How to Read the Bible

New Favorites
Here are five relatively recent titles that seem to me both of great importance and compelling interest:

With Job, part of the Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary series (Smyth & Helwys, 2006), Samuel E. Balentine has written a truth-telling commentary on the book of Job that teems with broad cultural awareness and stunning, courageous insight. Job lives at the edge of scripture and goads at the edge of faith. Balentine is knowing and unflinching in his capacity to face the rich truth of God’s holiness and all in our world that is not morally reliable or predictable.

In The Seven Pillars of Creation: The Bible, Science, and the Ecology of Wonder (Oxford University Press, 2010), William P. Brown has offered what will surely and quickly become a classic on the difficult issue of “science and religion” or, more precisely “creation and evolution.” He has taken serious trouble to engage with the best available scientific thought and shows how biblical claims for God as creator resonate deeply with the order and awe-producing wonder of creation that inescapably culminates in doxology. He pays only slight attention to the shrill “new atheists,” but takes seriously the “adults” in the scientific community who know better than any thin scientism.

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God and Class Warfare

Wall Street has been devastating Main Street for some time. And when the politicians -- most of them bought by Wall Street -- say nothing, it's called "responsible economics." But when somebody, anybody, complains about people suffering and that the political deck in official Washington has been stacked in favor of Wall Street, the accusation of class warfare quickly emerges. "Just who do these people think they are," they ask. The truth is that the people screaming about class warfare this week aren't really concerned about the warfare. They're just concerned that their class -- or the class that has bought and paid for their political careers -- continues to win the war.

So where is God in all of this? Is God into class warfare? No, of course not. God really does love us all, sinners and saints alike, rich and poor, mansion dwellers and ghetto dwellers. But the God of the Bible has a special concern for the poor and is openly suspicious of the rich. And if that is not clear in the Bible nothing is.

The Works of the Flesh and the Debt Ceiling Deal

In Galatians 5:19-20, Paul lists the "works of the flesh," contrasting them to the "fruit of the Spirit" immediately thereafter (Gal. 5:22-23). Among the works of the flesh are hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, and division. Another translation puts it, "People become enemies and they fight; they become jealous, angry, and ambitious. They separate into parties and groups ... I warn you now as I have before: those who do these things will not possess the kingdom of God."