. Finally I wrote back and said, “Brad, can we meet?” So after a service one Sunday, this kid approaches me, and introduces himself as Brad. I couldn’t believe it. He was in eighth grade! I asked him, “Where are you getting these verses?” He said told me it was a website: EvilBible.com. He was just copying the questions on this website and sending them to me.
In the past, you might come across these problematic passages if you went to a bookstore or library, or read the Bible very carefully. You’d have to dig for it. Now you just go online. It’s being propagated through the Internet. A 13-year-old girl asked me, “Why did God kill the Amalekites?” The guy that cuts my hair asked me why there are unicorns in the Bible. There aren’t, of course. An early King James Version just mistranslated the Hebrew word for “wild oxen.” But these kinds of ideas are all over the Internet…