A Quick Word on Two New Books on (1) Evolution and (2) God’s Violence

A Quick Word on Two New Books on (1) Evolution and (2) God’s Violence June 14, 2013

Bowing to the unreasonable pressures of publishers who actually expect me to produce something in exchange for money, I am WAAAAAAAAAY behind in my reading and in my blogging about what I am reading.

Meeting this problem half way, I simply want to mention today two books I received over the past few weeks, both of which I have read/skimmed and that I plan on commenting on in the days/weeks to come after I’ve had a chance to read them more carefully.

Both are edited volumes, and the first throws it’s hat in the ring on Genesis and evolution: Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversation.

Edited by J. Daryl Charles, director and senior fellow of the Bryan Institute for Critical Thought and Practice in Chattanooga, TN, this volume arises out of a symposium at the Bryan Institute in 2011. The core contributors to the volume are Richard Averbeck (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School), Todd Beall (Capital Bible Seminary), C. John Collins (Covenant Theological Seminary), Tremper Longman III (Westmont College), and John Walton (Wheaton College). Each contributes an essay with responses to the others.

Of the two books, I spent more time with this one. After my first pass, although there are definite high points, I am not sure how much this volume will eventually contribute to the overall discussion currently brewing in conservative Protestantism, given the strong undercurrent of a defense of inerrancy and biblical literalism reflected in some of the essays.

The second volume concerns the question of God’s violence and “Holy War” in the Old Testament, Holy War in the Bible: Christian Morality and an Old Testament Problem

Edited by Heath A. Thomas, Jeremy Evans, and Paul Copan, the impetus for the volume grew out of a 2009 colloquium composed of professors from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (Wake Forest, N.C.) and Duke Divinity School, and eventually expanded to include others. Some of the key contributors are Paul CopanDouglas EarlDavid Lamb, and Stephen Chapman, and the disciplines represented are Old Testament studies, philosophy, ethics, and theology.

Both of volumes treat topics of keen interest for me, and both (after a casual read, mind you) strike me as potentially valuable. They lay out a spectrum of views on challenging topics and, as with any volume of this type, readers will find areas of agreement and disagreement.

As soon as my publisher lets out a few links in the chain tying me to my desk, I’ll get into more detail about these books.

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  • Just Sayin’

    I found the Holy War book a big disappointment. Partly my fault — the volume deals only with Holy War and not Divine Violence generally. I should have read the title — duh! And partly the book’s fault — aside from Copan and Flannagan’s chapter, and I suppose Douglas Earl’s, most of the other ones are “Hey presto, it’s not a problem at all!” type stuff.

  • toddh

    I am really interested in the Genesis 1-2 book, hopefully the publisher makes it available for Kindle! I think I know where Walton is going in his chapter, but I’d like to hear what Longman says and what the responses are.

  • Susan Gerard

    Pete, could you tell us if these books can add substantially more to their fields than, say, your own EofA/I&I, and Eric Siebert’s The Violence of Scripture, another book on violence that you recommended? Not trying to test your modesty, but rather to avoid buying books that repeat a lot of material.

    • peteenns

      Susan, from what I’ve read so far, the book on Genesis adds nothing new to discussion, and several of the essays obscure the important issues. On Holy War, I would recommend Thom Stark’s online 300 page rebuttal of Paul Copan. I don’t think his criticism can be met from an inerrantist point of view.

      • Susan Gerard

        Thanks for the reply and the link. Free reading!

      • OrthoRocksDude

        I suppose from what I’ve read on the topic of divine violence, I would have to be somewhere in between Earl and Stark. I think Copan has interesting things to say but I’m not sure it can answer everything. Same with Earl. From reading Earl’s book, which I think was a wonderful and innovative attempt, I nevertheless can’t get away from the idea that the Israelites put SOME value into Caananite genocide. I can’t help thinking that the writer of Joshua took some pride in how bad-ass God came off.

        At the same time, I don’t think Joshua is ONLY about Genocide and it has many other major points to make. I’m not quite as condemning of the text as Stark is, but not quite as comfortable with it as Earl is.

        And I agree. I don’t think inerrancy can ultimately handle these stories.

  • Shonda Jones

    The following sentence might lead your readers to think that Southeastern Bapt Theological Seminary is associated in some way to Wake Forest University. It is not. Wake Forest University does have a divinity school called Wake Forest University School of Divinity. Very different places!

    “Edited by Heath A. Thomas, Jeremy Evans, and Paul Copan, the impetus for the volume grew out of a 2009 colloquium composed of professors from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (Wake Forest University) and Duke Divinity School, and eventually expanded to include others.”

    • peteenns

      Yikes, thanks Shonda. I meant to say “Wake Forest, N.C.” Thanks for catching it. I made the change.