New Book Explores, Unpacks R-Rated Bible Stories
By Carl Stagner
Though both children and adults love the Church of God classic, Egermeier’s Bible Story Book was clearly written with children in mind. By contrast, a new release from prolific author and Church of God theologian Barry Callen is a Bible story book neither for young eyes, nor for the faint of heart. Did you know the Bible talks about crushing the skulls of men and babies? When was the last time you heard a sermon on the curse of the she-bears? When selecting a romantic line of poetry to recite to your significant other, do you follow the biblical example of saying that your bowels moved for him or her? With attention to detail and a whimsical style all his own, Barry Callen offers both theological insights and practical application for these and more incredibly weird passages of Scripture in Bible Stories for Strong Stomachs.
Twenty-eight stories are included in the new, very unique collection, each falling under one of four categories: “People Are Just Pitiful,” “God Sure is Different,” “How Not to Be God’s People,” and “Crazy Possibilities for the Future.” A sample of Callen’s chapter titles reveal the quirkiness of the stories and the wit that characterizes Callen’s approach: “Look Out the Window and Be Depressed” (Ecclesiastes 1 and 3), “What About Those Monthly Periods?” (Ezekiel 36, Jeremiah 2, Isaiah 64), “God Has Appeared as UFO” (Ezekiel 1 and 37), and “Two Bags of Dirt Will Get You God” (2 Kings 5). Each chapter describes the Bible story, digs below the surface, and offers a list of discussion questions which connect the story to today’s issues. While preparation for this unique book was no small feat, one of the most challenging stories for Callen to unpack was “Agree That the Donkey Did See an Angel” from Numbers 22.
“Such an uncommon sight is seemingly craziness that nonetheless underlies our hope for making progress in being God’s people today,” Barry reflects. “We must have eyes and hearts that are willing and able to see God present and at work in this present and very troubled world. Our seeing and faith will seem as no more than mere delusion and silly idealism to many. No matter. As Paul said, we must be prepared to be ‘fools’ for Christ. By God’s grace, the fool will turn out to be the wisest one of all!”
Bible Stories for Strong Stomachs has already captured the attention of ministers within the Church of God, as well as outside of the movement. Pastors like Marty Grubbs of Crossings Community Church in Oklahoma City wrote that he is “eager” to share these stories with his congregation: “A prolific voice in theological circles provides a glimpse into many of the difficult Bible texts and does so in a very practical and understandable way.”
This unique book does not shy away from tough texts, and practically speaks to the authenticity this generation craves. “Now comes [a Bible story book] just for adults—or youth trying to figure out the Bible and become adults (but absolutely no children!),” Barry cautions. “I trust that this book will represent well the Church of God. We are Bible people, and here are many of the Bible chapters that we skip reading, teaching, or preaching because we don’t know what to do with them, and are truly embarrassed by them. This is Bible-in-the-raw, but it is the Bible, and can’t be ignored any longer. These stories raise dramatically every issue the church is facing today.”
The book’s subtitle perhaps says it all: “The Bible is full of shocking stories, ‘R’ ratings, seedy characters, and unsolved mysteries that convey God’s Word in the weirdest ways.” You can search for the title and order your paperback copy or Kindle edition online at www.amazon.com. An online discounted price is also available at www.wipfandstock.com.
Learn more about the Church of God at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.