Called By Stories: Biblical Sagas And Their Challenge For Law, by Milner S. Ball
This book is evidence of the way that we get out of the Bible frequently what we bring to it in terms of our assumptions and worldview. Any text that is sufficiently worth being read is also sufficiently deep to be read in a variety of ways. Those works which are only artifacts of the author’s own specific worldview and provide no genuine insight to anything else are works that are not really all that worthwhile to read because we only see the writer’s mind and not a perspective of the world that is worth paying attention from anyone else. This book is filled with the bias of the writer and a substantial portion of it is not biblical at all but rather an attempt to justify the group of some heathen Hawaiian activists in trying to reverse the conquest of their homeland by haoles. This is not a very good book, but it does not aspire to be more than an effort to see the Bible through the biased and mistaken worldview of the author, and so in reviewing this book one sees the point of view of someone whose leftist activism hinders her understanding of the Bible and what it has to tell us.
This book is mercifully short at less than 200 pages, but that is one of it’s few virtues aside from the fact that the author is interested in the biblical stories as a source of legal insight that is unfortunately marred by her inability to see the Bible as anything other than a source of proof texts to support her worldview with. This book is divided into three parts. After a prologue, the author speaks about Moses (I), discussing such matters as the importance of people being the “mouth” for God (1), intercession (2), the dangers of giving counsel for the situation (3), the Word in Moses’ situation (4), the risks of Moses’ advocacy of Israel to God (5), the promise of succession (6), the promise of justice (7), and a look at Psalm 114 (8). After that the author discusses encompassing women (II), including midwives (9), a rant about Socratic midwifery (10, 11), the identity of lawyers (12), Miriam, (13), Rachel (14, 15), law and tears (16), and the womb of God and tears (17). After this the author discusses the Gospel of John (III), with a discussion of the Jerusalem trial (18), the gospel trial (19), reversal and appeal (20), the power of the Word (21, 22, 23), John’s supposed freedom from and for law (24), and lawyers’ supposed independence (25). After that the book ends with an epilogue, acknowledgements, a lengthy appendix that supports heathen Hawaiian identity politics, notes, and an index.
The author is not necessarily wrong to seek understanding from the stories of the Bible. Likewise, this book would be a lot more enjoyable if the author were less of an activist. An appreciation of the Bible’s stories and their insights in a way that did not demonstrate the author’s radical commitment to nonbiblical thinking would have been an enjoyable book that is possible to recommend. Unfortunately, the author’s ambivalence towards both biblical law and the practice of law demonstrates her inability to rise above her identity politics to a point where she can be a competent practitioner of the law. Likewise, the worldview biases of the author prevent her from being a very good author, to the extent that this book will only be enjoyed by those who are favorable to the author’s way of thinking, rather than those who have an interest in the subject matter of the book itself. It is a shame that so many books are wasted by such problems as the author being unable to get out of their own way when it comes to writing about one’s chosen field of interest.