Request an Exam Copy

The God I Don't Understand - Reflections of Ch. 5

Categories Theology

My wife is in her last semester of seminary. In a few short weeks she’ll have survived what many in ministry call the most "spiritually dry" period of their lives. She’ll also be a licensed counselor and ready to face the "real world" with a theological education. What could be better?

But to obtain this degree she’s had to write, as anyone attending a seminary does, confessions of faith on numerous tenants of historic Christianity. From baptism to communion, from the creation narrative to eschatology, from a woman’s role in the church to ecclesiology, she’s had to hunker down, parse the varying viewpoints, and form a confession of her own.

This is not an easy thing. When writing confessions nuance matters. Things are not just "simply semantics". Every inconsistency must be addressed. For many, these are the moments that suck the juice out of their spirituality during seminary. It’s a point when faith seemingly becomes more about having an answer for everything, and less about trusting God.

The Conquest of Canaan is a difficult passage when trying to confess one’s faith. Usually more questions than answers surface after reading these passages: Why was this conquest necessary – because of God’s just character? Couldn’t he have proved his justice another way? Are these actions counter to what else I know of his character, that he is love and the author of grace?

GIDU Have you felt this way too? Have you ever struggled over writing a confession of faith, or even just living faithfully, because of passages like this one? Do you struggle with "solutions" to "problem passages" like this one?

How these questions are answered greatly affects one’s theology. They can’t be taken lightly. I appreciate that Chris Wright states plainly at the beginning of chapter five:

"…No such "solution" will be forthcoming. There is something about this part of our Bible that I have to include in my basket of things I don’t understand about God and his ways." (p.86)

Personally, I couldn’t agree more. Violent conquest and any slaughter of human life are things I hope I never truly "understand". My foundational belief that we are all made in the image of a loving god, that our lives are meaningful and purposeful, seems so contradictory to "understanding" violence of this nature.

After explaining his three frameworks for reading the Canaanite story Wright says:

"This is the way in which God in his sovereignty chose to work within human history to accomplish his saving purpose for humanity and for creation, including me…at some point I have to stand back from my questions, criticism, or complaint and receive the Bible’s own word on the matter. What the Bible unequivocally tells me is that this was an act of God that took place within an overarching narrative through which the only hope for the world’s salvation was constituted." (p.106-107)

Do you agree with him?

I do. It may or not be a statement that would satisfy the requirements of a seminary assignment, but again, there is likely no easy solution.

Wright ends this chapter by saying:

"…Note once again that humble submission to the biblical teaching on the sovereignty of God on the one hand, along with robust reflection on the mystery of the cross of Christ on the other, combine to strengthen our faith in the midst of things we do not understand. " (p.107)

What did you think of Wright’s three frameworks? Do they satisfy your questions about this passage? Do you think there’s an easier solution? What about "robust reflection on the mystery of the cross of Christ" – have you read these passages before in relation to Christ’s sacrifice?

- Andrew Rogers, Promotions Manager  - Church, Academic, and Reference Resources

Every Wednesday, Zondervan editorial and marketing staff discuss chapters from The God I Don't Understand. Please make plans to join us in the conversation. If you would like to use The God I Don't Understand in a book discussion or small group, there is a free Study Guide available, as well as videos of the author discussing each chapter at

Mark 5:7: "Swear by God" (Monday with Mounce 27)
Mark 5:7: "Swear by God" (Monday with Mounce 27) There are certain Greek words and constructions that normally will not come over into English easily. It is always fun ...
Your form could not be submitted. Please check errors and resubmit.

Thank you!
Sign up complete.

Subscribe to the Blog Get expert commentary on biblical languages, fresh explorations in theology, hand-picked book excerpts, author videos, and info on limited-time sales.
By submitting your email address, you understand that you will receive email communications from HarperCollins Christian Publishing (501 Nelson Place, Nashville, TN 37214 USA) providing information about products and services of HCCP and its affiliates. You may unsubscribe from these email communications at any time. If you have any questions, please review our Privacy Policy or email us at This form is protected by reCAPTCHA.