29 April 2016

Book Review: God Against the Gods: Storytelling, Imagination and Apologetics in the Bible - Brian Godawa

God Against the Gods - Brian Godawa God Against the Gods: Storytelling, Imagination and Apologetics in the Bible by 4 of 5 stars

While Godawa is best known for his many fictional books and writings, I, being not much of a fiction reader usually, am only familiar with a couple of his non-fiction writings like this. Not too many months back I had read his When Giants Were Upon the Earth: The Watchers, the Nephilim, and the Biblical Cosmic War of the Seed and since I thoroughly enjoyed it, I approached this title with similar expectations. Well, those expectations were met.

Again, Godawa presents a look into the culture and writings of the ancient Hebrew and their surrounding neighbors, and in doing so, presents us with a deeper understanding of many texts of Scripture that, when taken too literally, become confusing.

The premise is, the ancients wrote in a literary style that we are not necessarily expecting from them, and until we recognize this fact, we are prone to misinterpret what the writers were trying to get across in Scripture. This has been a big problem in the modern church for decades upon decades, and Godawa joins the ranks of many, many other writers delving into these topics.

Ever since the discovery of the Ugaritic texts in 1929, and the Dead Sea Scrolls a few decades later, the understanding of Scripture has opened wider than at almost any other point in church history, yet the typical preacher/teacher and pew sitter have no clue about the depths of this topic being written and exposed. Sadly, without a better understanding of this ancient worldview, the modern church is doomed to continue misunderstanding the text and will continue propagating an alien view of the Scripture.

I will briefly mention a few chapters that stand out. Chapters one and two start right off looking at how story telling was done in the Old Testament. How they took the names of the other gods and twisted them in a belittling manner, as well as taking the stories of those gods and twisted them and took them over, applying them to Yahweh while demonizing the original gods. This is very helpful because many atheists want to say Judaism/Christianity just stole their theology from other nations. Once you grasp the true story telling aspect, you understand the Scriptures are a taking of those stories and inserting the truth with Yahweh at the center - so no, they are not just stolen stories. These two chapters alone should be put into a separate booklet that all Christians need to read, learn and understand - but wait there is more.

Chapters three and four look at Biblical creation and cosmology in the ancient mind. Enjoyable, but it was chapter five that stood out to me even more. Here Godawa discusses New Testament storytelling, dealing specifically with Acts 17:16-34 where Paul defends the gospel at the Areopagus in Athens. He breaks down the discussion verse by verse showing how Paul's style is doing pretty much what was already covered in the second chapter. He takes familiar story elements from the Greeks and twists them to make his point about Yahweh. This chapter was most enjoyable.

Sadly, all good things come to an end, and only a couple chapters later found myself at the end of this enlightening book. Every chapter is worth its salt here, those mentioned were just a few that struck me the most. I encourage all Christians to read this, but especially those unfamiliar with the ancient near Eastern worldview and its influence of the Hebrew Scriptures. There are tons of deeper scholarly works on this subject, but start here, Godawa is writing to the average person and is easy to grasp.

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