I am grateful to David T. Lamb, Mark L. Strauss, E. Randolph Richards, and Brandon J. O’Brien for their responses to my review essay in this short symposium concerning their books. I thank each scholar for specifying which of my critiques they find persuasive and for responding to my other critiques by strengthening or elaborating their points. I appreciate the opportunity afforded by Christian Scholar’s Review to submit a final rejoinder.
First, a clarification about humor. Lamb, Richards, and O’Brien note that the wit in their books will be an asset for many audiences. I agree. However, since more sensitive readers may be startled or less than amused, I do advise discretion for leaders evaluating the books for group study or dialogue. At the same time, jocularity that is out of place for restrained audiences may enrich studying the Bible for others. The style and subject matter of the Behaving Badly books could correspond to the “PG-13” or “TV-14” ratings of television and film fame. Someday perhaps print and electronic media will make use of analogous designations.
Second, Lamb implies that Lot and Lot’s daughters are peripheral to our discussion. He addresses their relationship later in another of his books, Prostitutes and Polygamists: A Look at Love, Old Testament Style. I am gratified by his additional analysis, and I am glad that he intends to examine Noah and the Flood in later writings. Based on the polemics I previously cited, these two narratives remain crucial to allegations that God behaves badly in the Old Testament. I hope that the critique in my response reduces or relieves prickly controversies about Genesis 19, and regarding Noah and the Flood, as well. I will be delighted if anything I have written is useful for subsequent conversations, and for any revised or updated editions of God Behaving Badly.
Third, I sympathize with Strauss emphasizing that if Jesus’s expectations and preaching of God’s kingdom are false, this is indeed “bad behavior” in relation to the truth, engendering lament and heartache for those who trust in Jesus. I further understand Strauss’s argument that when Jesus “cleansed” the Temple, Jesus was directing his ire especially toward the priestly leadership. Strauss finally contends that Jesus was judging the fig tree actively rather than passively. Strauss is plausibly correct. Even so, Jesus might have pronounced, “you will never bear fruit again” with regret or grief instead of fury or vehemence. This represents a complementary angle in considering accusations that Jesus behaved viciously toward the fig tree. Other scholars’ proposal of, or at least allowance for, a predictive or prophetic function in Jesus “cursing” the fig tree remains a third hypothesis for responsibly inquiring into the ethics of this episode.
Fourth, Richards and O’Brien refer to their Preface for their view of inspiration. I presume they intend: “We love God’s Holy Word and believe it to be 100 percent true. We also believe that the Bible will stand up to a good hard look and thorough investigation” (9). As Richards and O’Brien rightly discern, Peter and Paul do not need to be perfect in order to be perfectly inspired under the right circumstances. Richards and O’Brien also rightly repudiate, and I know of no Christian who argues this, that Peter or Paul is worthy of worship. What I find missing in their book is a succinct explanation of what they apparently allude to as “broader systematic discussions.” Specifically, why and in what way do Chris- tians justifiably affirm that Paul’s and Peter’s canonical writings are 100 percent inspired and true if Paul, Peter, and/or other early Christians misheard the Holy Spirit at critical moments such as those in Acts 2 and 20-21?
Composer Johann Sebastian Bach stated that all music should have as its purpose “the Glory of God and the recreation [or refreshment] of the mind.”1 I believe that the series on God, Jesus, and Apostle Paul “Behaving Badly” serves both of Bach’s purposes, but in print form. I pray that the same is true for the present exchange exploring these topics further.