Book Review: Banned Questions About the Bible

A Brief Review of Banned Questions About the Bible.
Christian Piatt.
Paperback: Chalice Press, 2011.
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Reviewed by Bryan Berghoef.

Ever want to ask a question that seems improper about God or the Bible?  Maybe you were the kid in Sunday School who asked, “Well where did Cain get a wife, anyway?”  or, “How do we know the Bible is really from God?”  or “Why would God ask Abraham to kill his own son?”  Well, now you can indulge all the questions that mom and dad shrugged their shoulders at, your well-meaning Bible teacher frowned upon, and your pastor seemed completely unaware of.

Thanks to Christian Piatt, Becky Garrison, Jason Boyett, Jarrod McKenna and friends, there is now an accessible guide to many of the questions you’ve always had but were never allowed to ask.  What is thoroughly enjoyable about the multi-author approach is that every question is followed by at least several responses, sometimes four or five.  Instead of easy answers that will satisfy the faithful, these writers, thinkers and theologians give personal responses based on their own understanding and the latest scholarly research – always giving references for further in-depth study on your own.  The answers are marked by an obvious familiarity with the latest in biblical scholarship, personal wrestling, and admissions that there may, in fact, not be a good answer.

Questions addressed include:  “How do we reconcile the two different ‘creation stories’ presented in Genesis chapters one and two?”; “Does God justify violence in scripture?  What about genocide?”; “How can we begin to take the Bible literally when it begins to contradict itself so often?”; “Are there any mistakes in the Bible?”; “Where are all the miracles today?”; and “Why are there so many completely different interpretations of the same scripture passages?”

This book will not so much satisfy the curious as create a deeper curiosity in earnest learners – whether you study the Bible as a person of faith or simply as a cultural religious observer.  It is not so much a book for those well-versed in theology, hermeneutics and biblical studies, but is a more than satisfactory guide for many who are looking to move beyond simplistic (and perhaps unbiblical) notions about the Bible – such as fundamentalist inerrancy – as clearly the Bible presents us with problematic moral situations, ethical dilemmas, varying representations of God, and the occasional contradiction.  The Bible was written by people, not angels, and as a result it represents all the complexity and idiosyncrasies of humanity in its quest for God, and some would say, God in his quest for humanity.  Highly recommended, and a good addition for any church library.

Bryan Berghoef is a pub theologian, writer, and pastor of Roots DC, a local faith collective in Washington DC.  You can read more by Bryan at  This review was first published in the Englewood Review of Books.


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