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Book Review: Fixing Abraham: How Taming Our Bible Heroes Blinds Us to the Wild Ways of God by Chris Tiegreen

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Picture this. God asks you to sacrifice the child you’ve been struggling to conceive for decades and you do it – no questions asked. Handily God steps in and saves your child, providing a goat in his place. Whew. The only thing is you didn’t know in advance how this would all play out. You were sold out, following God, no matter the cost. How would your spouse feel; your church family; how quickly would you be committed to a mental institution?

Yet this very scenario is one of the foundational events found in the book of Genesis. Abraham’s obedience to the command of God resulted in his standing in God’s books as a man of great faith. God was impressed, but was anyone else? In Fixing Abraham Chris Tiegreen examines 17 examples from the Bible in which His people behaved in odd, puzzling and ways that would indeed be interpreted as ungodly by the casual observer. Now we have the full span of scripture to tell us how things turned out, how God views these people, and how in turn we should see them. But what did it look like up close? What would it look like now if these events took place in modern congregations? Might there be implications here for our own individual faith-walks with Christ?

In an attempt to answer these questions Tiegreen deconstructs the shiny, happy, sanitized facades modern church has built around the lives of our spiritual ancestors. Stripping away warm fuzzy explanations, Tiegreen reveals how inappropriate the behaviour of these spirit-led individuals was not only in our own culture, but in theirs as well. In their pursuit of God, behaviour is exhibited which often seems contrary to the scriptural principles we hold dear. All of our best assertions as to what God would never do, who He would never use, or what He would never ask of us are swept downriver in a flood of contrary evidence.

Each example is initially presented in the modern context, often taking the form of bizarrely humourous dialogue and settings. The current-day version of Hosea telling his small-group buddies he’s about to marry a prostitute is priceless. Many of the modern-evangelical reactions to the situations examined throughout are humorous or heartbreaking. Commentary follows dealing with the original incidents and how they were likely perceived at the time, and how God worked through these unusual happenings. Some of the examined scenarios seem to be a stretched a wee bit far, and by book's end Tiegreen had already made his point thoroughly, leaving me longing for his conclusion.

While Tiegreen’s illustrations seem to run on, his Introduction is striking, fresh, and worth every penny of the purchase price. I was challenged deeply on my own positions and stretched to consider God’s wild ways in new light. I slapped my thigh and exclaimed in delight and wonder on numerous occasions throughout the introductory section. Indeed the introduction is the best Christian non-fiction I’ve read this year! The author’s premise is clearly laid out in his opening statements with all other chapters serving as illustrative examples. Get a copy and read the first portion if nothing else.

Tiegreen in no way is seeking to undermine the word of God or its authority, and references it extensively (wonderful footnotes). Instead, he encourages us to see the ways in which scripture itself points out the unconventional, unexpected ways He has called His people to walk. In looking at scripture without the lens of familiarity, the odd and even bizarre behaviours of our heroes of the faith cements the old maxim firmly in place: “God works in mysterious ways.”

Fixing Abraham encourages believers to look beyond their carefully assembled systematic theologies and spiritual guidelines to the One who’s really in charge. He doesn’t always play safe, predictable, or easy, but if you’re willing to follow Him hang on! You’ll be drawn into His purposes, and chances are they won’t be what you expected going in.

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