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Fighting with the Bible: Why Scripture Divides Us and How It Can Bring Us Together

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In times of conflict, the Bible is often used as a club to beat those whose opinions differ from one's own. We recoil from such usage, yet the Bible actually represents many diverse and conflicting points of view. It is like a library, full of books that speak to all sides of every question. Like Christians today, the communities and individuals who wrote the biblical text In times of conflict, the Bible is often used as a club to beat those whose opinions differ from one's own. We recoil from such usage, yet the Bible actually represents many diverse and conflicting points of view. It is like a library, full of books that speak to all sides of every question. Like Christians today, the communities and individuals who wrote the biblical texts often strongly disagree with each other. Ruth and Ezra, Isaiah and Ezekiel, Micah and Joel, Deuteronomy and Daniel, Mark and John. What would they say to each other? Do they have anything in common? Each of these voices is firmly committed to his or her specific view of "the truth," whether it reflects a particular place or community, a prophet, a style of worship, or an "understanding" of who is in and who is out. The author guides us in considering how we can do justice to this welter of disparate voices. What can the Bible teach us about living together? How can we use it as a powerful resource for understanding and for moving beyond conflict? A study guide and template for creating safe spaces for conversation abou the tough issues in which the bible may be dividing your community is found at the end of the book.


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In times of conflict, the Bible is often used as a club to beat those whose opinions differ from one's own. We recoil from such usage, yet the Bible actually represents many diverse and conflicting points of view. It is like a library, full of books that speak to all sides of every question. Like Christians today, the communities and individuals who wrote the biblical text In times of conflict, the Bible is often used as a club to beat those whose opinions differ from one's own. We recoil from such usage, yet the Bible actually represents many diverse and conflicting points of view. It is like a library, full of books that speak to all sides of every question. Like Christians today, the communities and individuals who wrote the biblical texts often strongly disagree with each other. Ruth and Ezra, Isaiah and Ezekiel, Micah and Joel, Deuteronomy and Daniel, Mark and John. What would they say to each other? Do they have anything in common? Each of these voices is firmly committed to his or her specific view of "the truth," whether it reflects a particular place or community, a prophet, a style of worship, or an "understanding" of who is in and who is out. The author guides us in considering how we can do justice to this welter of disparate voices. What can the Bible teach us about living together? How can we use it as a powerful resource for understanding and for moving beyond conflict? A study guide and template for creating safe spaces for conversation abou the tough issues in which the bible may be dividing your community is found at the end of the book.

30 review for Fighting with the Bible: Why Scripture Divides Us and How It Can Bring Us Together

  1. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    I read this book as part of the Education for Ministry (EfM) program. Unfortunately, I didn't get much out of it. First, I thought the book was mis-titled. Based on its contents, it should be titled, "How People in the Old Testament Fought with the Bible." As another reviewer noted, he "draws most of his discussion from the post-exilic period"--not from today. It's helpful to know that even people in the Bible fought with (i.e., questioned, supplemented, revised, curated) the Bible, but his exte I read this book as part of the Education for Ministry (EfM) program. Unfortunately, I didn't get much out of it. First, I thought the book was mis-titled. Based on its contents, it should be titled, "How People in the Old Testament Fought with the Bible." As another reviewer noted, he "draws most of his discussion from the post-exilic period"--not from today. It's helpful to know that even people in the Bible fought with (i.e., questioned, supplemented, revised, curated) the Bible, but his extended argument making that point left little room for guidance about how we might do so today. Also, on the whole, Christians are much more familiar with the New Testament, so using the NT instead of the OT might have been more meaningful, at least to his EfM readers (but I completely get that the OT is his scholarly specialty). Second, he seems to see the Old Testament canon as the product of a rational, deliberate process, not as the result of what was surely a political process fraught with compromise. However divinely inspired, it's still a human construction, so there's nothing "magical" or "infallible" about its composition. Third, my EfM group didn't really "buy" his argument that the canon puts helpful boundaries on what we can dialogue about. The Bible is still a huge book that encompasses a great deal--as he describes! Fourth, I echo another reviewer here, who pointed out that Morgan fails to engage with the question of how to deal with Christians who are not willing to engage in dialogue. His recommendations are premised on peoples' openness to 1) acknowledging the diversity inherent in the Bible, and 2) engaging in dialogue with the Bible (in all its contradictions) informing that conversation. There are certainly Christians to whom both ideas are anathema. Finally, this book seemed like an odd choice for EfM in particular because even the students in Year 1 (who read the OT) are by now aware that the Bible is much more self-contradictory and multitudinous than they might have thought prior to starting the program. This book seems to be aimed at people who think the Bible is monolithic and provides clear, unchangeable answers to contemporary questions. EfM students don't really need to be convinced of this! :)

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lacy Broemel

    I found this book incredibly enlightening. We all know the drill- you throw out one verse of scripture to back up your argument and I throw out another to back up my argument. Morgan’s point is that the Bible is written and created as a canon that holds diversity and tension. Not only is there difference in the Bible, but the inclusion of diversity means that as Christians we must strive to engage and dialogue with difference. I enjoyed reading it and would that I recommend for anyone who has ev I found this book incredibly enlightening. We all know the drill- you throw out one verse of scripture to back up your argument and I throw out another to back up my argument. Morgan’s point is that the Bible is written and created as a canon that holds diversity and tension. Not only is there difference in the Bible, but the inclusion of diversity means that as Christians we must strive to engage and dialogue with difference. I enjoyed reading it and would that I recommend for anyone who has ever felt frustrated or tired out by Christians fighting with the Bible and is looking for a place to start.

  3. 4 out of 5

    John

    Inspired by God, written by man, the Bible is comprised of various genres including law, history, wisdom, psalms, etc. Based upon when the writings occurred, e.g., pre-exile to or post-exile from Babylon, scriptural verses can conflict, which is why one can chose scripture, if chosen in isolation, to fight whatever cause one wants to fight. The author explores several conflicts within the Bible but also discusses what can be learned from the discrepancies. An enlightening read on this inspiratio Inspired by God, written by man, the Bible is comprised of various genres including law, history, wisdom, psalms, etc. Based upon when the writings occurred, e.g., pre-exile to or post-exile from Babylon, scriptural verses can conflict, which is why one can chose scripture, if chosen in isolation, to fight whatever cause one wants to fight. The author explores several conflicts within the Bible but also discusses what can be learned from the discrepancies. An enlightening read on this inspirational and historical book, which have often been misused.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    I like the premise of this book and I like that there are people out there who agree that we need to dialogue more about what the Bible means for us as individual Christians and as a group of followers. Most of the stuff in the book I already knew to be true and are pretty much the reasons why I started EfM to begin with...the big part, 'how it can bring us together', didn't really have anything that good communicators don't already do. Also...um, there were so many rhetorical questions that I f I like the premise of this book and I like that there are people out there who agree that we need to dialogue more about what the Bible means for us as individual Christians and as a group of followers. Most of the stuff in the book I already knew to be true and are pretty much the reasons why I started EfM to begin with...the big part, 'how it can bring us together', didn't really have anything that good communicators don't already do. Also...um, there were so many rhetorical questions that I found myself skimming instead of reading, but maybe that was the intent. How do we dialogue with people who don't want to have a conversation? I'm not really sure that the answer can be found in this book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Laurie Hawkins

    Required Reading The only reason I read this was because it was a required reading for a class. I think there’s better books out there that could have been recommended. Had to read in an upright chair due to it would work marvelously as a drug-free alternative for sleep medication. Dull, boring & outdated.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Danielle Mccoy

    For EFM. Tough read but good advice on how to hold difficult conversations.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Janet Mahlum

    This book was one of our readings in Education for Ministry. The title can be misleading. This is not about "fighting with the Bible" as in "fighting with my brother." What this is about is how the canon was put together with opposing view points that the community of faith must come to grips with. An easy example of this is found in Isaiah 2:3-4: "They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train fo This book was one of our readings in Education for Ministry. The title can be misleading. This is not about "fighting with the Bible" as in "fighting with my brother." What this is about is how the canon was put together with opposing view points that the community of faith must come to grips with. An easy example of this is found in Isaiah 2:3-4: "They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore." and Joel 3:9-10: "Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears..." The author states: "In forming the canon, early Jewish and Christian communities brought much difference together into one house and said this house will be a home for all." The final sentence sums up what the book is about: "...the conflict can be lost if we fight among ourselves and won if we work together." Quoting scripture to prove ourselves right and the "others" wrong does not accomplish anything. "The Bible calls us to live into a rich diversity through the use of dialogue as a practice that is critical to the church. The purpose of that dialogue is to create an open, hospitable, even vulnerable community where difference is seen as something that enriches rather than pollutes, that enlarges rather than excludes." This was a challenging book to read and opened my mind to consider new ways to read and understand the Bible.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Margie Dorn

    Donn Morgan has important things to say about the varying perspectives within the Bible, which have contributed to both argument and dialogue among human beings through the ages. He suggests that our house of factions become a home of dialogue and diversity. He draws most of his discussion from the post-exilic period, which is fine, except that there are pertinent issues that seemed not to be addressed. He seemed to say several times that there are periods when "exclusion" is necessary, without Donn Morgan has important things to say about the varying perspectives within the Bible, which have contributed to both argument and dialogue among human beings through the ages. He suggests that our house of factions become a home of dialogue and diversity. He draws most of his discussion from the post-exilic period, which is fine, except that there are pertinent issues that seemed not to be addressed. He seemed to say several times that there are periods when "exclusion" is necessary, without addressing the glaring problem that in the post-exilic period women and children without pure Jewish ancestry were exiled, creating a generation of "widows and orphans." I guess I just would have preferred a focus on the Pauline metaphor of diversity of the body, and his rule of thumb that decisions need to uplift the health of the body, especially those parts that are deemed to be "weaker". In his desire to be inclusive, Morgan somewhat sidesteps the very real problem of how to respond to "excluders" who are not willing to come to the discussion, and want to send away the "impure women and children". This was a problem for me. I guess I prefer the work of John Collins and Philip Jenkins in this regard.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sunni

    This book is well written and brings up many questions that are important and need to be asked. What this book doesn't supply is any answers. Maybe the author never intended to supply answers to the questions he was asking, but answers are what I am looking for when I read a book like this, so I was disappointed. There were parts of this book that made me think, but most points made where statements of what I felt were the obvious questions with no new added knowledge or answers. in large part, This book is well written and brings up many questions that are important and need to be asked. What this book doesn't supply is any answers. Maybe the author never intended to supply answers to the questions he was asking, but answers are what I am looking for when I read a book like this, so I was disappointed. There were parts of this book that made me think, but most points made where statements of what I felt were the obvious questions with no new added knowledge or answers. in large part, I felt that I had wasted a lot if valuable time, and was not coming away any smarter or more enlightened. I gave this book a three star rating anyway, because I am sure this book may offer something to some, and it will be a new awakening to those it reaches. It just didn't hold anything new for me.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jean Marie Angelo

    The title is provocative and really isn't descriptive of the text. Like most here, I read this as part of EfM. Given the many contradictions and varied points of view of God and life from the many books of the Bible, I gained a lot from this book. So often versus are quoted out of context and used to zap and belittle others. I don't want scripture to be a weapon, I want it to shed wisdom on the struggles of the people who shaped the canon. Morgan focuses on the Hebrew Bible and sheds light on th The title is provocative and really isn't descriptive of the text. Like most here, I read this as part of EfM. Given the many contradictions and varied points of view of God and life from the many books of the Bible, I gained a lot from this book. So often versus are quoted out of context and used to zap and belittle others. I don't want scripture to be a weapon, I want it to shed wisdom on the struggles of the people who shaped the canon. Morgan focuses on the Hebrew Bible and sheds light on the prophets and beliefs in the pre and post-exilic periods. It helped my understanding. One prophet calls for peace; another for war. We find passages of understanding and forgiveness and passages of judgement and fear. Instead of fighting the words, I am embracing a deeper understanding of the context. Morgan helped me get there.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    I read this book for my EfM class. It is yet another EfM interlude book that is disappointing compared with other materials provided for EfM students. The title does not match the contents of the book. The first 3/4 of the book focuses on conflict in the Old Testament. It does. It really does not answer how scripture divides us- just says that the Bible says inconsistent things about war and peace for example. The last 25 pages do contain advice on how to resolve Biblical differences although mu I read this book for my EfM class. It is yet another EfM interlude book that is disappointing compared with other materials provided for EfM students. The title does not match the contents of the book. The first 3/4 of the book focuses on conflict in the Old Testament. It does. It really does not answer how scripture divides us- just says that the Bible says inconsistent things about war and peace for example. The last 25 pages do contain advice on how to resolve Biblical differences although much of the advice seem improbable given the issues that divide us. I do appreciate that EfM gets me to read books I wouldn’t otherwise read.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Tony Raissian

    An interesting take on the ‘value’ of opposing viewpoints voiced in the Bible. I appreciate the frankness with which he approaches the subject, but I didn’t quite connect with the resolution he offered.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    Big sections of this book bored me. His style wasn’t for me. But, I did like his canon history chapter. The last couple paragraphs summarize the book well. The appendices were not really useable. They were too general.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Patricia

    Read for EfM

  15. 4 out of 5

    Bob

    EfM text, ho hum.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Janet Daniels

    This is the first interlude book for Education for Ministry for year A, 2017-18.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Keith Axberg

    I was looking for more, and I don't believe the book answers the questions posed by the title. Its not a bad book. It is well-written and clearly articulated. It just wasn't my cup of tea. I was looking for more, and I don't believe the book answers the questions posed by the title. Its not a bad book. It is well-written and clearly articulated. It just wasn't my cup of tea.

  18. 4 out of 5

    C.B. Edgar

    The book should really be called "Making a Home for Difference: How the Bible Requires Diversity in Biblical Communities." The author even says that he wanted to call the book "Making a Home for Difference" in the second sentence of the Preface. It is about "Fighting with the Bible" in that believers use the Bible to fight with each other: the diverse positions and viewpoints in the Bible give believers ammunition to fight with each other. By latching onto one of the many interpretations of vari The book should really be called "Making a Home for Difference: How the Bible Requires Diversity in Biblical Communities." The author even says that he wanted to call the book "Making a Home for Difference" in the second sentence of the Preface. It is about "Fighting with the Bible" in that believers use the Bible to fight with each other: the diverse positions and viewpoints in the Bible give believers ammunition to fight with each other. By latching onto one of the many interpretations of various biblical passages, a reader can use the authority of the Bible to exclude other people and worldviews from a church or a community. The fact that the Bible enables such actions, on both sides of many positions, and that the Bible even records stories of people using the authority of scripture to both include and exclude others, is evidence that the Bible includes different, even divergent, points of view. An the fact that God or the biblical editors chose to include divergent points of view in holy scripture, is evidence that believers should be open to including different, even divergent, points of view, in their communities and churches. The author argues that if Churches embrace, instead of reject, difference, that they will be stronger, and they will be more faithful to scripture. When Churches make a home for difference, and accept the struggles of embracing diversity, they will be fighting, struggling, with the Bible, and in the tradition of the communities made known to us in the Bible, this is a good thing. While I accept the author's thesis based on my understanding of the Bible, I reject his arguments. His arguments are based on an understanding of biblical communities that is in turn based on the modern critical biblical scholarship taught in many seminaries and universities. This understanding is based on a theory about how the Bible was written, a theory based in a nineteenth century philosophy that has mostly been rejected. The theory itself has failed to converge even after a century and a half of intense scholarship. In fact, many of the assumptions inherent to the theory has been disproven by the archeological and ancient literary discoveries of the past century. Since I reject the theory of when and how and why ancient Jewish communities compiled the biblical writings, it is hard to accept the author's arguments for diversity that are largely based on examples of when and how and why ancient Jewish communities compiled the biblical writings. Even though I did not accept the author's exposition, I did gain a lot from reading the book, and I do recommend reading the book. The author sought to encourage readers to open themselves and their churches to accepting diversity, and to engage in discussion or dialog with that diversity. I found myself doing just that. In this book, I found a viewpoint and belief system very different from my own. And yet the author is a person of faith, a Christian who believes in God and worships God in much the same way I do. The author and I share a faith, a respect for the Bible, and a love for the Lord, and we share an understanding of the biblically based need for churches and Christians to embrace diversity. In reading and struggling with this book, in fighting with this book, I have encountered difference, and I have engaged in a discussion with the diversity that is in my community of faith.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Mary Sheridan

    This is a wonderful book that brings out the differences and diversity in the Bible. Donn Morgan provides ways to look at them so that we can discuss, ask questions and sit down at the table with those who seem at opposite ends in regard to understanding the Bible. Excellent source for anyone; particularly good for those who are engaged in conversation and/or are teaching classes about the Bible.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Booher

    This was a very quick read. It lays out how we can have dialogue about issues that divide us within the church. It grounds this premise in the historical contradictory views that make up the Bible. Nicely laid out approach.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Maya Senen

    Compelling analysis of post-exilic work in the Hebrew Bible as a model for critical discourse in our contemporary Christian communities.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Wilson Colon

  23. 4 out of 5

    Troy Rosamond

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kathryn Allen

  25. 5 out of 5

    Natalie

  26. 4 out of 5

    Katherine

  27. 4 out of 5

    Paula Valeri

  28. 5 out of 5

    Katherine

  29. 5 out of 5

    Dee

  30. 5 out of 5

    Laura

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