Confronting Old Testament Controversies: Pressing Questions about Evolution, Sexuality, History, and Violence

By Tremper Longman III

 

Several giphys come to mind when I recall the life-changing question my husband (then boyfriend) asked me some 13 years ago:

“Why are you Catholic?”

It was a loaded question camouflaged innocently amidst an easy conversation between a new boyfriend and girlfriend. I say it was innocent because my husband knew my background as a girl who was baptized as an infant and raised in the Catholic faith. Despite my K-12 education, I was all wide-eyed emoji faced and without defense. The simple question suddenly became very heavy and was weighing on my heart. Why was I Catholic?

Almost a year after that conversation I had hit my rock bottom and found Jesus for the first time in my life. The 12+ years that have followed have been quite the journey best described as a process of imperfect progress trying to discover my identity and purpose all the while building my defense for why I believe what I believe. Close to 2 years ago I began studying apologetics and it has certainly helped me examine and clarify my personal thoughts and beliefs so I will be better equipped the next time someone questions my faith.

I’ve read a handful of intriguing (and not-so-intriguing) apologetics books over those months, but was fascinated with the title of my latest book to review. With much anticipation, I pondered if the content would vary or support what I had previously studied.

No two ways about it, Confronting Old Testament Controversies: Pressing Questions about Evolution, Sexuality, History, and Violence by evangelical Christian scholar Tremper Longman III is unlike any of the other apologetics books I have read. And rightly so – Longman claims he is not speaking apologetically but rather is in support and defense of the Old Testament as God’s written Word.

For me, Confronting Old Testament Controversies seems intensely academic for a stay-at-home mom/bookworm/aspiring writer. In my opinion, the writing was dry, weighty, and truthfully, challenging for me to comprehend because I either felt like my head was spinning or like my eyes were glazing over. This book certainly is not like most of the Christian living books I typically read! [*Note: This really isn’t a negative because the author is a reputable scholar in his field. The book is well written but just not written in my preferred, easy-reading, relatable, girl-next-door style.]

On the other hand, Longman offers a very interesting critique, which I found myself agreeing with, most of the time. He produces many thought-provoking discussions as well as a plethora of research and attention to detail. He knows his stance along with his peers who may contradict his view and belief system. However, I would certainly recommend doing some personal research on your own either before or while reading this book. Longman often refers to other evangelical scholars while stating his personal beliefs and opinions so it’s definitely in the reader’s interest to do some homework. [This is great advice for any book you read – know your author so you can understand the source! You may enjoy a book’s content but then totally disagree with everything the author stands for.]

The basis for Confronting Old Testament Controversies is to address some of the big culture-influence topics that are seeping into the foundational beliefs of Christians worldwide. Longman explains that some individuals within the evangelical scholarly community are arguing for nontraditional interpretations (or new evaluations) of the Old Testament text as a means to conform the Word of God to fit the cultural norm. I agree with Longman that current culture should in no way dictate how we view, interpret and apply the Bible and its principles. He chooses 4 highly debated controversies in the Bible to support the Bible’s validity in a modern world.

At the heart of the 4 controversies discussed in this book is the nature of the Bible and the approach in which we take when interpreting it. It is not new news that the Old Testament has some pretty shocking content displayed across its pages. Longman does a great job addressing each of the controversies from many angles and then offers the reader freedom to express their own thoughts, opinions and beliefs.

Pros:

  • Lots of information with resources provided for more in-depth personal study
  • Discussion questions at the end of each chapter to recap each controversy and encourage the reader to develop and examine their own opinion
  • Supports the Word of God as alive and well in today’s modern world

Cons:

  • Weighty with research
  • The critiques can come across as “he said, she said”

If you are interested in diving deeper and brushing off the dust of the OT in order to find clarity amongst what appears to be quite shady, then this is a book for you. Undoubtedly, your heart and mind will be challenged, yet your spirit will be strengthened. It may take you a bit of time to read through this book, but it will be worth it in the end.

* I received this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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