A Carpenter’s View of the Bible (hereafter CVB) by Charlie March is a unique book. It is part memoire, part Bible study, and part an archaeological/carpentry primer.
Throughout the book, there is a palpable sense of wonder with God’s creation. March delights in the hexagonal patterns found throughout nature, from the bee’s hive to the cowfish (7). Moreover, the book is structured around this sense of wonder; filled with the assertion that God is a “builder” (2-3), and our building reflects His.
There is a diversity of topics within CVB, and this sometimes takes away from the cohesiveness of the book, which at a few points seems to flounder. However, March covers the diversity of topics with a flair and insight that keeps it going despite the sometimes disconnected nature of topics.
On the topic of God’s destruction of the peoples of Palestine in the wake of the Hebrews, March writes “God’s perfect justice and righteousness is defined by his treatment toward disobedience and immorality, for which the typical response is his corresponding punishment. He reacts harshly against sin… (28).” He continues on to discuss how Noah’s Ark and the Ark of the Covenant show “divine-human collaboration” which can be seen as a “redemptive act” (29).
The joy of God’s “building” plan interwoven with mankind’s struggles therein is a strand March works throughout CVB. His discussion of the Tower of Babel and idols reflects the kind of interesting interplay between memoir, biblical study, and carpentry I hinted at earlier. The Tower, argues March, can be seen as a kind of attempt at protection from another flood–an attempt to reach above the waters and strike at God. The result is “a humanistic building that challenges God’s law” (41). Rather than reacting with destruction in this case, God confuses the languages, thus resulting in a kind of third chance for mankind as they are forced to rebuild once more. But they fail again, by constructing idols. March points out the strangeness that is an idol: it is something that the craftsman must make himself, and then worship. One might rightly ask, “Dude, how does that chunk of wood you harvested from the forest become a god?” (48).
But humans didn’t always fail. March writes that the construction of altars, ‘heaps’, and standing stones is a “physical act” which serves as a “physical marker in our lives to remind us of the passing of significant events” (49).
The chapter on Jericho is where many of the themes in CVB really come together. March not only makes an interesting argument about the symbolism of the wall, but he also delves into the archaeological research done on Jericho and discusses the faith of Rahab. March argues that the key to the story is the wall (again, the elements of memoir remain as he remembers a show, The Time Tunnel, he used to watch). The wall is a symbol of our lives as well as the kind of barriers we can put up to God (62), but they also symbolize strength. March makes an interesting argument that perhaps the entire purpose of God’s rerouting to Jericho wasn’t so much to eliminate a threat to His people (a plausible argument) as it was a specific salvific act. He argues that God was rescuing the “little lamb who was caught up in the thicket”–Rahab, among the people in Jericho. “[S]imilarly,” argues March, God would “divert the course of history for you and me” (75). One could draw out the implications here and say God did do this in Christ.
Again, March’s discussion of archaeology in conjunction with Sodom is enlightening, and readers will find his discussion there interesting. But March doesn’t leave it with archaeology, he goes on to note that it is important to realize that Sodom was not some ugly town, but a “cool” one which would have the kind of appeal for God’s people that other sinful locales may have for His people today (111-112).
Thinking about Jesus is, of course, a central task of CVB. He is the savior, but we should not forget that “the principle of redemption is not only an event of salvation but an ongoing lifestyle program” (136).
CVB is a fresh, if sometimes disjointed, look at the Bible. March draws from his own life, detailed analysis of archaeology and history, and Scripture in order to weave together an enriching work on the Bible. Interestingly, the book’s central purpose is withheld until it is almost over. March writes that “To live a full life is to build according to the precepts of Scripture drawn to our scale by the Great Architect who set the code from which we should build our lives.” This is the theme throughout the book: our lives are a work in progress, and it is not just God’s work but our own. The book is filled with wonder at God’s creation and insightful parallels between His and our creative acts. Choose wisely how to build.
Disclaimer: I was provided a review copy of this book by WinePress publishing.