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Seriously Dangerous Religion
What the Old Testament Really Says and Why It Matters
By Iain Provan
The Old Testament is often maligned as an outmoded and even dangerous text. Best-selling authors like Richard Dawkins, Karen Armstrong, and Derrick Jensen are prime examples of those who find the Old Testament to be problematic to modern sensibilities. Iain Provan counters that such easy and popular readings misunderstand the Old Testament. He opposes modern misconceptions of the Old Testament by addressing ten fundamental questions that the biblical text should—and according to Provan does—answer: questions such as “Who is God?” and “Why do evil and suffering mark the world?” By focusing on Genesis and drawing on other Old Testament and extra-biblical sources, Seriously Dangerous Religion constructs a more plausible reading. As it turns out, Provan argues, the Old Testament is far more dangerous than modern critics even suppose. Its dangers are the bold claims it makes upon its readers.
1 Of Mice, and Men, and Hobbits
Stories, Art, and Life
2 The Up Quark, the Down Quark, and Other Cool Stuff
What Is the World?
3 Slow to Anger, Abounding in Love, and (Thankfully) Jealous
Who Is God?
4 Of Humus and Humanity
Who Are Man and Woman?
5 It Isn’t Natural
Why Do Evil and Suffering Mark the World?
6 On Living in a Blighted World
What Am I to Do about Evil and Suffering?
7 Even the Stork Knows That
How Am I to Relate to God?
8 Love All, Trust a Few, Do Wrong to None
How Am I to Relate to My Neighbor?
9 On Keeping the Earth
How Am I to Relate to the Rest of Creation?
10 I Saw the New Jerusalem
Which Society Should I Be Helping to Build?
11 A Bird Perched in the Soul
What Am I to Hope For?
12 Further Up and Further In
New Dimensions in the Old Story
13 On the Judicious Closing of the Mind
The Question of Truth
14 Risk Assessment
Is the Story Dangerous?
Postscript: Biblical Faith for a New Age
Index of Authors
“A rare combination of deep and wide learning and a compelling and clear writing style. Provan is as comfortable in Mesopotamian texts as in Agatha Christie, the Rig Veda, Lord of the Rings, or the Qur’an. He opens the Old Testament onto a world he believes needs to hear its distinctive notes in a creative and engaging presentation.”
—Reverend Christopher Seitz, Senior Research Professor, Wycliffe College, University of Toronto
"Seriously Dangerous Religion is a seriously helpful book in that it simultaneously offers what is usually called an ‘Old Testament theology,’ vindicatesthe Old Testament in the face of its cultured despisers, and demonstrates the diversity among the various world religions all while being written in an engaging manner that should appeal to more than just specialists."
—Nathan Chambers, Journal of Reformed Theology
“What does the Old Testament – one of the foundational texts of western civilization – really say and what is its relevance for us today? Iain Provan’s scholarly and practical answers to these questions will challenge Old Testament critics, enlighten believers, and provide guidance in bringing faith perspectives to bear on the challenges of the modern world."
—Hon. Preston Manning, PC CC AOE, Founder of the Manning Centre for Building Democracy and former Leader of the Official Opposition in the Canadian Parliament
“Iain Provan thinks and writes outside the academic box. He asks questions that matter for life, and he shows what is at stake in taking seriously a biblically-rooted vision of reality.”
—Walter Moberly, Durham University
"[Seriously Dangerous Religion] will be a particularly helpful read for those heading off to university or entering the workforce, but is broad and deep enough that every reader will find much to profit from and to reflect on."
—Daniel C. Timmer, University of Sudbury, Themelios
"This is an incredible book…unlike anything else out there."
—John H. Walton, Professor of Old Testament, Wheaton College
"This ought to be the first book an Old Testament seminary professor assigns and the primary or sole textbook for an undergrad 'Introduction to the Old Testament' class. Pastors and priests should scoop it up and pour over it with pen in hand, pausing after every chapter to muse over the points the author makes, and the ways the biblical faith stands out against other traditions and metanarratives."
—Rev. Dr. Michael W. Philliber, Associate Pastor, Heritage Presbyterian Church, Edmond, OK
"I highly recommend this book to readers who want a read a solid defense of the Old Story, of biblical faith, of God's work in the world."
—Claude Mariottini, Northern Baptist Seminary
"Provan's explanations and insightful exegesis also result in helpful descriptions of family, the relationship of God to humanity, and similar topics."
—Shawn W. Flynn, Pro Ecclesia
"Seriously Dangerous Religion will be helpful to Christians and non-Christians alike who struggle to understand how the Old Testament relates to our modern world."
—Elliot Ritzema, Bible Study Magazine (Sept./Oct. 2014)
"Iain Provan, one of evangelicalism's finest Old Testament scholars, has provided a much needed book..."
—G. Kyle Essary, Apologetics 315 (January 2015)
"In the world in which biblical studies currently exists, projects such as this are worthy of extended time and reflection."
—Richard S. Briggs, St John's College, Durham University, Review of Biblical Literature
"At its heart Provan’s volume is a book about worldview. For this reason, it offers the reader a unique resource that blends careful and thorough biblical theology and exegesis with cultural analysis."
—William A. Ross, University of Cambridge, Westminster Theological Journal
"[Provan's] 'thinking outside the box' creates a broad range of uses for the work, whether in university classes in world religions, theology, apologetics, hermeneutics, as well non-professional areas as discussion groups and church or Sunday school classes. Seriously Dangerous Religion is a 'must read' for anyone interested in these issues."
—Randall C. Bailey, Faulkner University, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Iain Provan is the Marshall Sheppard Professor of Biblical Studies, Regent College. He lives in the Vancouver, Canada area.
R. B. Y. Scott Award - 2016 - Canadian Society of Biblical Scholars - Winner