The question of the good life—what it looks like for people and societies to be well ordered and flourishing—has universal significance, but its proposed solutions are just as far reaching. At the core of this concern is the nature of the good itself: what is "right"? We must attend to this ethical dilemma before we can begin to envision a life lived to the fullest.
With Seeking What Is Right, Iain Provan invites us to consider how Scripture—the Old Testament in particular—can aid us in this quest. In rooting the definition of the good in God’s special revelation, Provan moves beyond the constraints of family, tribe, culture, state, or nature. When we read ourselves into the story of Scripture, we learn a formative ethic that speaks directly to our humanity. Provan delves into Western Christian history to demonstrate the various ways this has been done: how our forebears identified with the narrative of God’s people, Israel, and how they applied the Old Testament to their particular times and concerns. This serves as a foundation upon which modern Christians can assess their decisions as people who read the whole biblical story "from the beginning" in our time.
Provan challenges us to grapple with ethical issues dominating our contemporary culture as a people in exile, a people formed by disciplines steeped in the patterns and teachings of Scripture. To come alongside ancient Israel in its own experiences of exile, to listen with Israel to the utterances of a holy God, is to approach a true picture of the good life that illuminates all facets of human existence. Provan helps us understand how we should and should not read Scripture in arriving at these conclusions, clarifying for the faithful Christian what the limits of the search for "what is right" look like.
Part 1. Foundations 1 The Good Life and How to Recognize It A Short Introduction 2 The Twenty-Five Percent Bible Scripture and the Good Life 3 In the Beginning Design, Sin, and Redundancy Part 2. Explorations 4 The Emperor’s New Clothes Constantine as Biblical Hero 5 Not Wholly Roman The Carolingian Empire 6 Journey to the Center of the Earth The First Crusade and Jerusalem 7 The Foulness of Fornication Sex and Marriage in John Calvin’s Geneva 8 Apocalypse Now The New Jerusalem in Münster 9 Men of Blood The English Revolution 10 A City upon a Hill The Godly Republic in New England 11 God’s Servant for Your Good Tyranny, Freedom, and Right Government 12 Conceived in Liberty? Race, Slavery, and the People Of God 13 A Monstrous Regiment? The Vocation and Rights of Women 14 Staying Alive Jews, Palestinians, and the Holy Land 15 On Looking After the Garden The Good Life and Environmental Ethics Part 3. Conclusions 16 The Sword of the Spirit The Cutting Edge of Biblical Ethics 17 The Moral Maze of the Moment A Brief Guide for the Perplexed 18 Who Am I? Questions of Identity 19 The Landscape of Exile On Living in Dangerous Times 20 The Disciplines of Exile On Hearts and Minds
Iain Provan is the Marshall Sheppard Professor of Biblical Studies at Regent College and lives in the Vancouver, Canada area. He is the author of The Reformation and the Right Reading of Scripture; Convenient Myths: The Axial Age, Dark Green Religion, and the World that Never Was; and Seriously Dangerous Religion: What the Old Testament Really Says and Why It Matters.
What is the biblical vision of ‘what is right’? Iain Provan, one of the most important biblical scholars of our generation, brings his expertise not only in the Bible, but also history and contemporary issues of public life, to answer this critical question. He addresses questions like right government, warfare, the status of modern Israel, abortion, the environment, sexuality, and more, and he provides a road map for proper reading of Scripture in order to discern the good life.
~Tremper Longman III, Distinguished Scholar and Professor of Biblical Studies, Westmont College
Iain Provan does it again! Here is another big book with a wide-ranging theme that reflects equally wide reading and evidences the careful thinking that the subjects deserve. You may not agree with all his assessments as he traces what people have done with the Old Testament over the centuries, but you will learn a lot and be stimulated into thinking through a host of important issues.
~John Goldingay, Professor of Old Testament and David Allan Hubbard Professor Emeritus of Old Testament, Fuller Theological Seminary
In his masterful volume, Seeking What Is Right: The Old Testament and the Good Life, Iain Provan artistically navigates his way through complex ethical issues facing the contemporary church with the steadfast conviction that the Old Testament functions authoritatively in the life of the church today. Exegetically robust and thoroughly biblical, Provan brilliantly weaves into the conversation ancient Christian theologians and historians to create a tour de force on what it means to live the ‘good life.’ Comprehensive in its scope, this book is essential for pastors and serious Christians who seek to live biblically informed lives amid an increasingly post-Christendom world.
~Carol M. Kaminski, Professor of Old Testament, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
Provan’s Old Testament ethics invites the reader into an exceptional and rich interdisciplinary conversation.
~Andrew Myers, Catholic Biblical Quarterly
Combining hermeneutics, ethics, and church history Provan points toward how the Bible can and should shape life, making this a helpful resource for thinking about how we preach and disciple.
~Ray Van Neste, Preaching Magazine
This volume guides the audience to read the Bible deeply and accurately so that they can live a good life according to it.
~Larisa Levicheva, Themelios
On the whole, Provan’s project is a masterful and sweeping attempt to look at a historically informed ethic rooted in the grand narrative of Scripture. It is reminiscent of a kind of broad and interdisciplinary project that one rarely sees in today’s academic climate of specialization and atomization. The broad picture of the Old Testament view of the good life and its relation to our contemporary context is its strength.
~Benjamin J. M. Johnson, Review of Biblical Literature