A Review: Banned Questions About the Bible by Christian Piatt

Reading the Bible — or even reading about the Bible — while thinking critically is not something everyone attempts or is capable of doing; this is clear when viewing the hermeneutical landscape in our world today.

Likewise, not everyone entertains the idea of maintaining their faith and a sense of humility simultaneously. Yet the Bible, especially when being read seriously by people of certainty, skepticism and everything in between, has become a source of as many questions as answers.

Enter Christian Piatt and his crew of 15 intelligent and witty writers who are not afraid of the confusing and controversial questions that can be drawn from Scripture. As contributing editor, Piatt has brought together a rich collection of thoughts and personalities to create Banned Questions About the Bible (Chalice Press, 2011), a potluck of thought-provoking questions neatly organized into 50 sections (not so much chapters), with each section offering somewhere between one and five concise responses (not so much answers) from differing perspectives.

Not a book that needs to be read in order, Banned offers questions ranging from basic (“Did God write the Bible?”) to general (“Are there any mistakes in the Bible?”), practical (“Is there a right or wrong way to read the Bible?”) to personal (“Can I be a Christian if I don’t believe the Bible is perfect?”), unexpected (“Are there secret codes embedded in scripture?”) to controversial (“What does the Bible really say about homosexuality?”), and speculative (“Was Mary Magdalene a prostitute?”) to interpretive (“Why are there so many completely different interpretations of the same scripture passages?”).

This is a great resource for pastors, youth ministers, small group leaders or anyone else looking for a book that takes a serious look at the challenges of reading the Scriptures without telling you what to think.  Because of its open format and the variety of contributing voices, this is a book you could sit and read for hours or grab off the shelf when you need help with a specific topic or text.

Don’t ignore the last 25 pages which include more than just bios and suggested resources from the contributors; they also share some of their favorite quotes and a list from each titled “Five Things to Do to Make the World a Better Place.” 

If that all seems a bit too schmaltzy for you, turn to the very last few pages and take the God Image Survey (developed by researchers at Baylor University) to learn how your image of God is balanced between their four “God Image” types: Authoritarian, Benevolent, Critical and Distant. (You can also view the survey results of each contributor, in case you want to confirm your suspicions about whose image of God is similar to yours, and whose is quite different.)