Book review: Banned Questions about the Bible

by Christian Piatt


Hey, I think this new Banned Questions Series by Christian Piatt and acquaintances is gonna work! I’ll also be reviewing the next one in the series, Banned Questions about Jesus, though I haven’t yet broken its cover.

Piatt’s MO is to collect a number of uncomfortable questions, typically issues that we would feel awkward about discussing with our pastor, and then pose the questions to contributors. These contributors appear to represent several stops along the sliding scale of Christian beliefs, but so far as I can tell, each is quite learned in Biblical studies or contemporary religion. Some are more conservative than others, but all are thoughtful.

Can we be Christians if we don’t believe the Bible is perfect? Does the Bible condone slavery? Did God really write the Bible? Why bother reading the Old Testament? Why does God appear to change his mind?

Some of the Bible’s commands just don’t make sense to us today. Should we really be concerned about the Old Testament’s dislike of same-sex partnerships when it also says eating shrimp is an abomination, and so is wearing mixed fabric? We don’t get our cotton-blend panties in a bunch whenever we go to Red Lobster. Today’s times are different, and we are in the process of outgrowing our prejudices. Leviticus 19:20 says that it’s OK to doink a slave girl as long as she hasn’t been freed and you feel pretty crappy about it afterwards (alright, I think probably this contributor was paraphrasing), but I doubt anyone today agrees that this law is representative of a moral society. The point is, the Bible begs for thoughtful interpretation, not mindless following.

As such, don’t expect all questions to be answered to your satisfaction. Religion just doesn’t work that way, does it? Particularly disappointing to me was a chapter on why there are no miracles today. I also noticed that those polled quite often agreed on an answer. Perhaps the answers were culled, or perhaps the questions weren’t hard enough, but in the real world of Biblical advice and scholarship, unison is a rare luxury. So, Piatt, don’t be afraid to share answers that are contradictory! Make us think, man!

Loved the book, and looking forward to the next one.

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