I find that by and large there are two books in my library, books I want to read, and books I want to have read. The first category are books that I buy and I read. The second category are books that I buy, and they sit on my bookshelf collecting dust because I like the idea of reading those books more than I like the idea of actually reading those books.*
The book that I just finished, In Defense of the Bible: A Comprehensive
Apologetic for the Authority of Scripture, definitely fits in the second category. That’s not a knock on the book, if anything it is an acknowledgement of my own shortcomings as a reader. There are two reasons for this. Frist, reading narrative books are easy for me. Reading topical or conceptual books is often a struggle. I blame this on seminary, but the truth is that I just enjoy a good narrative book more than I usually do a book that is topical in nature. Second, in addition to the narrative versus topical issue this book also had one other thing working against it, apologetics. This is related to the first, but is slightly different. When it comes to theology books apologetics is not where my brain is most comfortable. I tend to gravitate towards expository works that work through a passage rather than an apologetic treatment of an issue. This book was an attempt to force myself out of my comfort zone to read a book that I knew would be a little tough sledding in places.
What I liked
The chapter, Has the New Testament Text Been Hopelessly Corrupted? by Daniel B. Wallace. I was far too chicken to take Dr. Wallace for any of my Greek classes, but he has an excellent way cutting through the fog when it comes to New Testament manuscripts. In particular I liked this quote, “if the radical skeptics applied their principles to the rest of Greco-Roman literature, they would thrust us right back into the Dark Ages, where ignorance was anything but bliss. Their arguments only sound impressive in a vacuum.” (Kindle Locations 3218-3220) I’m pretty sure this chapter had more highlights for me than any other chapter.
The chapter, Does the Bible Condone Genocide? by Matthew Flannagan and Paul Copan. I’ve read Copan on this before and really think that he makes some excellent points to consider.
The chapter, Is the Old Testament Historically Reliable? by Walter C. Kaiser Jr. This chapter was a gem. Here is one quote I liked, “Rarely is scientific knowledge based on complete evidence, so why should we make this a requirement for biblical historians when we obviously do not require the same for scientific knowledge?” (Kindle Locations 4479-4480).
What I didn’t like
The chapter Does the Bible Condone Slavery and Sexism? by James M. Hamilton. Listen, the writers of this book didn’t have to convince me of anything, I already believe what they are teaching, but to me this chapter would have been off-putting to someone with serious questions. It begins with this, “Does the Bible condone slavery and sexism? Of course not! The suggestion is ridiculous, but we live in a world where absurd conclusions seem as rational as the truth is preposterous. All sorts of wicked ideas advance on the power of subtle insinuation and grow strong by the sneaking suggestion.” (Kindle Locations 7189-7191) Overall I just felt this this chapter treated every objection, not as something to interact with, but as something to sneer at. No, I don’t think the Bible condones slavery and sexism, but I didn’t think this chapter was the best defense of that idea.
The Kindle formatting. A couple of chapters had issues where for some reason the formatting was off. So a references that would normally appear as 12:38-43 appeared as 123843. Not a huge deal once I figured out what was going on, but still a little annoying. But by far the biggest annoyance was the lack of page numbers. One of the great things about a physical book is the visual representation of your progress. You can watch the pages go by and see where your bookmark is. On a book that really sucks you in this isn’t such a big deal, but with a book that requires some endurance being able to see progress is very helpful. On ebooks without page numbers all you get is the rather ambiguous location of where you are at. For example, in this particular book there were 10,046 locations. The saving grace was that since 10,000 (ignore the other 46 for now) is a nice round number I was able to have a nice approximation of my progress. On a book with a location number of say 15,493 you can’t approximate it as well, and it is easy to find yourself drowning in a long book.
How many stars did I give this book on Goodreads? 3
In what format did I consume this book? Kindle
*This is a great point in favor of digital books. One of the two main reasons ebooks have become such a large part of my reading is that they economize bookshelf space. If a book is going to collect dust, it is better for it to do so figuratively when it just takes up space on Amazon’s server rather than in my house.