If you stop and think about all the accusations made by skeptics and naysayers about the discrepancy between Yahweh and Jesus, your head might spin. You might also find yourself in the middle of a legitimate quandary, is Yahweh the cause of all the anguish int he Old Testament, or are those whom he interacts with?
Alden Thompson sets out on a thought provoking and invigorating read aiming to clarify a longstanding erroneous view of the Old Testament nature of God. With the glaring contrast between Old and New Testament doctrine, one could be left scratching their head and wondering when and where the disconnect took place. Thompson makes it clear that this view develops almost lopsidedly and requires reproof.
Thompson also sets out to speak frankly about the glaring problem texts of the Old Testament, and states his intent to do so frankly. Developing his thesis along the lines of two views called the “high road” and the “low road” approach, Thompson laments what has become of modern interpretation by failing to evaluate the evidences impacting Yahweh’s interactions with Israel. Thompson even goes on to state,
“My “high road” picture of faithful kings, priests, and prophets, who held high the “banner of truth,” needed to be remodeled to fit the picture that the Old Testament itself gives. What a struggle it was for God to reveal himself to those people, people who so easily and quickly fell so far.”
In the long run, Thompson makes a solid attempt at debunking the romantic and shimmering view of the Old Testament saints and their adventures. Although he does not completely hang them out to dry, he seriously addresses their human nature, their propensity toward error, and their need for divine intervention, even of the wrathful sort at times. Stating one of his concerns while writing the book,
“…is to show that it is possible to stand within a conservative Christian tradition and still be able to read the Old Testament for the purpose of discovering its most likely original meaning.”
Thompson intends to dispel the mythical view of Old Testament stories and its characters while maintaining a literal, cultural, interpretation that is faithful to the nature of God. Thompson does an excellent job realigning the big ol’ mean OT God with the loving, grace-filled, nature of the NT Christ. Ultimately, it is not his conclusion that God is very cruel, it is simply that he is just very patient.
Along the way, Thompson develops the overarching story with enthusiasm and cleverly weaves in several topics covering sin, the fall, strange laws, and the “moral blemish” passages. One of my favorite treatments in this work is the heavenly court. Evangelicalism seems all to enthralled with the concept that there is a devil under every bush, or he is a goatee wearing, evil-grinning, demon with a pitchfork sitting on a throne in hell. Thompson surveys the inferences in scripture that clarify the very real presence of tempters and dark angels who were present and waiting to be sent to do evil amongst the inhabitants of the earth.
The chapter titles follow:
- Don’t let your New Testament get in the way of your Old Testament
- Behold it was very good and then it all turned sour
- Whatever happened to Satan in the Old Testament
- Strange people need strange laws
- Could you invite a Canaanite home to lunch?
- The worst story in the Old Testament — Judges 19-21
- The best story in the Old Testament — The Messiah
- What kind of prayers would you publish if you were God?
Who’s Afraid of the Old Testament God? is an engaging read that I highly recommend to both scholar, academic, and lay-person alike. Although the concepts covered in this book can seem daunting at times, it is accessible to all audiences with a desire to dig into the true nature of the OT God.