Ah, a new season. Autumn has to be my favorite (except for all of the pollen.) But then again, I get excited for every new season. It’s weird, I know what’s going to happen in the next season. I’ve seen it all before. But I’m always ready for it to happen again.
This week, there were some really good, deep, challenging things that came onto my radar, but I’m going to concentrate on one specific book that landed on my desk last week.
On My Bookshelf
I got a free copy of Peter Enns’ book The Bible Tells Me So. Now, here’s the thing, when it comes to any book on biblical interpretation, I can’t just give it a ringing, blind endorsement. That is irresponsible. So what can I say about it?
I fundamentally agree with Enns’ central argument, which happens to be the subtitle, “Why defending scripture has made us unable to read it.” I think most of us are borderline illiterate when it comes to making sense of our Bibles. Some of us take the bare-bones approach of the Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it. Such an approach does not make a more faithful Christian. It makes a bulldozer Christian who plows through all manner of biblical literature with no sensitivity to the original author or audience. Other people get stuck in the weeds of “original Greek” meanings and trying to discern where one author started a sentence and another author ended it. I do not think that is productive either.
I have to admit, going to seminary was a trial for my faith, because I realized for the first time just how complex the history of the Bible is. I believe as Enns says that the Bible is exactly the way God wants it to be. And I have said before that I do not believe every Old Testament story has to be literally true for the Bible to be inerrant. (A word whose meaning we’ve all but lost.) The Bible is a complex, beautiful, poetic book that was somehow inspired by God. But that doesn’t mean it’s the same as our American History textbooks from high school.
That being said, I would be remiss to give a blanket endorsement to Enns approach, as I would be to anyone’s approach. I don’t know if I can go all the way to the logical conclusions of Enns’ arguments, in which whole chunks of the Bible were fabricated to address contemporary issues in Israel. I don’t need the Bible to be that way to be settled with it in my mind. And maybe you don’t either. Who says Enns has finally unlocked the “Bible code,” perfectly and inerrantly? No one. So read with discernment. Take with a grain of salt. I can’t imagine Peter Enns telling anyone to do otherwise. Don’t lap up these words, eagerly and unquestioningly, the way Enns’ describes his early experiences in seminary. If the Bible is as important as we say it is, then we should be careful with the authors who tell us how to interpret it.
The Bible Tells Me So may change the way you read your Bible. Regardless, I do think that reading an author who challenges us to “the the Bible be what it is, even when it doesn’t behave the way we want” is always a fruitful exercise.