Saturday, 8 April 2017

God is a Warrior, by Tremper Longman and Daniel Reid

Tremper Longman III and Daniel G. Reid, Studies in Old Testament Theology: God is a Warrior, 1995 Paternoster Press

This book introduces the reader to the theme of divine warfare in Scripture. In the first chapters, Longman and Reid look at the holy wars fought by Israel in the Old Testament. They do not offer any comment on the ethical implications of the genocidal passages, though Longman dealt with these in the 'four views' book Show No Mercy. They then go on to talk about the tables being turned and God fighting against Israel through her hostile neighbours as an act of judgment. They then look at the use of the imagery of cosmic warfare in Scripture, with Yahweh battling hostile floodwaters and sea monsters. I was very familiar with such imagery, having read Greg Boyd's God at War, which uses such themes to argue for Open Theism, though in a novel manner, combining them with the Gap Theory of creation, which is more associated with Dispensationalist fundamentalism. Unlike Boyd, Longman and Reid do not draw any definite theological implications from those texts.

In the New Testament, our authors look at our Lord's conflict with Satan through both demonic warfare and through His triumph through His death and resurrection. They go on to look at Saint Paul's epistles and how he uses the themes of conflict with cosmic powers and the victory of the believer in Christ. The book concludes with a look at the Apocalypse. The authors do not advocate any one school of interpretation (I think Longman is a Preterist), but they explore the themes of battle and victory in the book.

A lot of readers may feel frustrated that Longman and Reid never actually spell out what theological and pastoral conclusions can be drawn from the texts they study. I understand this is a work of biblical theology and not systematic theology. However, many readers may feel that without being put into some sort of contemporary context, the book is a bit irrelevant to their lives. They could have given us some hints. At times, I couldn't help feeling like Longman and Reid were telling me a lot of Bible stories I had learned at Sunday school!

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