Who’s Afraid of the Old Testament God?

Written by Alden Thompson Reviewed By Walter Moberly

I enjoyed reading this book. Thompson writes ‘as a conservative Christian with a deep concern for the life of the conservative Christian community’, and is entirely successful in achieving his aim. He looks at all the major issues with regard to the OT that tend to concern the conservative Bible-believing Christian, e.g. divinely sanctioned killing, problematic moral standards, and the use of the OT in the NT in apparently arbitrary and doubtful ways.

Thompson’s approach is basically twofold. On the one hand he argues the need for a historical awareness in reading the OT, as opposed to the rather flat and unhistorical way in which conservatives often handle the text. On the other hand he appeals for a more thoughtful and less fearful reading of Scripture, as opposed to the rather authoritarian and simplistic ways which conservatives often use.

What Thompson says is hardly novel, but that is beside the point. It is as much how he writes as what he writes that matters, given his chosen audience. OT study can often be so difficult for the conservative student for whom neither rigid fundamentalists nor dismissive liberals offer much help. What the thoughtful church member, the student going to Bible college, or many an ordinary CU member needs is a scholar they can trust—one who will take their problems seriously and work through them in such a way as to enhance rather than undermine a belief in the inspiration of Scripture. Thompson writes in an engaging and winsome way that will elicit precisely such trust.

Of course, Thompson’s work is only an introduction to OT study and would be of limited value for the university theology student who would quickly need something more rigorous and wide-ranging. But one of Thompson’s basic principles is that God meets people where they are; and for many conservative evangelicals in the early stages of thinking about Scripture, this book could well be where God meets with them.

Walter Moberly

Durham University