Book review: The Sins of Scripture

by John Shelby Spong


The subtitle of this book is Exposing the Bible’s Texts of Hate to Reveal the God of Love. I read this book a few years back, and the reason it came to mind today is because I am feeling overwhelmed by the aggressiveness of anti-Bible crusaders. Unquestionably, there are many passages in the Bible that are not only questionable theology, but downright appalling. Unquestionably, there are “Christians” today who pounce on these texts in order to promote discrimination or oppression. But the majority of Christians do not; the majority of Christians worship a God of love, and either spiritualize or completely discard those scriptures that reveal, not God’s will, but human weakness.

Can we really worship a God who murdered all the firstborn males in every Egyptian household? How about a God who stops the sun in the sky, providing more daylight so that Joshua can slaughter more of his enemies? Would the God you worship instruct Samuel to “Go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass”?

Is it ok to possess slaves, or sell your daughter into slavery? Should cursing or violating the Sabbath be cause for death? Is it right to stone disobedient children? Of course not, neither today or 2,500 years ago, and we know this.

How about the treatment of women as chattel? Encouragement of homophobia? Anti-Semitism? Spong guides us into a more liberal understanding of the Bible, pointing out the texts that exhibit human thinking, human fear, and comparing them to texts where the love of God shows through, and briefly touching on his vision of the Kingdom of God. It’s true that this book is one of the more negative of Spong’s works, but it sets us up for books yet to come.


  1. It is so difficult for us modern “westerners” to hold the tension of God the Lover and God the Just Judge. If this life is the only place where love and justice play out then no wonder everyone is so negative about the Scriptures. After having my mind transformed by “Eastern” Christian exegesis it is not as difficult to reconcile these passages. Remember…the great God Yahweh does not exist by OUR rules. He predates the Renaissance, Reformation, Abolition, Civil-Rights and the Gay/Lesbian Movements.

  2. Welcome, Father! Comments appreciated! Most people seem to prefer discussing my posts in facebook or goodreads, but I’d like to start seeing more activity here, where it’s preserved.

  3. Anonymous

    The Black Adder summed up the comment of Father Timothy when he famously declared: Utter Crap

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