Friday, March 14, 2014

Crazy Stories, Sane God, by John Alan Turner

There are some parts of the Bible that leave even the most committed Christian scratching his head, and that even the most biblically committed preachers avoid.  John Allen Turner is not afraid to take on those Bible stories that everyone else wants to pass over.  In Crazy Stories, Sane God: Lessons from the Most Unexpected Places in the Bible, Turner mines scripture for stories that many may never have heard, or wished they never had heard, and draws important lessons out of them.

As he points out, VeggieTales may not take on incest, prostitution, and forced circumcision.  But the stories Turner covers are in the Bible for a reason.  As he retells the story, he carefully draws a lesson, often in such a way that foreshadows the redemptive work of Jesus.  Turner is a gifted teacher, emphasizing that "these stories are [not] about the people of God. . . . These stories are about the God of the people."

He's refreshingly honest as he talks about his own faith journey.  He writes, "God is the most frustrating being I have ever met in my life.  I used to have this idea that following God would get easier as I got older; I could not have been more wrong."  He goes on: "Following Jesus is not relaxing.  It's the most exhausting, nerve-wracking, nail-biting experience imaginable.  But this is what we are called to do--follow him."

Turner's teaching is solid, even if the line he draws from the story in question to the spiritual application is sometimes a bit shaky.  I also would have liked him to spend a bit more time on the overarching question behind the book: why would God behave that way.  Many of the stories are about people's choices, but many reveal a part of God's character that sometimes seems irreconcilable with the character of God revealed in Jesus.  He touches on the problem of God commanding the Israelites to kill babies, for instance, but his arguments are ultimately lacking.

Overall, Crazy Stories, Sane God is fun to read, insightful, and occasionally challenging.  I would guess that Turner is equally engaging even when he teaches about some of the more run-of-the-mill, more well-known passages in the Bible.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

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