David: A Man of Passion and Destiny,by Charles Swindoll (Word, 236 pp.; $19.99, hardcover);

Leap Over a Wall: Earthy Spirituality for Everyday Christians,by Eugene Peterson (Harper San Francisco, 238 pp.; $18, hardcover). Reviewed by Susan Wise Bauer, who writes for Charles Colson's radio commentary, BreakPoint, and teaches literature at the College of William and Mary. She is the author of The Revolt (Word), a novel.

Back in the days of Saul, God chose a womanizing, foreskin-gathering guerrilla warrior to lead his people. Biblical biographers have been trying to explain God's taste ever since.

The most popular medieval technique was a nice coat of tropological whitewash—a valiant Moral of the Story, extracted from even the most disreputable Davidic deeds. Tropology entwined itself around our feet all through Vacation Bible School. David fought Goliath and won, so trust God when a "giant" (the big, mean kid down the street) wanders into view. David stared at Bathsheba and sinned, so if you see evil, look away. End of lesson. Is this why God gave us David's story?

Two new books—Charles Swindoll's David: A Man of Passion and Destiny and Eugene Peterson's Leap Over a Wall: Earthy Spirituality for Everyday Christians—grapple with that very question. Why does God want us to know that the man after his own heart deserted to the Philistines, raised dreadful kids, cheated on his (multiple) wives? Both writers are anxious to answer this question without whitewash; only one manages to bring David to full, roaring life.

Swindoll writes in his foreword, "Our world is desperately in need of models worth following. Authentic heroes. People of integrity, whose lives inspire us to do better, to climb higher, to stand taller." ...

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June 16, 1997

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