Do you have questions about Hell, Divine Judgment and the Holy Wars in the Old Testament? How do you reconcile the God of love with the God of wrath? What about all the evil in the world and the suffering of the innocent? These and other questions that you may have about the hard passages in the Bible are comprehensively explored with great wisdom by Joshua Ryan Butler in THE SKELETONS IN GOD’S CLOSET.
This is the best book I have read this year. It is an interesting and compelling read. He writes beautifully with an eye for analogies and imagery. His book is not a defense of literalism but a sensitive reading of the metaphors the biblical writers have used to describe God’s purposes. He believes in the verbal inspiration and authority of the Bible, and does not apologize for any of the biblical material. He does deal with the popular caricatures of biblical teaching. Here is what he has to say in his answer to the question why he thinks the caricatures have become so popular.
“I’ve come to believe there’s a part of us that wants the caricatures to be true. If the caricatures are true, it gives us a reason to write God off: to believe we’re the good guys and he’s the one with issues. We want our independence, so I think there’s a part of us that uses the caricatures to feel justified in our desire for distance, autonomy, and independence from God. So that we can feel justified in our sin.
At the end of the day, we are really the ones – not God – who have constructed the caricatures and given them their validity. But God is good. Better-than-we-can-ask-or-imagine-good. Way better than the caricatures we’ve created. So I think at some level our caricatures are not just something oppressive we need to be freed from, but something constructed we need to repent of, an idol we’ve made that we need to remove our clutching grasp from – in order to receive the redemptive embrace of the God who is gloriously good.”
Butler’s central message and driving theme of his book is that God is good all the time. He seeks to demonstrate that God’s goodness is not contradictory to the topics of hell, judgment and holy war. God is not a sadistic monster who allows people to be tortured by flames for eternity or only lets religious folks into his kingdom or commands the Israelites to kill innocent children in holy war. He defeats the argument that Christians often seem to be given two options: capitulate your faith in the Bible and swoop everyone up in a universal “love is God” type of pop-theology, or bang your Bible on the pulpit and preach about “those people” out there on the other side of the church doors who are on a highway headed to hell. He relates to the pressing issues social issues of today that require us to face up to the suffering of the world. This is a book I want to give to everyone to read.