Key Questions About Christian Faith | John Goldingay

John Goldingay is one of our time’s leading Old Testament scholars. To oversimplify his method, Goldingay prefers to allow the text to dictate its own needs and concerns, rather than to read modern questions and worldviews back into scripture (in contrast to Brueggemann, as John Hobbins succinctly pointed out).

His style of Old Testament theology makes this book’s title a misnomer—although the content remains strong. The title and chapter list leads you to believe that Goldingay took a modern question and searched out just what the Old Testament had to say about it. That’s not the case. The chapters in this book are collected essays from Goldingay’s career, repackaged with interesting questions for titles.

Don’t get me wrong—this book is thoughtful, engaging, and important for modern Christianity. In a world where many Christians view the Old Testament as a take-it-or-leave-it prologue to their Bible, solid Old Testament exegesis is a breath of fresh air. Goldingay’s one of the most reliable guides we have. His breadth of knowledge on the Old Testament is simply astounding. I just think the reader should know what he or she is getting into before starting the book. (I suppose it could have been Baker Academic that chose the form of this book, not Goldingay himself.)

Some of the highlights include:

  • “What Does it Mean to Be Human?” where Goldingay reflects on the image of God in the disabled, including a moving reflection of his own wife’s struggle with illness.
  • “Is God in the City?” where Goldingay reflects on the dialectic between Garden and City, particularly in Genesis.
  • “How Does Prayer Work?” where Goldingay quite bluntly lays out God’s plan of cooperation with his creatures through intercession.

Unfortunately, some of the most interesting chapter titles like, “Does God Care About Animals” (originally published as “Covenants and Nature”) and “Should I Tithe Net or Gross?” (originally published as “Jubilee Tithe”) didn’t fit the content therein. The article on animals in particular demonstrates Goldingay’s refusal to read modern issues into the ancient text. Here’s the first sentence of that chapter:

The most interesting, creative, illuminating, dangerous, and misleading exercises in reading the First Testament happen when people study it in light of some new question or conviction that they bring to the text.

The book is well worth your time. At an average of 14 pages per chapter, it’s a great book to grab when you have a free hour to consider how the Old Testament should inform our lives today.

 

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