Book Review Practicing Midrash: Reading the Bible's Arguments as an Invitation to Conversation

by Bob Stillerman 

Hi. My name is Bob Stillerman, and I am not an impartial reviewer. I love Tim Moore. He is a fine person. And I believe he’s a remarkable, thoughtful scholar, who has written an even better book: Practicing Midrash: Reading the Bible’s Arguments as an Invitation to Conversation. You should both buy AND read his book. It’s a sound investment of your time and money.

Disclaimer: If you want an objective review, go to Amazon. Besides, anyone can tell you what’s in the book.

I believe I am more uniquely positioned to tell you why you should read Tim’s book.

I am fortunate enough to pastor Sardis Baptist Church, the congregation Tim served for many years and the very place and people from which this book derives. It was a year-long conversation, a chance to look at the Bible, not in canonic sequence, but in historical sequence. And it was a chance to see and hear the different perspectives that shape Israel’s faith (and ours, too!). Tim’s book, in many ways, is the fruit of these sacred conversations.

And if ever you find yourself nestled in the woods off Sardis Road in Charlotte, N.C., and tucked in our meetinghouse, you’ll meet a group of people who engage and explore their faith through means of an ancient and all-too-often absent tradition: Dialogue!

Tim’s work at Sardis, (and now in paper form, too!) helped foster an environment where people could listen to these many voices, not trying to subordinate or elevate one or some over the others, but respecting them. And, using the varying voices and perspectives to inform how texts are engaged in varying places and spaces.

This book extends what Tim started to other congregations and makes the original conversation a living, breathing, ever-changing invitation to explore faith in a sacred way.

But just so you don’t think I’m too partial, hear what some other Sardis folks had to say about the book and several lectures Tim offered to our adult Sunday school class in October.

One member said he had been attending church all his life, and he wondered, “Why am I just now finding out about some of this stuff? The discussions made me curious in a good way, and now, as our Sunday school class engages new texts, or I hear weekly sermons, I find myself looking for the differences Tim describes. And it’s exciting!”

One member was active at Sardis when Tim began the original study that inspired his book. “I’d been exposed at Meredith College to standard biblical theories, and I taught Sunday school, and reviewed curriculum for many years, but Tim’s study helped me engage these theories in new ways. I found myself interested, and I wanted to learn more. And this fall, when he presented chapters of the book each Sunday, and when I read additional sections, I found even more material to feed my thirst.”

Another member expressed that Tim’s book gave her a sense of confidence AND comfort. She said it confirmed many of the questions she often asked herself about the contradictions of scripture, and it gave her a tangible resource of facts and examples to help engage conversation partners, some more moderate, some more traditional.

A holy, sacred conversation has been started. And it’s still going on. Thanks, Tim! And as my favorite author told me when he inscribed the cover of my copy…

Blessings for the Journey!

Bob Stillerman is the pastor of Alliance of Baptists’ congregational partner Sardis Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C.

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