The Bible Tells Me So
The controversial Bible scholar and author of The Evolution of Adam recounts his transformative spiritual journey in which he discovered a new, more honest way to love and appreciate God’s Word.Trained as an evangelical Bible scholar, Peter Enns loved the Scriptures and shared his devotion, teaching at Westminster Theological Seminary. But the further he studied the Bible, the more he found himself confronted by questions that could neither be answered within the rigid framework of his religious instruction or accepted among the conservative evangelical community.Rejecting the increasingly complicated intellectual games used by conservative Christians to “protect” the Bible, Enns was conflicted. Is this what God really requires? How could God’s plan for divine inspiration mean ignoring what is really written in the Bible? These questions eventually cost Enns his job—but they also opened a new spiritual path for him to follow.The Bible Tells Me So chronicles Enns’s spiritual odyssey, how he came to see beyond restrictive doctrine and learned to embrace God’s Word as it is actually written. As he explores questions progressive evangelical readers of Scripture commonly face yet fear voicing, Enns reveals that they are the very questions that God wants us to consider—the essence of our spiritual study.

The Bible Tells Me So Details

TitleThe Bible Tells Me So
Author
ReleaseSep 9th, 2014
PublisherHarperOne
ISBN-139780062272027
Rating
GenreReligion, Theology, Nonfiction, Faith, Christian, Christianity, Spirituality

The Bible Tells Me So Review

  • David Holford
    January 1, 1970
    You think with my five stars, I'd be saying that everyone should read this book. I don't think everyone can handle this book. (And yes, I feel a bit like Jack Nicholson in that best known scene from "A Few Good Men".) So let me say I wish everyone could read this book. Enns completely rattles the Evangelical paradigm of the Bible, while both claiming to be an Evangelical and claiming that the Bible is absolutely the Word of God. This book is written on a very popular level, but it might help the You think with my five stars, I'd be saying that everyone should read this book. I don't think everyone can handle this book. (And yes, I feel a bit like Jack Nicholson in that best known scene from "A Few Good Men".) So let me say I wish everyone could read this book. Enns completely rattles the Evangelical paradigm of the Bible, while both claiming to be an Evangelical and claiming that the Bible is absolutely the Word of God. This book is written on a very popular level, but it might help the reader to have read his Inspiration and Incarnation and maybe even The Evolution of Adam, where he formulates his ideas in a more scholarly presentation. I had the advantage of reading both and already understood Enns' principal theses.First of all, the Bible (and partcularly the Old Testament and the Gospels) is not what we have made it out to be. It is not a rule book or an owner's manual. It is a collection of stories - the stories God wanted his people (whether the Israelites of the Old Testament or the Christians since the New) to know and pass on. It reflects many different ways that people understood God's story. It all has to be understood in the light of the resurrection of Jesus.Part of the importance of Enns' work is that it presents an alternative to a view of the Bible that has led to (or at least significantly contributed to) the hemorrhaging of 16- to 35-year-olds from the Body of Christ. If you think you can handle understanding the Bible - what it is and what it means - in a completely different way (albeit a way that would not be unfamiliar to the early Church at all, for those aware that Church history started sometime before - like way before - the Protestant Reformation), then this is the book for you. (Though it should be noted that Enns himself does not look at the early Church beyond the composition of the New Testament books.) If you think there is too much of the Bible that just doesn't gel with the world as we know it today - despite the best efforts of Ken Ham and other fundamentalist biblicists - then this book is for you. If you are at the end of your faith rope because of the way the Faith has been fed to you, then this is the book for you.
    more
  • Jonathan
    January 1, 1970
    Having grown up in churches that view the inerrancy of Scripture as a fundamental doctrine, I always found some of its content a little difficult to stomach. I studied apologetics, which should have helped, but only made it worse (why would God write something in such a way that it seems so contradictory with both itself and science, and requires all this head-twisting logic to sort-of justify?). The problem [in my mind] was that if you drop scriptural inerrancy on the floor, what are you left w Having grown up in churches that view the inerrancy of Scripture as a fundamental doctrine, I always found some of its content a little difficult to stomach. I studied apologetics, which should have helped, but only made it worse (why would God write something in such a way that it seems so contradictory with both itself and science, and requires all this head-twisting logic to sort-of justify?). The problem [in my mind] was that if you drop scriptural inerrancy on the floor, what are you left with as "authoritative"? If you view the Bible as a bunch of stories told by ancient tribes, how do you keep Christianity from devolving into a bunch of people who get to believe whatever they want based on whatever *they* think is in the Scripture?Peter Enns does not answer this question, and I was kind of hoping he would.What he does answer is the question of why it's so very hard to defend Scripture in the way I was attempting to. He explains how a reasonable person might interpret Scripture in its historical context, and while reading this book I think I understood the perspective of more liberal theologians for the first time. There is in fact a middle ground between the view of Scripture as a perfect historical record and the view of Scripture as a bunch of fairy tales, and this book opened my eyes to that view. While the content was wonderful, personally I really disliked the tone of this book. It's written with lots of jokes and modern pastor-speak (count usages of the words "wrestle", "journey", "process", and "reality"). When I'm having the entire bedrock upon which my Christian faith has been based challenged, I like it done with some gravitas and erudition, not a transcript from the comedy club. But maybe that's just me.
    more
  • Rod
    January 1, 1970
    Can you imagine Peter Enns trying to apply his failed liberal thinking to correct a Muslim or Mormon or J.W. or any Christian cult? Hell no. Everyone can enjoy their own mythical stories interpretations.I bought this book so I could study what exactly is WRONG with liberal Christianity. Most expensive book i've picked up in awhile - think I paid over $30.00. But I knew it would be an adventure in chaos and stupidity... I was not disappointed. My goal was to figure out WHAT EXACTLY does Peter Enn Can you imagine Peter Enns trying to apply his failed liberal thinking to correct a Muslim or Mormon or J.W. or any Christian cult? Hell no. Everyone can enjoy their own mythical stories interpretations.I bought this book so I could study what exactly is WRONG with liberal Christianity. Most expensive book i've picked up in awhile - think I paid over $30.00. But I knew it would be an adventure in chaos and stupidity... I was not disappointed. My goal was to figure out WHAT EXACTLY does Peter Enns believe? (and how does he justify it?)And the answer is: He doesn't. He failed to put any kind of core to his liberal claims on christianity. Basically his religion is reduced to:"God likes stories!"That's IT. Peter's god is a Cosmic 8 year old who likes stories that really aren't true. Peter's god has really told us nothing about himself, or his plan, or his methods. (I could write a book on how un-christian Peter's beliefs are... but I won't. Not yet!)I was waiting for Peter to reveal one religious fact or truth that he hangs all of his logical hopes on...i'm still waiting. Peter proved that he doesn't like or feel in agreement with the God of the Bible. Because: the god of the Bible is vague and unclear. Mr. Enns left no room for the Holy Spirit to assist in revealing God's truth throughout His historic word. AS Peter insisted: the Bible IS NOT God's Word - it's just a bunch of nasty stories. (except the nice bits - Peter likes those and uses them to build a feather pillow to rest his liberal head on.) How the HELL did this guy ever get a job teaching the Bible to people? And who's retarded enough to pay for that privilege? Apparently numerous liberal christians who base their Savior Jesus on...on...well...not the Biblical truth that's for sure. According to Peter there really is no Biblical truth:Not Adam & Eve.Not the Flood.Not Satan or angels or demons or sin.Not a trustworthy account of Jesus life.Not an Old Testament that points to Jesus.Not Revelation.So why is Peter a christian at all? What is his foundation? Is Jesus - Peter's god: No actually. (time for some quotes):"He (Jesus) figured things out and made mistakes along the way."Here's a weird comment:"...we see their (Judaic) affirmations: God exists; he has given us his law...and make sure we honor God in how we keep his law..."Peter you just spent a whole book telling us god HAS NOT given us anything (especially a law). Just crazy stories from some old tribes that are mostly borrowed myths and cultural influences that might have some meaning -- but only the nice stuff. Peter's god would never do anything Peter doesn't approve of. "Cough, Golden Calf anyone!" Peter's god is very shiny and behaves according to all liberal assumptions. He would never hold SIN against people. Although Jesus was known to clearly say "Go and sin NO MORE." I'm sure Peter's Jesus would never be so judgmental. _____________________________________________________________________Peter missing the point:"It's hard to appeal to the God of the Bible to condemn genocide today when the God of the Bible commanded genocide yesterday. This is what we call a theological problem."Actually NO it's not Peter, It's God guiding and protecting his creation and plan. Sorry if you don't like it - but I don't recall God asking your permission. Although God may have used certain methods just to give atheists and liberals a future opportunity to hate him - and it WORKED! Perfectly. Remember Peter: it's all about Jesus. Not YOU. I'm pretty sure that issue has you stumped though. God has wonderfully protected humanity and guided us to 7 billion. If Evil had its way - we'd be back to ZERO. God is Sovereign and He's not fooling around. Did you happen to read How God will once again destroy humanity in Revelation 19 and 20? Didn't think so.Crazy quote:"For any one group today to think it has the best grasp on the creator of the universe is a form of insanity."And yet Peter seems to have it all figured out. Basically he tells us there is nothing to figure out (or trust). But the Bible is amazingly clear and full of God's Word to a dying planet - WE have over a thousand pages of incredible information about our Trinitarian God and HIS plan of salvation for mankind. (Peter, what exactly did Jesus' dying save mankind from? Hell perhaps.) Peter just hates the information and yet still wants to claim a trustworthy salvation. But he doesn't base this on anything but liberal hopes and dreams. How sad. He even mocks the historic church Jesus established...You know the one that:Matthew 16: and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.Ridiculous comment by Peter:"In the spiritual life, the opposite of fear is not courage, but trust."Trust WHAT Peter? What can we trust? God's Holy Word carefully revealed throughout history through Moses and the Prophets - and later by His close friends and disciples? No actually! Peter says those are just tales without factual truth.Here's one of my favorite Bible verses --- and from Jesus:Luke 16:31He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”Peter doesn't really think we can trust Moses and the Prophets (at all!). And yet Jesus seems to think this is essential. I say don't trust Peter. Which reminds me of a famous Bible moment:Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.He said to the woman, “Did God actually say..."And that is the full intent of this book. Peter is quick and clear to state "Did God actually say..." --until there is no Word from God left. Just the ramblings of a snake to build our faith upon. ______________________________________________________________________Quote: "Maybe God likes the diversity. If he doesn't, we'd have to conclude that he hasn't done a good job of controlling it. But maybe diversity tells us something about what God is like."Actually it's obvious Peter (you really are clueless aren't you?) our diversity tells us how rebellious we are to God's clear word. We have so much confusion because man loves sin instead of God's truth as revealed in scripture. Peter failed to read that part about mankind getting a new nature in Heaven - because our old nature is damaged (only Peter liberally calls this DIVERSITY). Here's another famous Bible verse that Peter doesn't even begin to comprehend:Judges 17:6In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.(and it turned out HORRIBLY)That is a bad thing Peter. Please don't call evil "diversity". But if you must...Peter quote:"But looking for fights - encouraging and even creating controversy thinking that God wills it - is pathological"The Bible is filled with controversy Peter. God's controversy: Especially 1 and 2 Peter. (funny eh?) But this is how Peter attacks anyone who questions his liberal rants against over 1900 years of Spirit lead Christian truth. Everything Peter does is liberal controversy: picking fights with God's people and the very Word of the Lord. He tries to come across as a nice guy with his humor and cute stories - but only an idiot would not clearly see what he is up to. (*YES, lots of idiots on Goodreads. Please go read your Bibles everyone. But I KNOW you won't. This is for all those theologically illiterate people who gave this book a few stars.)ANOTHER QUOTE: "...if they doubt or struggle in some way with the Bible, their faith is weak...pray more...or generally just stop being so rebelliously stubborn and asking so many questions."This is what Peter thinks of the church in general? (and praying?)It seems Peter has failed to read any Bible commentaries or other sources except liberal (or atheistic?) academic crap. We Christians have a world of resources and historic theologians to help us - as well as the Holy Spirit. There are answers --- but Peter insists that being UNSETTLED or Doubtful is HEROIC. Indeed ask questions. Jesus did not scold Thomas for asking very relevant questions and being somewhat skeptical. (Believing WITHOUT seeing is what happens when we trust the Word of God - and what a blessing it is.) But don't be a weak, cowardly, struggling christian if you don't have to be. Listen to some John MacArthur, Joni Eareckson-Tada or Ravi Zacharias talks for very clear powerful truth. And of course: PRAY MORE!Peter's confusion of God's Word:"Forget the fact that it's writers thought the earth was flat, a flood covered the earth, or the first woman held a conversation with a snake."Did Peter not learn how to read something in context? Does the Bible really factually say the Earth was flat? Is that how thorough your scholarship is Peter? YES, yes it is. How sad. If Peter cared to look: there are many trustworthy scientists who can PROVE that there was a global flood. The talking snake bit is really no stranger than a talking donkey, or the instant death of Ananias & Sapphira, or casting out demons, or finding money in a fish, or walking on water...or a RISEN savior dying for our sins and lifting off into heaven. (and don't forget the tongues of fire resting on people's foreheads during Pentecost. (I must assume Peter has rejected all of these...How can we not.)Acts 1: 9And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.YES, that is our Savior. I don't think it is a trustworthy account of Peter's savior though - remember he doesn't believe in talking snakes or crazy miracles. OR does he? Peter wouldn't dare cherry pick from the Bible now would he? Only take the parts he likes and dismiss all those other bits that atheists don't approve of in his social circle? I could go on all day with the thousands of problems and spiritual contradictions in Peter's beliefs. His mockery of God's word and the miracles of our Savior. But the truth is: Peter hates the God of the Bible. Here's another bit of proof: Peter Mocks Jesus and all of scripture that points to him and the plan of salvation...(Peter putting words in Jesus mouth) "I'm not sure why you're so surprised. I've been telling you for years that everything that's happened here these last few days follows what scripture says-the books of Moses, the books of the prophets, the Psalms, every part of it, But since you are having so much trouble grasping what I said let me spell it out for you-again. Read your Bible: there you will find that I had to suffer and die, and that I would rise from the dead on the third day." It's all right there in black and white. ONLY, IT ISN'T (Peter says!)YES Peter. It is all there. You just didn't look carefully. Why? Because you are busy being the snake of Genesis: "Did God really say..."And Yes He did. God has given us a wonderfully clear and trustworthy revelation through Moses & the Prophets, right up to Paul's writings and John's Revelation. Peter has failed to realize that God likes (and see's it essential) to repeat himself. To continually point to events and relationships that show us Jesus and redemption. Peter just claims this is storytelling - he failed to see God teaching us through repetition.Here's some random thoughts to end all this:Enns does not believe Prophecy.Enns does not believe in miracles as revealed in God's word.Enns does not think God is large enough to behave as the Bible states.Enns does not approve of God's laws or commands.Enns does trust just about any scholar as long as they disagree with Christian scripture.Remember that God is not a Cosmic 8 year old. He is our Lord and Savior who has revealed himself through every page of scripture and has been pointing history in His direction from the very beginning. Here is a wonderful thought that Peter will not approve of. Even if Jesus says it himself:John 8 Jesus says "but I do know him and I keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” I got lots more to say. Here's another one:Peter's hatred and general bad scholarship "If we expect the Bible to be God's objective Spark Notes on the past - the stories in the Bible will forever be a source of needless frustration."The Bible IS God's notes on the past, present and future. There is no frustration for a Christian to study them and find the truth revealed through Christian scholars and the Holy Spirit. Only a non-believer would give up and declare the Bible to be needless confusion unless taken liberally and dismantled into an child's fantasy stories. It is astounding that Peter doesn't make use of ANY Bible loving scholars. Only those who agree with his confusion.So, once again, just for emphasis, I present: The talking snake... (that Peter claims to not believe in!)Genesis 3:1Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made...He (the snake) said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?... 4But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die...and you will be like God"Never trust a talking snake who doubts God's word or causes others to. (But a talking donkey is occasionally worth listening to.)P.S.: Don't feel bad Peter, I was just as hard on Jesus Seminar scholars, Rob Bell, Bart Ehrman, and just about every other liberal Christian that preaches against God's Word. (honestly a liberal can seldom do anything else...even Tony Campolo is guilty of abusing God's Word. And I LIKE him.)
    more
  • Lee Harmon
    January 1, 1970
    Fantastic book! If you’ve ever wondered how to read the Bible like Jesus, here’s your answer in a fun, easy-to-read publication. Peter Enns takes you on a walk through the Bible, pointing out how impossible it is to read it as either a history book or a rulebook. Eventually, he winds up in the New Testament giving examples of how Jesus himself interpreted scripture in his day … the Jewish way, which emphasized creative engagement with the scriptures.Says Peter, “I believe God wants us to take th Fantastic book! If you’ve ever wondered how to read the Bible like Jesus, here’s your answer in a fun, easy-to-read publication. Peter Enns takes you on a walk through the Bible, pointing out how impossible it is to read it as either a history book or a rulebook. Eventually, he winds up in the New Testament giving examples of how Jesus himself interpreted scripture in his day … the Jewish way, which emphasized creative engagement with the scriptures.Says Peter, “I believe God wants us to take the Bible seriously, but I don’t believe he wants us to suppress our questions about it.” So, he gives you lots to question. By the time you finish, you’ll be overloaded with practical examples from scripture itself on how to transform the Bible from a stale instruction manual into living, growing Word, able to stretch across the centuries.Peter’s discussion about the evil of the conquest of Canaan is enlightening. Did God really tell Israel to slaughter every man, woman and child in their way? Or did the Bible’s storytellers–who were tribal, and who connected with God in their day as a tribal warrior God, much differently than we relate to Him today–simply assume that’s what any proper God would want? The answer may be moot: archaeologists are certain no such conquest, such as described in the Bible, really happened. So now what are we supposed to make of the Bible?Can we trust God enough to let the Bible be what it is?Peter’s writing style is conversational and … oh, he’s going to kill me for saying this … sort of cute. But don’t let this fool you into thinking his research isn’t scholarly, or that it won’t resurrect new passion within you for the Bible. I absolutely loved this one.HarperOne, © 2014, 262 pagesISBN: 978-0-06227202-7
    more
  • Nathan Marone
    January 1, 1970
    The Bible Tells Me So was a frustrating read for me. Its central premise is so promising and necessary that I couldn't be more disappointed in how that premise gets treated here. Instead of writing a screed, I'm going to highlight both positive and negative aspects. I should note here that this is my first experience with Enns. I went into it aware that he is an OT scholar, having written commentaries and other academic works. I am fully open to the idea that he may treat this subject with more The Bible Tells Me So was a frustrating read for me. Its central premise is so promising and necessary that I couldn't be more disappointed in how that premise gets treated here. Instead of writing a screed, I'm going to highlight both positive and negative aspects. I should note here that this is my first experience with Enns. I went into it aware that he is an OT scholar, having written commentaries and other academic works. I am fully open to the idea that he may treat this subject with more nuance in other writings. Though I found much to disdain in this book, I am interested in reading Inspiration and Incarnation, which appears to be a more detailed explanation of his incarnational approach to the Bible. Positives- If there's anything praiseworthy about TBTMS it is its central claim - that the Bible is too often treated as something it is not. Enns repeatedly says that the Bible is not a "handbook" or "manual," but there are other examples. The Bible is often used as a compendium of inspirational sayings (think the original Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul) or as an oracle (God's word for me today is in Amos 2:5). We are told that we should engage the Bible on its own terms. This means that while it can still be God's word, it also needs to be understood as Ancient Near Eastern or Greco-Roman writings. It needs to be read as poetry, history, biography, etc. Namely, it needs to be read as, well...a book. Here I think Enns is completely correct. For a wide variety of reasons, the Bible is regularly compartmentalized, chopped up, and disseminated as a bunch of possibly related snippets (verses) that fail to build into any coherent theology. If people (and this means from the highest scholar to the most average layman) begin to approach the Bible as ancient literature, or heck, just as literature, along with understanding that it is God's authoritative written revelation of himself to the world, we would go so far in understanding it better both for ourselves and for our churches. - Especially in the later sections of the book, Enns shows himself to be a gifted interpreter of the Bible. Much of what he has to say about how the teachings of Jesus and the writings of Paul relate to Old Testament motifs is commendable and noteworthy. Negatives - Enns doesn't just point out the problems with how people approach the Bible, he also offers a corrective. It is here that he is, in my opinion, fairly incoherent. Using the conquest of Canaan, Enns' suggests that Israel projected their own national and cultural interests (interests typical to other ANE nations) onto God. He suggests that in sections of the Bible we find difficult (war texts, specifically) we should remember that Israel were a tribal people and understood God in this way. So when they depict God as a warrior, we can mitigate or disregard this depiction on the basis of Israel's national interests. In other words, we cannot regard this depiction as accurate. Instead we should recognize that Israel was nascent in their understanding of God and could only articulate his presence in their own terms. We can then use Israel's example only as a mirror of our own spiritual journey. This raises two problems, one philosophical and one exegetical. The philosophical problem comes in the form of a reasonable question: why would God allow himself to be falsely portrayed in scripture? Enns answers this, without much explanation, by applying a "God likes stories" hermeneutic. By this he means that God wants people to participate in his revelation. To a degree, I think this approach is okay. It's true that God does reveal himself in and through people and history. It does not follow, however, that these stories don't contain propositional truth about God. And that's the problem with Enns' hermeneutic; if central portions of scripture (Torah, Joshua-Judges), portions that NT writers took very seriously, do not contain reliable propositional truth about God, what value do they have for us and how does this hermeneutic apply to the rest of scripture? These are pretty serious questions that Enns just doesn't address, at least not to my satisfaction. The exegetical problem is much more stark and I'm a little surprised that a scholar of Enns' level would fail to miss it. God is not depicted as a warrior in just the OT. Most notably in the NT, God, and Jesus, specifically in Revelation, is depicted in violent language that goes far beyond anything the book of Joshua ever employed. He is judge, jury, and executioner in both testaments. Not only does Enns book have the serious philosophical and exegetical problems I've mentioned above, but he doesn't even bother to hint that there might be better understandings of Israel's conquest than the genocidal interpretation that is so often employed by New Atheist critics of the Bible. It shocks me to think that I should have to point Enns to the book Did God Really Command Genocide? by Paul Copan and Mark Flannigan for an alternative view on these sections of scripture. It also strikes me as odd that someone so committed to understanding scripture in its context, someone who gives nuanced interpretations of NT writings, should take some of the OT problem texts at their modern face-value. Here's the kicker, though. In the last few pages Enns warns that creating God (or the Bible) in our own image is a sin. So...I guess Israel was committing a sin by creating a warrior God for their own purposes? And for some reason God never condemns this depiction of himself in either the Old or New Testament. Until Enns can offer an answer to these problems, I have to view his approach as nonsensical. Early in the book Enns tries to say that he's not picking and choosing what parts of the Bible he likes, but it's hard to take this claim seriously when he applies fairly rigorous exegesis to some parts and applies an unwarranted, frankly lazy hermeneutic to others. Because Enns introduced his understanding of Biblical war texts at the beginning of the book, I admit that I had a hard time taking him seriously for everything that followed. - In light of the problems listed above, Enns' horrific writing style is almost an afterthought. But I think it is worth mentioning, because, while annoying to read, it carries a tone that I found condescending and trite. I know it is written for average people, so I tried to be forgiving when I considered that fact. He tries so hard, too hard to be relatable, dropping lame jokes, "clever" asides, and employing reductive "common" terminology over and over again. It's very clear that Enns doesn't think he can get this message across unless he's entertaining us. I understand that impulse, but find it a poor substitute for substantive content. He also consistently employs phrases like, "reading the Bible honestly." I think he means that we should not read it with an agenda, which is a fine point, but the implication is that in order to read the Bible honestly, you must read it how he reads it. For someone who claims to champion multiplicity and diversity of interpretation, his "honesty" language struck me as false or at least unnecessary. ConclusionI can't recommend this book to anyone. The central idea - read the Bible on its own terms - is a valuable one, and I sincerely hope that people who do read this book come away with that notion even if they come away with nothing else. No one reads a book of poetry as though it were a car maintenance manual, and no one should read the Bible as though it were a simple rule book or collection of inspirational sayings. The Bible is so rich and rewarding when we read it for what it is. When we treat the Bible as something it is not, we do violence to our understanding of God. If Enns had couched his central premise in a stronger hermeneutical approach, I might be more willing to endorse his book. But his hermeneutic is poor and I hope that people will find better books on the subject to read.
    more
  • Ali M.
    January 1, 1970
    Biblical literalism is a fairly recent phenomenon. It's not how scholars historically understood the Bible. Peter Enns explains this in a way the average Joe can understand. Yay, Peter Enns!Karen Armstrong also sums it up well: "Before the modern period, Jews, Christians and Muslims all relished highly allegorical interpretations of Scripture. The word of God was infinite and could not be tied down to a single interpretation. Preoccupation with literal truth is a product of the scientific revol Biblical literalism is a fairly recent phenomenon. It's not how scholars historically understood the Bible. Peter Enns explains this in a way the average Joe can understand. Yay, Peter Enns!Karen Armstrong also sums it up well: "Before the modern period, Jews, Christians and Muslims all relished highly allegorical interpretations of Scripture. The word of God was infinite and could not be tied down to a single interpretation. Preoccupation with literal truth is a product of the scientific revolution, when reason achieved such spectacular results that mythology was no longer regarded as a valid path to knowledge." Trying to understand the Bible without understanding this is like clipping the flight feathers off a bird and shoving it into a cage that doesn't allow it room to even twitch. Creative interpretation of Scripture was an essential part of Judaism; it's why (most) people were delighted to hear Jesus play "free association" with the Torah. The way he drew new depths of meaning out of Scripture was right in line with Jewish tradition, which saw God's word as a living thing that was constantly revealing new insights to those who wrestled with it. (The thing people weren't so charmed by was Jesus's claim to be God.)On a larger scale, Peter Enns argues, that's how exactly how we should engage with the Bible. Asking it to be a rulebook is asking it to be something its writers never intended it to be. The Bible is best understood as a story, one that is told through many different genres (poetry, prophecy, law, epistles/letters, parables, eyewitness accounts, and yes: history). The New Testament itself presents a brand new interpretation of the Old; it re-casts the same story in a new light, with a new lens, all in an effort to better understand the God people thought they knew. For all intents and purposes, God appears to be cool with that. He lets his children tell the story as they understand it. So... why aren't we cool with that? Especially when Jesus almost exclusively used parables to make important points. He could have just spoken in statements and facts, but considering 96% of the universe remains scientifically unknown to us even today, God dropping facts would no doubt sound like pure gibberish (kind of like how the sheer irrationality of quantum physics makes the best scientists flail in frustration). Besides... that's just not how human beings are wired. We're wired for story. Story is the language we use to understand ourselves and the world around us. It always has been, and it always will be. Just as people today use memoir to re-shape their messy, amorphous past into a coherent narrative that informs their present, the Bible is the spiritual history of a nation written to help that nation better understand who they are, and how their relationship with God has evolved. That was the priority for ancient writers.While I don't agree with absolutely every conclusion Enns draws here, I think his overall thesis is a sound one, and incredibly important for Christians (as well as atheists) to grasp. This is not a black-and-white historical document, and trying to make it into one is not only disingenuous, it also ensures we sail past the point so fast we never even notice it.
    more
  • Susan
    January 1, 1970
    I picked up this book looking for a challenging perspective on Bible interpretation. I enjoy reading viewpoints that differ from my own, especially when they bring up inconsistencies or difficulties that need to be wrestled with. In one sense, that's exactly what Peter Enns did. But there were some logical and stylistic issues that made it impossible for me to truly resonate with his points. Caveat: I understand that Enns is a Bible scholar and I am not. Still, I came away disappointed with his I picked up this book looking for a challenging perspective on Bible interpretation. I enjoy reading viewpoints that differ from my own, especially when they bring up inconsistencies or difficulties that need to be wrestled with. In one sense, that's exactly what Peter Enns did. But there were some logical and stylistic issues that made it impossible for me to truly resonate with his points. Caveat: I understand that Enns is a Bible scholar and I am not. Still, I came away disappointed with his inadequate treatment of some of the really deep questions his book raised. Enns' book argues that Bible readers shouldn't view the Bible as a rulebook or handbook for living. In this sense, he says, we cannot espouse a literal interpretation of the Bible. He refers back to this idea again and again "A rulebook view of the Bible says that...." became a common refrain throughout the book. But I believe he unfairly caricatured the literalist point of view as one that does not recognize differences in kinds of literature or author purpose. For example, literalist Bible scholars in my experience all agree that books of poetry (Psalms, Proverbs, etc.) should be interpreted differently from the history books, prophecy books, or epistles. Yet Enns condescendingly suggests that a "rulebook" view of the Bible will not recognize or accept these differences. Enns uses numerous examples throughout Scripture, both Old and New Testament, to support his non-rulebook assertion. For example, he brings up the differences in the four gospels as proof positive that they could not have been divinely inspired. Instead, he argues, they are four books written by four men with four different perspectives that cause them to highlight different things. Again, a literalist interpretation of Scripture does not negate the fact that these four books reflect the perspectives and purposes of their human authors, an idea I regularly heard from my professors in seminary. The point I'm trying to make is that Enns paints a flat portrait of the literalist viewpoint which does not accurately represent the existing body of thought. He presents a choice between viewing every verse as a uniform didactic pronouncement and taking his stance that the Bible is a product of human effort that is limited by the viewpoints of its authors, changes with historical perspective, and therefore cannot be interpreted as binding for us today. There is much room for nuance between these two extremes. The logical consequence of Enns' perspective is two-fold:1. God's actions as presented in the Bible must make sense to me. If they don't, then God is either a bully or the Bible can't be trusted to tell the truth about what happened. 2. Sin isn't really all that serious. This is evident in his treatment of the Canaanite judgment. Those people didn't deserve to be punished, argues Enns, and God was unfair--even wrong--to do so. And if God himself wasn't unfair, then the Israelites misinterpreted God's directives in light of their culture and wiped out an enemy because that's how things were handled back then, not because that's what God intended them to do. Both of these ideas make the fatal error of setting me in judgment over God. The final determination of truth is my understanding--if I don't understand it, then it can't be true.I don't pretend to understand every story or every idea in the Bible. In fact, Enns' book raised a lot of good questions that I struggled with as I was reading. Still, at the end of the day, I am not God's judge. A God who is small enough to be completely understood by humans isn't worthy of my worship at all. If there are things in the Bible that I don't understand, it's because I am not God. Enns' style made the book very readable, but in many ways I felt it was the wrong style for such a deep topic. I wanted him to take my questions seriously, to deal with the serious objections to his viewpoint and to present both sides of the issue. He failed on all accounts.I don't believe his intent was to give this subject a scholarly treatment at all. I think he intended to plant seeds of doubt in the minds of people who haven't studied the topic. To present enough "gotcha" examples that trust in the veracity of the Bible was questioned. And to do so in an engaging style that made him look like a caring, friendly neighbor/counselor rather than a stuffy scholar. And in that goal, I think he succeeded. Skip this book if you're looking for a balanced representation of the issue or if you want a serious discussion of real questions about Bible interpretation.
    more
  • Mikeskinner
    January 1, 1970
    Looking for a book that is educated, controversial, and disarmingly funny? Your search is over.Peter Enns‘ latest work “The Bible Tells Me So… Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It” reads like a mash-up of N.T. Wright’s biblical scholarship, Anne Lamott’s refreshingly honest humor, and Rob Bell’s penchant for stirring up dissension.Enns takes aim at the modern attempt to defend the Bible that has been so characteristic of many Evangelical communities in the recent past:“I want pi Looking for a book that is educated, controversial, and disarmingly funny? Your search is over.Peter Enns‘ latest work “The Bible Tells Me So… Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It” reads like a mash-up of N.T. Wright’s biblical scholarship, Anne Lamott’s refreshingly honest humor, and Rob Bell’s penchant for stirring up dissension.Enns takes aim at the modern attempt to defend the Bible that has been so characteristic of many Evangelical communities in the recent past:“I want pious people to see that judging by how the Bible actually behaves – God did not design scripture to be a hushed afternoon in an oak-paneled library. Instead, God has invited us to participate in a wrestling match, a forum for us to be stretched and to grow. Those are the kinds of disciples God desires. This book, in other words, is a giant permission slip to let the wrestling begin…This kind of Bible – the Bible we have – just doesn’t work well as a point-by-point exhaustive and timelessly binding list of instructions about God and the life of faith.But it does work as a model for our own spiritual journey. An inspired model, in fact.” (page 22 and 24)The result is a book that is sure to offend the “gatekeepers” of Christian orthodoxy yet likely to be a breath of fresh air for Christians who struggle with tensions between their Bible and their faith. To be clear – by no means do I agree with everything Enns argues for in his book. But I have grown increasingly tired of the conservative tendency to label divergent viewpoints as “heretical” or “liberal” simply so they can be dismissed without thought. Enns’ argument deserves a seat at the table, and even if some of his conclusions might cause a conservative Evangelical to cringe in the core of their soul, there is still much to be learned from his book.Three things stand out as obvious about Peter Enns from his latest work:1) He knows the Bible very well. This book seems to be aimed at a popular audience, but is still chock-full of rich biblical insight.2) He values and seeks to follow Jesus. This can’t be denied just because one disagrees with some of his thoughts.3) This has led him to struggle with some aspects of the Bible: like why God does a lot of killing and plaguing, why archeology often contradicts biblical accounts, and why the biblical writers often disagree. The Bible Tells Me So… is an account of these struggles and Enns’ conclusions.If you want a book that won’t challenge the naive assumption that the Bible fell down from heaven typed directly from the inerrant fingers of the baby Jesus, don’t read this book.Enns contends that we should take seriously the ancient Isrealites’ tribal culture when we read their literature. He argues that the Bible’s version of “history” doesn’t meet modern standards of objective-story telling, but that maybe God is okay with giving us “ancient accounts of history.” He claims that Jesus didn’t use a “historical-grammatical” method of interpretation when handling the Old Testament and that neither did any of the other New Testament authors – “watching the New Testament writers at work yields a valuable lesson for Christian readers today: explaining Jesus drove the early Christian writers to read their Bible in new, sometimes radically different, ways. The Bible was nonnegotiable as God’s word, but it wasn’t God’s final word. Jesus was.” (195)Overall, Enns has produced a challenging and engaging book that attempts to take seriously the Bible just as God gave it to us. It’s an interesting thesis: God could have given us a clearly-outlined systematic theology textbook as our Bible, but he didn’t. My humble opinion is that even though many won’t agree with his conclusions, perhaps there is still something for almost everyone to learn from this enjoyable read.
    more
  • Robb Bridson
    January 1, 1970
    DISCLOSURE: I received this book free from the publisher via the Goodreads first reads program.I am not really the intended audience for this book. This book is aimed at Christians, mostly mainline sorts, who are troubled by the contradictions and speedbumps of the Bible and thus tempted to either stop thinking or embrace fundamentalism.I'm an atheist. But the subject of theology interests me, and certainly I have some interest in how Christianity is practiced. The religion isn't going anywhere, DISCLOSURE: I received this book free from the publisher via the Goodreads first reads program.I am not really the intended audience for this book. This book is aimed at Christians, mostly mainline sorts, who are troubled by the contradictions and speedbumps of the Bible and thus tempted to either stop thinking or embrace fundamentalism.I'm an atheist. But the subject of theology interests me, and certainly I have some interest in how Christianity is practiced. The religion isn't going anywhere, and it shapes a lot of the culture around me. I certainly benefit from a Christianity based in reason and compatible with reality.So I recommend this book to any Christians who might be looking for a better understanding of the Bible, an accessible, humorous primer on theology, with glimpses into historical and cultural context. If you are a diehard fundamentalist, the book isn't going to change your mind, just as it didn't turn me into a believer... but I think the book can still provide some understanding.It was also informative. For me, mostly the early parts-- I'm more familiar with NT history than OT history. For example, one thing I always found truly disturbing in the Bible is the genocide of the Canaanites. Well, good news. Didn't happen. It's a story. Bit it says a lot about how the Hebrews related to God and is part of a big pattern across the biblical narrative.Now, if you are the sort who is troubled by it just being a story, don't know what to say. But if you are the sort of Christian troubled by the genocide more than a non-literal Bible, this book will interest you.
    more
  • Ross H
    January 1, 1970
    This is the most helpful "post-evangelical" book I have encountered so far. Peter Enns seems to have spied on my thoughts and written a book that speaks to me exactly where I am, and where I imagine a lot of Christians on the far side of a faith crisis find themselves: holding contradictory beliefs in tension, aware that the approach to faith they used to take won't cut it anymore but unsure of what to do next. I've known for a while, for example, that there were serious moral and historical pro This is the most helpful "post-evangelical" book I have encountered so far. Peter Enns seems to have spied on my thoughts and written a book that speaks to me exactly where I am, and where I imagine a lot of Christians on the far side of a faith crisis find themselves: holding contradictory beliefs in tension, aware that the approach to faith they used to take won't cut it anymore but unsure of what to do next. I've known for a while, for example, that there were serious moral and historical problems with pretty much the entire book of Joshua. If challenged, I would not have attempted some half-hearted defense of the historicity or ethicality of the Canaanite genocide, but if I had been asked what my inability to defend these narratives meant for my approach to the Bible as a whole, I would have shrugged, said something about how scripture is inspired but "also fully human," and hoped that you wouldn't ask me any more questions. Enns dives right into this issue, as well as others, and provides some surprisingly articulate and honest answers. Having read this book, I feel that much more able to approach the Bible honestly, without putting up mental defenses, and for that reason it's indispensable. I would go so far as to say that this book is required reading for confused post-evangelicals.
    more
  • Brian
    January 1, 1970
    I read this and Encounters with Jesus back to back and it was like throwing a car going 90 miles an hour of a cliff suddenly into reverse. I think the transmission dropped out of my brain.With Timothy Keller I was constantly banging my head as he made overly broad assertions with blithe confidence. With Enns I wondered why he still thinks the Bible is so important or that God gave it to us when most everything in it was wrong or made up.Keller was always very polite and gentle, even when (or esp I read this and Encounters with Jesus back to back and it was like throwing a car going 90 miles an hour of a cliff suddenly into reverse. I think the transmission dropped out of my brain.With Timothy Keller I was constantly banging my head as he made overly broad assertions with blithe confidence. With Enns I wondered why he still thinks the Bible is so important or that God gave it to us when most everything in it was wrong or made up.Keller was always very polite and gentle, even when (or especially when) advancing readings of scripture that usually result in oppression.Enns was humorous and somewhat salt of the earth (though sometimes this felt forced and put upon) but with a genuine concern for the end results that resonated with me.Keller presented a view of the Bible that made me on one hand nostalgic and longing for the surety I once had, but couldn't no longer embrace in good conscience.Enns presented a view of the Bible that made me wonder why anyone who wasn't already a Christian would bother with it.And once again I found myself in a place inbetween wondering if there is a way to split the difference.
    more
  • Jon
    January 1, 1970
    My friend Adam told me recently that he believes our minds are like fields and the books we read are like the crops that a farmer cultivates and later harvests. A good farmer knows that you shouldn't plant the same kind of crop in the same field season after season. Instead, you should rotate your crops so as to not deplete the soil of nutrients and to promote a healthy soil. Similarly, we should rotate the kinds of books we read: biographies, history, fiction, science, heavy theology, fluff (le My friend Adam told me recently that he believes our minds are like fields and the books we read are like the crops that a farmer cultivates and later harvests. A good farmer knows that you shouldn't plant the same kind of crop in the same field season after season. Instead, you should rotate your crops so as to not deplete the soil of nutrients and to promote a healthy soil. Similarly, we should rotate the kinds of books we read: biographies, history, fiction, science, heavy theology, fluff (letting the field lie fallow). Also, occasionally the good farmer knows that you need to spread some bullshit on the field--that's where this book comes in. It's full of unhelpful and mean-spirited jabs, overflowing with logical fallacies and false dichotomies.I first learned of Pete Enns when a handful of friends that I used to go to church with all suggested I listen to his podcast “The Bible for Normal People.” I’m a huge podcast nerd, so I figured, “sure, I’ll check it out.” After listening to several episodes I had a pretty good handle on his general framework, and agenda, but I wanted to engage with his ideas in their clearest form, not just the conversations presented on his show. So I picked up this book and his newer book “The Sin of Certainty”. (I will be reading that book next, and probably writing a review of it as well.)Enns is clever, winsome, and self-deprecating. He has a breezy, laid back way of writing and his topics are easy to follow and engage with—they’re also misleading, and unsound. Additionally, throughout the book, he will pretty regularly throws in jabs (some subtle and others not) at the traditional Christian worldview, people and ideas he doesn’t like, and theological and philosophical positions that he disagrees with. At every instance, I was left with a bad taste in my mouth. I have four kids. They are constantly looking for ways to jab, niggle, annoy, and undercut/insult each other. I pray daily for them to grow in wisdom an a desire to actually engage each other with maturity. It is disheartening to see a grown man write things that make me feel the same way.The book is part personal journey and part nitpicking of supposed inconsistencies or pain points in scripture. There is one glaring issue that overarches the entire book—a seeming lack of faith in the Holy Spirt and a genuine claim or belief that Jesus is who he says he is. Enns never addresses the idea that the Holy Spirit guided the writing and assembling of scripture and although he hints at it, he never actually address the gospel or who Jesus actually claimed to be. From reading this book alone, I don’t think I would be able to say for sure that Enns actually believes he is a Christian.The book starts off with a brief overview of Enns’ spiritual journey and how he came to a breaking point where he had to reframe what he believed the Bible is actually about. The big stumbling block for him, it seems, is 1 Corinthians 10:4. Admittedly, despite having read all the way through the Bible multiple times, this point has never caught my attention before. If you’ll recall, when the Israelites were wandering in the desert they ran out of water, so Moses struck a rock with his staff and water poured out of it. Later, we are told that 40 years later near the end of their time in the desert Moses did the same thing. When a professor brings to Enns attention that Jewish scholars believe that it was the same rock moving with the Israelites through the desert, Enns scoffs, and then the professor turns them to 1 Cor 10:4, he points out that Paul says that the rock that they got water from “followed them.” Enns then concludes that that is utter nonsense and that obviously there’s something else going on in Scripture. I on the other, once I got over my surprise that I’d never picked up on that before, thought to myself “neat!” If God is real, existing outside time and space, made everything, and raised people from the dead, then surely a moving rock is no big deal. Why this is such a hard thing for Enns to grasp is beyond me. Later he expresses similar incredulity at the thought that an ass might actually talk to his master. Again, if God is God, I hardly see cause for concern at that. The book then dives headlong into the tired trope of textual criticism and JEDP. I was exposed to that nonsense in my college theology classes. I saw it destroy the faith of many of my peers, but I also, know that it has been largely discredited by nearly all theological scholars except the most liberal who tend to see scripture not as a sacred book but just historical text.It really comes down to this: do you believe that the Bible is the word of God? That it is breathed out by him and that it is complete and can be trusted? If so, then you can believe that not only did the original authors write the scripture that God intended us to have, but that the early church leadership assembled the canon that God intended us to have. The text we have is not just an edited, redacted, and assembled story that was put together after the fact to achieve some sort of political goal or justification for the kingdom of Israel. It was written by the authors using their words to convey the actual tried and word of God. Scripture was 100% written by men, and 100% written by God. That is possible because God is God. An inability to grasp that is not a fault in the text or understanding it is a failure to trust the Spirit.The big concern is that as soon as you are willing to say, that’s not what God wants, or meant, or true, you’re are saying that scripture's authority to speak on that matter is null. The problem is that any conclusion you make on those lines must necessarily be based on your reasoning. “It can’t be like that!” you say. That’s presuming a lot to decide that you can logic things out better than God can. And, as soon as you are willing to minimalize or contradict clarity in Scripture, who’s to say that you can’t logic your way around other parts?At no point in this book did Enns present a compelling case of Jesus’ virgin birth. That he was bodily risen from the dead, or that he was actually God incarnate. The closest he gets, is to repeat some of the things Jesus said about himself, and how the Gospels are effectively unreliable as legitimate witness to account for what really happened to Jesus. Enns may still claim to be a christian, but he certainly doesn’t present a case for it in this book, and if you actually tease out his argument, I don’t see how he could be, or frankly why he would even want to be… but then, his logic is demonstrably so poor, maybe somehow, it does still make sense to him.I’ll conclude this review with a long aside that is a modification of a message I sent to a friend a few years ago when he was dealing with similar concerns over the authority of scripture:CS Lewis advocated something that he call the idea of "true myths.” The idea that some things both in literature and in scripture are not necessarily true, but that they communicate truth. Lewis came to this of course because he was informed by his expertise in mideval literature. Lewis' education helped him become a classically beloved story teller by nearly all streams of Christianity and much of the secular world. But, he was also a terrible theologian and most of the Christian world accepts that too. His advocation for “true myths" was actually the source of a large rift at one time between him and Tolkein (one of his best friends.)Once you being to knock down the foundation of a literal scripture as authority for life, you open the door to ask, "well, if I don't think this part really happened like that, then maybe that part didn't either." You end up placing yourself as judge and (little-g) god over scripture instead of allowing it to interpret you. I saw this first had at SPU. In our theology classes, the professors unpacked loads of textual criticism and revisionist theology and got everybody second-guessing their Bible. I saw numerous solid, Jesus loving Christians spiral into doubt and unbelief, including myself. I had a very darkperiod of doubt and questioning because of the nonsense they taught in those classes. It wasn't until I started to reframe my faith around a high view and literal understanding of Scripture that turned things around for me.It really started going down hill in the last ~150 years as the Western Church started to shift away from the Puritan understanding of Jesus and the Gospel woven all throughout Scripture. I don't know if it is a symptom or a culprit, but you can see this with a "red letter" Bible. They perpetuate the idea that only some of the information in Scripture is from God. The red letters train people to look at their Bibles and think, "oh here's something that Jesus really said instead of just general information." This sets up a mutli-tiered class of teaching where some parts of Scripture must carry more weight because it's what Jesus said and not just a disciple, or a prophet, or a psalmist. The problem of course is that all of scripture is the Word of God, and Jesus is The Word of God. When you look in the prophets, it's fairly regular that the prophet says, "thus says the Lord," or "the word of the Lord came to me" or "the word of the Lord appeared", etc. In generally we don't have too much trouble reading that and understanding it to mean something along the lines of, "God impressed these words or a vision upon me so that I may communicate it to you." In one of his lectures when I took a class at Western Seminary, Dr Gerry Breshears, pointed out that if you drill down in the Hebrew, some of those instances aren't making a claim of authority for the words--they came from God; they are making a claim of title--"The Word of the Lord, the Second Person of the Trinity, appeared in front of me and told me this.” That is a microcosm for what all of Scripture is really like. Contrary to what is implied in a red letter Bible, ALL of the words in Scripture are Jesus' words. They all came directly from him and are inspired by Him. Everything Moses wrote? Written by Jesus. The Pslams? Written by Jesus. All of Paul's Epistles? Written by Jesus--ALL OF IT.The problem arises then, if you are willing to start picking and choosing which parts you want to take literally, how do reconcile that all of it is from Jesus and he, said that Moses' accounts were historically accurate, that Jonah's account was historically accurate, that Adam and Eve were real and literal. 1) he should know because he was there. 2) he should know because they were His accounts.The question then, is "How much Gospel is the 'right' Gospel?" Is it enough to believe that Jesus is God, he was sinless and he died in our place? According to Luke 23:39-43 (assuming that's one of the parts you still believe) yes, for the thief next to Jesus, that was enough. But is that all there is to the Gospel? Jesus said that others would come after him claiming to be him and teaching new things. He said that at the final judgment, people who thought they were Christians would come to him and he would say, "depart from me, I never knew you." Paul said that if anyone or even an angel came after him and present a different gospel, that person should be accursed. So clearly, it is possible to get close to the "right" gospel and still get it wrong. Surely it is better to understand that the Gospel includes all of the facets of substitutionary atonement than not. That will get you a more robust understanding of Gospel. Similarly, to have a full framework for Israel of the OT, to understand how the Gospel is fulfillment and culmination of the Davidic Covenant and Kingdom is better than not having that. Further to understand that the Gospel is really about restoring Creation that was broken by Adam and Eve in the Garden, to understand that all of God's story is about restoring His kingdom on earth that he started to building in Genesis 1:1 is better than not understanding that. All of those points and many in between require a literal, inerrant and authoritative understanding of all of scripture. Is it a salvation issue? Yes and No. For the thief on the cross, there was apparently a faith threshold that he was able to cross. I'm not God, so won't pretend to play him and draw a line. But clearly, somewhere, there is a salvation line between understanding 0% of the Gospel and 100% of the Gospel. I don't know where it is, but it's surely closer "more understanding" than less.There is a myopathy in Christianity that doesn't want to apply the ramifications of its own theology to itself. Take another relgion: Islam. They believe in God (Allah) and their framework even allows for Jesus--he was a great prophet, but not as great as Muhammad, and he certainly wasn't the Son of God. There is a debate in some circles of the church right now though over whether or not Allah is a false god, or just another name for God-the-Father and muslims just don't have the whole picture. Most of us, if we tease it out logically, will conclude that Allah is not God-the-Father. Allah does not have a co-eternal second person who incarnated and died for the sins of the world. Allah does not have a co-eternal third person who restores and dwells in the hearts of his people. You cannot be saved and believe in Allah because Allah is not the triune God who saves. Similarly, we can look at Mormonism. They believe in Jesus. Except their Jesus was created, is Satan's brother and he became a god through some sort of apotheosis. Their "salvation" doesn't come from Jesus' sinless life, substitutionary death, and resurrection. Their framework doesn't understand God's redemptive historical narrative to restore creation and His kingdom through the incarnation, death and resurrection of Christ. Their Jesus does not save, because their Jesus is not The Savior.So now tease this out and look at yourself. Jesus didn't just believe "true myths" about Adam and Eve, Noah, Moses, Jonah and the like. He communicated those things as historical fact. He treated Scripture as an accurate, historical, account of not just truths pointing to God but truths OF and ABOUT God. If you are willing to softened the value of scripture, its weight, and compromise the details of what it says, you are also compromising truths about God. Does that mean that you are worshipping a different God all together like the Muslims or the Mormons? I don't know. It might. Do you believe in a "different" Jesus? A "different" gospel? I believe that what Peter Enns has written in this book will help very few to really understand Jesus better, and will help many to spiral off into doubt an unbelief. I will be filing this book on my “Heresy Shelf."
    more
  • Thomas Achord
    January 1, 1970
    Authentic condescension, grasping implausibility. A quintessential example of the presuming, unbiased naturalism that permeates modern thinking. He loves the bible, cherishes it, values it, like a teenage boy does his date: It makes him feel good. But he's embarrassed to bring her around his friends. You know, those disreputable parts in the OT, the myths, the killings, the talking snakes and parting waters. She's fine as any other broad goes. But the beauty of her fulfilled prophecies are mere Authentic condescension, grasping implausibility. A quintessential example of the presuming, unbiased naturalism that permeates modern thinking. He loves the bible, cherishes it, values it, like a teenage boy does his date: It makes him feel good. But he's embarrassed to bring her around his friends. You know, those disreputable parts in the OT, the myths, the killings, the talking snakes and parting waters. She's fine as any other broad goes. But the beauty of her fulfilled prophecies are mere storied makeup on Jesus' divine status. One wonders why Enns believes Jesus rose from the dead or "saves" him, and from what.The question looming in the background, left unanswered: Is the bible to be read like any other book?
    more
  • Aaron West
    January 1, 1970
    I was teaching a class on the biblical minor prophet, Jonah, when it happened. The class was focused on what it means to interact with those we might dislike extremely, to put it mildly; in Jonah’s case, the Ninevites—practically the worst enemies of Israel (God’s chosen people, if you’re unfamiliar). I came to a point in my slides that referenced the Psalms, basically the prayer journal of the ancient King David and others. I had recently heard Psalm 23 (you know—the “Lord is my Shepherd” one) I was teaching a class on the biblical minor prophet, Jonah, when it happened. The class was focused on what it means to interact with those we might dislike extremely, to put it mildly; in Jonah’s case, the Ninevites—practically the worst enemies of Israel (God’s chosen people, if you’re unfamiliar). I came to a point in my slides that referenced the Psalms, basically the prayer journal of the ancient King David and others. I had recently heard Psalm 23 (you know—the “Lord is my Shepherd” one) interpreted particularly poorly: namely, that the verse which reads “You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies” must mean “Ha-ha! Look at us, God’s favorites, having a party while all you losers who are my enemies (and, by default, God’s enemies) have to watch. Oh, and you’ll burn in sulfur in the process.”I wanted to express my concern with that vindictive, frankly immature mindset in regards to how we view our enemies as a whole, even despite how David viewed his at their worst. But that’s when it happened. I uttered the following thought: “These Psalms are an important glimpse into the life of a deep relationship with God, but you have to remember, David was a human. His reactions were, at times, human reactions.”You would have thought that I whipped out a Zippo and lit a bible on fire right in front of the class. A few people blinked; most were quiet. The mouth of one gentleman fell slightly ajar, as though he’d discovered a goldfish in his glass of water. And this is what brings us to my review of Peter Enns’s book, The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It.You see, when I made that statement about David as a human being—potentially flawed, warts and all—I was crossing a fortified barrier that many churchgoers, including myself, have built up over the tenure of our faith. I breached an unspoken rule never to question or reexamine the comfortable understanding of what we claim is the sovereign word of God. It was more than my saying that David was human. They knew that fact. In effect, it was as if I took a hammer and chipped a piece off the façade of the “inerrancy of scripture:” an idea that has become tantamount to many’s belief in the Bible in the first place. It threw into question an assumption that so often grows as we invest in our faith: that whatever the Bible says simply says it, black and white, end of story. That those who speak about God in its pages are describing His nature objectively, even when those descriptions appear to contradict each other. That “inerrant” means there can be no error (by our modern standards) or even discrepancies in how its many authors portray and discuss history, culture, science, faith, or the Creator of the universe, Himself. And that’s where Pete Enns comes in. In this book, he does in an easy-to-read and accessible way (for better or worse) what could fill theological volumes. I want to make it very clear: Enns doesn’t set out to challenge the validity of the Bible itself, but rather how that Bible—a library of spiritual wealth, and not necessarily a how-to book—is read and understood. Too often, Enns argues, modern Christians feel the need to gloss over the “awkward” parts of the Bible, from commanded genocide, to odd ritual practices and laws, to the function of early Christians’ interactions with their Jewish faith. We don’t know what to do with it. And when we’re faced with a logical or historical contradiction, we freeze up, get militantly defensive, or, God forbid, end up walking away from faith altogether due to its irreconcilable nature.Except it’s not irreconcilable. It only becomes that way when how we treat the Bible becomes what it wasn’t meant to be: simply a straightforward rule book, a manual, a package that fell straight out the sky (baby-by-stork style), that needs to be taken literally at every turn and kept within the confines of our modern cultural understanding. We get mad when it doesn’t “behave itself” as Enns so often says. And this has led us to a conundrum when it comes to those topics and issues that are more easily ignored than discussed or challenged. And this is true. In my own faith tradition, I’ve seen the negative side effects of treating God’s word as a relic in a museum, locked under glass, dusted off from time to time, defended with infrared lasers when intruders approach, and kept exactly as it always has been and should be for the rest of all eternity. I’ve seen the tedious, almost torturous lengths many go to in order to “get it right;” in order to avoid stepping too far outside of what is acceptable, lest they hit a landmine of lawless oblivion. But this legalistic, almost dogged way in which many fearfully go about treating their scripture risks infecting them with the mindset that Jesus was so often up against. Naturally, this treatment raises an important truth that Enns unpacks throughout the book: that the Bible is as alive and adaptable for its followers’ time (throughout all time) as it always has been. And most importantly, it is for everyone, whether behaving itself according to their understanding and preconceptions or not.Throughout the book, Enns discusses a few key sticking points for his readers—not to bludgeon them over the head with his personal positions, but rather to point out important facts and ideas to consider when thinking about where, by whom, for whom, and how the Bible (as we know it) came together.He gets the ball rolling (brazenly) with the Canaanite genocide commanded by God in the early(ish) days of Israel’s freedom. Why is it so easy to ignore this part of the story? It’s hard. Really hard. But what if we looked at it differently? What if we looked at it all differently? Why do large swaths of the Old Testament read God as a tribal warrior, eager to slaughter and conquer? Perhaps because its authors were (you guessed it) tribal warriors.He speaks about the chroniclers of Israel’s history, and why—pre and post-exile (Kings, Samuel, Chronicles)—they appear so different, even recounting “facts” of history differently, or leaving some out altogether.He makes the point that the writers of the Old Testament were storytellers. That was the function of their writing: it told stories of the past in a way that spoke to what Israel faced in their present. Rather than “getting the past right,” their focus was the question Who are we now?He points out that, at different times, various audiences and groups viewed how to be right with God differently. It wasn’t a linear-order, twelve-step program that keeps God’s followers in just the right standing, from beginning to end. Rather, over time, these writers tapped into the continuous nature of God to understand what His will was for them. The focus was on the spirit of what it means to be Godly.Most importantly, Enns discusses Jesus. Jesus had a habit of taking scripture (that was meticulously followed and fiercely defended, by the way) and turning it on its head to suit his teachings’ purpose. He read Torah creatively in order to make a point about God, and more importantly, his own authority and status, which got him in to trouble.And then he died. And the world thought it was over. But, as we know, that wasn’t the end of the story. The Apostles continued, and Saul-then-Paul came along, and get this—the story of the defeated Messiah (who rose again) was the whole point! He was the paradox of God’s nature: strength through weakness, a servant King who was now (gasp) opening the door for the entire world to be his people. This is big stuff. And throughout the gospels and Paul’s epistles, we see the echo of this creative interpretation at play. The apostles wrote the story of Jesus differently because they had different points to make for different audiences. They included (and excluded) names from genealogies and referenced different ancient prophecies to show that—yes—this Jesus was the real deal. Paul continued this practice in his difficult task of reconciling two at-odds groups that were eventually unified by their faith in the Christ. All of this goes to show that while the history of scripture is invaluable, it is also alive. It was never meant to be kept under glass or on the shelf. It grows and changes us, its followers, and meets different moments in history where they are at. The word “adjustable” may make some nervous. But it shouldn’t, because adjustable doesn’t mean changing an unchanging God, it means bringing about new insight and meaning that applies to us now.When it came to this “creative handling” of the scriptures, I found myself asking if modern readers could pull it off. Sure, Jesus could, and even his apostles. But what about us today? Peter Enns never addresses that. But in my frustration I figured that was probably the point. The word of God is meant to be engaged, interacted (and even wrestled) with. Enns wasn’t going to be the one to tell me what to do (ironically, I found myself falling back into that ‘read-for-rules’ mindset.) Despite his accessible writing, Enns’s miniscule chapters led to the occasional whiff of disjointedness. To drive home his point, he fell into frequent repetition, and essentially, much of what each chapter discussed could have been summed up in a couple paragraphs. As I read, I began to wonder whether Enns thought any miraculous biblical events could have happened just as they were recorded, though that’s a secondary curiosity. Add to that his (at times) overwrought use of dry humor, and the book as a whole comes off as a companionable—albeit just ok in execution—work. It’s useful, interesting, and insightful. It helped me view my Bible in ways that I hadn’t much thought of before. And at the end of the day, The Bible Tells Me So’s lessons are really profound. Its whole subject calls to mind a conversation I had with a good friend and spiritual confidant: at some point we have to ask ourselves what inspired means. Did God take a few men’s hands and write down the words for them? Do we view the word of God as a straightforward list of guidelines, blind to culture and circumstance, copy-and-pasted over our current lives, and shoe-horned into our 20-21st Century worldview? Or do we view the Bible as…inspired. Written by many flawed and complicated individuals over vast amounts of time—extremely nuanced, yet applicable when it comes to God’s Spirit? Was this library a one-and-done event, or is it still on the move? It’s something we all need to decide, and I pray that as I search I am guided by that very Spirit with whom so many men and women have interacted with and—thank God—decided to tell those stories.
    more
  • Tom
    January 1, 1970
    The Bible Tells Me So is an excellent book that I would recommend to most people who identify as Christian or are seeking to know more about Christianity. At the same time I feel compelled to warn you, to quote Rachel Held Evans in her review, "it is not for the faint of heart."Peter Enns has written a book for Christians who are struggling with the contradictions and distasteful stuff (Canaanite genocide, anyone?) in the Bible and who, for some inexplicable reason, do not have an advanced degre The Bible Tells Me So is an excellent book that I would recommend to most people who identify as Christian or are seeking to know more about Christianity. At the same time I feel compelled to warn you, to quote Rachel Held Evans in her review, "it is not for the faint of heart."Peter Enns has written a book for Christians who are struggling with the contradictions and distasteful stuff (Canaanite genocide, anyone?) in the Bible and who, for some inexplicable reason, do not have an advanced degree in textual criticism. He offers them a way forward: you can continue to believe in God and ask legitimate questions about all the weird stuff in scripture that doesn't make sense. All too often there has been a deep divide between people who study the Bible: good Bible-believing Christians on one side, godless academics on the other. Peter Enns wants to bridge that divide. He shows that textual criticism allows us to look at the Bible as it really is rather than trying to impose our own vision of what the Word of God should be on it. He suggests that once we shrug aside our preconceived notions we will find a Bible that doesn't always behave the way we would like it too. It is messy, it is ambiguous, sometimes it is even self-contradictory. It offers conflicting portraits of who God is and what He wants from His children. And, Enns suggests, that is okay!Of course such a radical shift in perspective on the Bible might be a pretty earth-shaking experience for some people. Thus, my disclaimer at the top of this review. But the fact is that if you read your Bible with open eyes, you will run head-long into things that don't make sense, seem glaringly self-contradictory or just don't match up with the God that Christians believe in. At times, scripture almost seems daring the reader to challenge it, like for instance in Proverbs 26:4 where it says "Answer not a fool according to his folly" and then the following verse says "Answer a fool according to his folly..."!The way to deal with these contradictions, Enns argues, is to accept that the Bible is a compilation of different writers at different times who are telling stories about God in their own way. And, yes, through the lens of their own times and cultures. Modern scholars, for example, believe that the books of the Torah were compiled from several different writings or oral traditions, which is why there are stories and even laws that flatly contradict each other. Interestingly, Enns shows that this is not a new way of looking at scripture: the Jews of Jesus' time accepted that there were at least two different 'legal traditions' in the Torah and were not afraid of 'creatively interpreting' them.Nor were the Church Fathers of the New Testament afraid of such creative interpretations - the Apostle Paul and even Jesus engaged freely in them! Enns spends a great deal of time at the end of the book showing how both put creative spins on established scripture that would give a modern Bible scholar a heart attack. Yet today we accept their radical reinterpretations without question.In the New Testament, Paul points out that God's relationship with the Israelites predates the writing of the Torah. Likewise, Peter Enns points out that Christians' relationship with God and with Jesus predates the writing of the New Testament. Christians don't believe in the Bible - they believe in Christ. God, to quote what of Enns' chapter titles, is bigger than the Bible.Peter Enns' argues that in the Bible, God lets his children tell the stories about him. And when they tell it in their own way, like when the early Israelites made God out to be a vengeful tribal deity, God is okay with that. Yet God is also bigger than those stories. The story of who God is doesn't end with the impatient deity who wiped out almost everything on earth with a flood just six chapters into Genesis. God had a great more to say about himself in scripture and still has more to say today. After all, he is the vast, incomprehensible creator of the universe. Is anyone surprised when our knowledge of him turns out to be a little incomplete?Peter Enns argues convincingly that the Bible was never supposed to be a rulebook. We have put the Bible and ourselves into a straight-jacket trying to make it into one, editing out the parts that we don't like and doing logical back flips to try and tidy up all the little 'problems'. The trouble is, these efforts convince NOBODY but ourselves. Enns writes that Christians are supposed to wrestle with scripture, like the Psalmists and the writers of Ecclesiastes and Job. But fear about being 'wrong' about the Bible has driven us to make indefensible arguments about it, and to deny serious attempts to study it as it is. The idea that the Bible isn't 'perfect' can be a deeply unsettling one for evangelical Christians. But Peter Enns tackles it with humor, wit and serious scholarship. And he shows that accepting the Bible for what it is is also deeply liberating. I could write a great deal more about this book: I have given mere lip service to only a handful of the ideas Peter Enns' presents in The Bible Tells Me So. This book is insightful, challenging, funny and engaging. You may not agree with all of it. You may not even agree with most of it. But if you are a Christian that wants to dig deeper into your faith you should definitely read it.
    more
  • BHodges
    January 1, 1970
    Peter Enns is an evangelical Christian and Bible scholar—two identity markers that have sometimes raised conflict for him. Which really is too bad, because he seems like a really faithful, intelligent, and funny guy. At least, he seems like that based on this faithful, intelligent, and funny book about the Bible. Enns has been around enough to know that the Bible is not only a source of faith, but can just as easily be a challenge to faith. Many people who read the Bible carefully come away with Peter Enns is an evangelical Christian and Bible scholar—two identity markers that have sometimes raised conflict for him. Which really is too bad, because he seems like a really faithful, intelligent, and funny guy. At least, he seems like that based on this faithful, intelligent, and funny book about the Bible. Enns has been around enough to know that the Bible is not only a source of faith, but can just as easily be a challenge to faith. Many people who read the Bible carefully come away with unsettled feelings—the Bible contains some strange accounts and contradictions, and not just in random Old Testament laws but in the very picture of God it paints. Enns says the Bible actually contains multiple differing pictures of God, which he says is understandable since elements of it were written by different people at different times and places with different concerns and expectations. Expectations, in fact, is what this book is really all about. "The problem," he says, "is coming to the Bible with expectations it's not set up to bear" (8). He wants people to stop expecting the Bible to be a straight-forward "history of God" and start understanding it as a repository of people who wrestled to find a good understanding of God:He tells the story of discovering unsettling things about the Bible that his conservative Christian background had not prepared him for. He had a few options. Ignore the problems, deny the problems, or engage directly with them and allow them to change his faith and understanding. What kind of problems? Like God commanding horrific genocide in the Old Testament, like the Gospel authors contradicting each other or using Old Testament scripture out of context. Out of three choices, Enns chose "door number three" (as he jokingly frames it). He says "I gained a Bible—and a God—I was free to converse with, complain to, talk back to, interrogate, and disagree with, not as an act of rebellion, but as an act of faith and trust" (21). In short: He wants the Bible to be interpreted for what it actually seems to be rather than what we hope it is. Why does he read the Bible this way? Because the Bible "tells him so." Mormons have even more flexibility than many Evangelicals do in their ability to reinterpret the Bible but we as a community have yet to avail ourselves of some of the interesting advances of biblical scholarship over the past century. Enns breezily (very breezily, he's cracking jokes half the time, so if that's not your thing you may need to skip this book and try something else, but even I laughed out loud at some of the cornier bits) introduces readers to a number of strange things about the Bible but insists these strange things are invitations to dig deeper and mature in faith. It seems to me Mormons could really use this kind of basic introduction to some of the problems raised by biblical scholarship because (a) most of us are unfamiliar with the problems, and (b) too many of us don't see that scholarship can actually alleviate some tensions caused by reading scriptures written hundreds and hundreds of years ago.
    more
  • Emily
    January 1, 1970
    I just read this, but I feel like I need to read it again for everything to sink in. As accessible as the book is, and it's often humorous as well, the ideas are challenging and will require further thought. The author makes good points about keeping in mind time and culture when reading the Bible and not just seeing it as a rule book and trying to iron out/explain away inconsistencies. The Bible-from back to front-is the story of God told from the limited point of view of real people living at I just read this, but I feel like I need to read it again for everything to sink in. As accessible as the book is, and it's often humorous as well, the ideas are challenging and will require further thought. The author makes good points about keeping in mind time and culture when reading the Bible and not just seeing it as a rule book and trying to iron out/explain away inconsistencies. The Bible-from back to front-is the story of God told from the limited point of view of real people living at a certain place and time.He later says These ancient writers had an adequate understanding of God for them in their time, but not for all time-and if we take that to heart, we will actually be in a better position to respect these ancient voices and see what they have to say rather than whitewashing the details and making up "explanations" to ease our stress.Covering a variety of problem passages, he always comes back to his main point that "an owner's manual approach to the Bible doesn't work."I picked this up because I'm re-reading the bible for the first time in years (I have one of those read-it-in-a-year versions-I'm increasingly skeptical of this approach, but I'll probably stick with it until I'm through), and there is quite a lot that bothers me, especially in the Old Testament. As a result, this book is my second foray this year into biblical scholarship, and I thought it made a lot of sense. That doesn't mean I'm on board with everything he says, but I will probably pick up more of his work, and that of others, as I look for answers.
    more
  • Fred Kohn
    January 1, 1970
    As an ex-Christian I should be more excited about this book than I am. Enns exposes the poverty of the hyperliteralism of the typical Evangelical mind. He is to be commended in particular for exposing the Israelite genocide of Canaanites as a polemical tool rather than an accurate historical reading. But when he gets to the Gospels, while he admits that there are outright contradictions, he fails to ask the follow up question to the non-historicity of the most disturbing parts (to the modern lit As an ex-Christian I should be more excited about this book than I am. Enns exposes the poverty of the hyperliteralism of the typical Evangelical mind. He is to be commended in particular for exposing the Israelite genocide of Canaanites as a polemical tool rather than an accurate historical reading. But when he gets to the Gospels, while he admits that there are outright contradictions, he fails to ask the follow up question to the non-historicity of the most disturbing parts (to the modern literalist mind) of the O.T.: what are we to make of the miracles of Jesus as reported in the N.T.? I think he did this for tactical reasons: I'm sure that he is hoping his audience will be mostly Evangelical Christians, and he doesn't want to rattle their cage too much. Well, I wish him success but it definitely brought the book down a notch or two for me.
    more
  • MGMaudlin
    January 1, 1970
    Simply a wonderful, helpful, pastoral, and insightful guide to all the crazy stuff in the Bible--all served with a healthy dash of humor!
  • Pastor Matt
    January 1, 1970
    A snarky and ultimately unconvincing defense of a liberal reading of the Bible, especially the Old Testament.
  • David
    January 1, 1970
    Growing up as a Christian, there are a variety of subjects from the Bible that lead any thinking person to ask questions eventually. How does the creation story relate to modern science? How could the God revealed in Jesus command the extermination of the Canaanites? What about all those other weird, even horrific and immoral, rules in the Bible?A variety of answers are available, some more and some less satisfying. Peter Enns, in his book The Bible Tells Me So:Why Defending Scripture Has Made u Growing up as a Christian, there are a variety of subjects from the Bible that lead any thinking person to ask questions eventually. How does the creation story relate to modern science? How could the God revealed in Jesus command the extermination of the Canaanites? What about all those other weird, even horrific and immoral, rules in the Bible?A variety of answers are available, some more and some less satisfying. Peter Enns, in his book The Bible Tells Me So:Why Defending Scripture Has Made us Unable to Read it, offers his answers to these questions. This is one of those books that can be both liberating and confusing at the same time. The answers Enns offers are liberating in helping the reader realize that such answers are acceptable within a serious Christian faith. At the same time, they are confusing because you realize that many other Christians will see such answers as questionable, perhaps even un-Christian. For example, the Canaanite genocide is often explained by saying that God is just and can judge whomever he wants whenever he wants. All people deserve judgment and it was their time, the answer goes. I have found this answer both true and satisfying at times. At the same time, it often leaves a lot unsaid or unanswered. Sure, God can judge people of evil. But does this include viciously exterminating even children? Enns' answer is to question whether God actually commanded this. The Bible is an ancient book written by ancient people. They, as we do today, filtered their views through their culture and worldview. In those days it was common for gods to command extermination of enemies. So the Israelites thought this was what God wanted. As Christians, with our clearest revelation of God in Jesus, we realize God does not command exterminations of people. To avoid making God appear schizophrenic, ordering death and execution on one page and commanding we turn the other cheek on the next, Enns' reading realizes the human element. So we do not need to spend loads of time and reams of paper trying to reconcile these two contradicting views of God. As Christians we read scripture through the lens of Jesus.Enns' book is helpful and challenging. To some, he is tossing out too much and ought to be considered a dangerous heretic. To others, he is offering liberation from awful views of God, perhaps allowing people to remain in the faith who were going to walk away. At the very least, he has offered a helpful book for Christians that will make any reader think deeply about who God is, how God speaks and what God demands. And if our faith truly is centered on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus then we should be willing and able to debate and discuss the sorts of things Enns discusses here.Enns' main point is that rather then defending the Bible we need to let the Bible be what it is. It is a waste of time to try to prove the historical truth of various stories or to prove that all the stories in the Bible portray Jesus alike. Instead the Bible reflects different people's stories from various times through history. And that's okay. Enns argues that God loves stories. So God wants these stories in scripture, even if their picture of God is not correct. I think Enns' book is really an argument for a form of progressive revelation. All Christians accept that through scripture more of God's character is revealed. There is a fuller understanding by Paul then by Moses, for example. Where Enns differs is that he is more open to saying that Moses' view was wrong in light of later understandings. Other Christians would try to hold earlier writers as correct in what they said with later writers extending these truths in deeper ways. Perhaps the question is, does Jesus contradict and overturn what came before (not all of it) or does Jesus extend and fill out what came before?From a practical standpoint, I wonder how to teach Enns' view in the church setting. I imagine my experience is typical - I learned the stories as a kid, took them as just the way things happened. Later in life I relearned them, coming to realize things were not as simple as when I was a kid. Perhaps this is just the way it is and there is really no other way to learn the Bible. This is personal to me, because I have a three year old daughter. Sometimes we read story books of Noah and the flood. Eventually she might learn about Joshua and the battle of Jericho. How does Enns' understanding play out in a child's sunday school room? For example, do we simply teach our kids that Noah's flood covered the whole earth and later on teach that maybe it did not literally cover the whole earth? Do they have to learn at one point only to unlearn and relearn later? Or do we try to bring some of that nuance into a children's classroom? And how would we do that?That aside, this is a fantastic, funny and engaging book. I want to emphasize that it is readable. To some degree this book reminds me of Bart Ehrman as Enns is seeking to make mainstream scholarship accessible to the church. But where Ehrman does so as a skeptic, Enns does so as a Christian. For that reason, Enns and his work is valuable for the church.
    more
  • Christopher Weaver
    January 1, 1970
    Peter Enns is an educated guy as well as a friend of a friend, so it would be both ignorant and rude for me to go off on some "he doesn't know what he's talking about...this is all trash" extreme. He knows a great deal of what he wrote about in this book, and a good bit was interesting and on point. He brings up some credible arguments. I found particularly interesting his take on the Old Testament Law changing in form and context between Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy. But I am not too know Peter Enns is an educated guy as well as a friend of a friend, so it would be both ignorant and rude for me to go off on some "he doesn't know what he's talking about...this is all trash" extreme. He knows a great deal of what he wrote about in this book, and a good bit was interesting and on point. He brings up some credible arguments. I found particularly interesting his take on the Old Testament Law changing in form and context between Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy. But I am not too knowledgeable on the Old Testament Law. Though not an expert, I am comfortable in the sphere of many of his new testament contentions, and I comfortably disagree with much of it. To claim that Jesus took Old Testament scripture out of the context it was written in order to apply it to himself is without a doubt true. Much of the "prophecy fulfilled" in the old testament was written in the context Israel rising up in spite of situations with their enemies or erred leaders, or David singing or writing about current events as they took place.But many, with me being one of the many, believe that those situations and events occurred the way that they did so that the writers might write in the way that they did, and those same statements on paper were later exhibited in Jesus's life. Some specific chapters disappointed me, including Why Doesnt God Make Up His Mind (Chap 4) and Chap 5 (Jesus is Bigger than the Bible. Off the top of my head, I recall one of his arguments being about when Jesus was about to be stoned because according to the religious leaders, he called himself a God. He quotes Psalms where David wrote of God calling humans "gods" and then said that if they take the Psalms as scripture, how can they try to stone him. Enns suggests that Jesus used the verse out of context. Yes and no. Jesus claimed that he was the Son of God. The Psalms verse has to do with God putting divine rights and responsibilities over his chosen and considering them above the rest of his creation. So yeh, they don't relate. BUT the religious leaders were mad because they thought he called himself A GOD (which, again he did and didnt...depending on your take on the trinity, still). They were upset because they felt a person called himself a god. Jesus said, basically, "whoa, how can this upset you when God refers to you as a god in a scripture that you accept. Your understanding of what I said lines up in accordance with scripture, even though you are misunderstood and that wasnt my point." Other chapters and subsets in the chapters make similar arguments. The fact that Enns endnotes references is also problematic. It allows for his point without contravention, and he argues his opinion in the endnotes with his references, allowing a lesser minded man to read the scripture with his biased point of view.There is alot of pathos and ethos in his writing, which hurt his point more than helped, with me at least. If you're talking about issues in scripture, I don't need an entire chapter on your personal conversion. If you're trying to relate to me in order that I might relate to you and more easily accept your point, I'll take that chapter. I skipped that chapter.I have many more issues with Enns, but the main one would be his take on God via old Testament and New Testament. Enns cannot understand how God can be both down to earth one second, wrathful the next, open to petition the next, and hardening hearts in the next second throughout the old testament but be all about love and mercy in the New Testament. Also, he believes some agenda exists between many of the Old Testament writers to push Israel as this "little brother" who came out on top. My belief, backed up by Paul's writings, which Enns tries to contend with by subjectively suggesting Paul's point of view, is that we couldn't win under the law. We would constantly be found unworthy despite how true we stayed to the law because we always fall short. The law was perfected in Jesus coming and dying for our sins, and so we're not under the law but under the Grace of Christ. That makes perfect sense to me. Accordingly, God being all about wrath before Christ came and all about Mercy after makes perfect sense to me. And Jesus being necessary for the law to be made complete, as He was the only one who could fulfill it, makes sense to me. It doesnt to Enns.All of that said, and much more unsaid, I will contend, again, that Enns makes some legitimate points in several sections of this book. My disagreement with most of the other points were not why I ranked this book so low...it was the way in which he tried to press his contentions. It comes across in the same vein a conspiracy theorist would use...looking at verses and points/events in history from one vantage point and not discussing others. Long story short, Peter Enns performs the same action that he argues against throughout this entire book. It almost drove me crazy. I would still suggest it for anybody who is able to be a critical thinker and isn't swayed by the pathos and ethos, as this book is chock full of both. We're all entitled to our opinions, but I feel it disingenuous for an academic to push his opinion into the facts instead of stating his opinion alongside the facts.
    more
  • Alan Fuller
    January 1, 1970
    Peter Enns says he is a Christian who "does Bible" for a living. He reached a turning point when he learned that some rabbis taught a rock followed Moses around the desert. He then found out that the apostle Paul taught the same thing.(1Co 10:4)  And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ."He is speaking for God and so he’s not supposed to say stupid things like rocks follow people around in the desert to give th Peter Enns says he is a Christian who "does Bible" for a living. He reached a turning point when he learned that some rabbis taught a rock followed Moses around the desert. He then found out that the apostle Paul taught the same thing.(1Co 10:4)  And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ."He is speaking for God and so he’s not supposed to say stupid things like rocks follow people around in the desert to give them a drink." (p. 17). Paul calls it a spiritual rock and a spiritual drink. He also teaches that spiritual means not literal (2Co 3:6). Enns takes it literally. That pretty much explains Enns' understanding of the scriptures."It’s hard to appeal to the God of the Bible to condemn genocide today when the God of the Bible commanded genocide yesterday." (p 30)If you've ever had a discussion with an atheist about the Bible, you can be pretty sure that's one of the first things they're going to bring up. Enns says the Canaanites were actually pretty nice guys."The Canaanites’ main sin was their street address. That is why they had to be eliminated." (p 51)Enns doesn't say much about the list of abominations found in Deu 18 or Lev 18, but then he doesn't think the Bible should be used as a rulebook. In second temple Judaism, it was taught that part of the inherent evil in the land was because of the Nephilim and their descendants. Again, barely a mention and no explanation from Enns. Would God be just if He didn't punish evil? Even though Enns considers the Canaanites regular folks, he does bring up child sacrifice."We even have some rather disturbing examples from the Bible where child sacrifice seems to be something God is perfectly fine with." (p. 51) Like any skeptic, Enns points out God's command for Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, and like any skeptic, he fails to mention the explanation offered in Hebrews 11:17-19."...what are we supposed to do today with a Holy Bible that makes up lies?..." (p 61)"This is how they connected with God—in their time, in their way." (p 61)Enns explains God's atrocities as simply a cultural thing. They stole fanciful myths from surrounding peoples to legitimize their own existence. So why did God give us a Bible like this?"Even if I don’t have the final answer to these questions, a way forward has become clearer for me: maybe God likes stories." (p 129)So what about Jesus?Jesus Gets a Big Fat “F” in Bible (p. 167) Psalm 110 doesn’t say what Jesus says it says.(p 176)If any of Enns students understood the Bible like Jesus and the apostles, he wouldn't give them a passing grade. "Jesus didn’t mean for the disciples to root through their Bibles to find the places where a dying-and-rising-from-the-dead messiah was hiding—like a first-century Where’s Waldo?" (p. 202)What about John 5:39?"John 5:39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.""So according to Matthew, the return of Jesus (God’s Son) from Egypt is predicted by the prophet Hosea about seven hundred years earlier. Only it’s not." (p 203)Matthew was wrong when he said Hosea was talking about Jesus. Hosea was talking about his political situation. What does Hosea say?"Hos_12:10 I have also spoken by the prophets, and I have multiplied visions, and used similitudes, by the ministry of the prophets."Hosea says the prophets saw visions and used similitudes. So who is right, Matthew or Enns? Must be Enns since Matthew didn't have a Ph.D. from Harvard."If you saw Jesus walking down the street back then, you wouldn’t notice anything all that special—no glow around his head or lightning bolts shooting out of his eye. And, like the rest of us, he had periods of suffering and then eventually died." (p. 243)What does Enns really believe? He talks about the resurrection as though it happened, but he never mentions Jesus' miracles or any other supernatural event as though it really took place. Most historical-critical scholars don't believe in the supernatural.This was a disturbing book for me. It is disturbing because so many people rate it so highly. Is that where we are today, an errant Jesus and apostles, and a lying Bible? That's not a belief that is acceptable to me.
    more
  • Jon
    January 1, 1970
    A lot of factors affect the amount of stars I give each book: readability, the depth of research involved (footnotes/endnotes/bibliography/appendices), logical argumentation (to support the entire thesis), the goal or aim (telos) of the book (plot development), good humor/sarcasm, author's temper, etc... Peter Enns deserves 5 stars for every one of these factors except logical argumentation. For that, he deserves 4 stars at best. (To be fair, though, it's not as though Enns is being illogical; t A lot of factors affect the amount of stars I give each book: readability, the depth of research involved (footnotes/endnotes/bibliography/appendices), logical argumentation (to support the entire thesis), the goal or aim (telos) of the book (plot development), good humor/sarcasm, author's temper, etc... Peter Enns deserves 5 stars for every one of these factors except logical argumentation. For that, he deserves 4 stars at best. (To be fair, though, it's not as though Enns is being illogical; the book is actually very logical). There are a handful of places in which Enns takes for granted certain controversial scholarly conjectures without much elaboration (e.g. "insufficient" evidence for a worldwide flood and certain ancient battles recorded in Joshua, Jesus being a Pharisee, the Four gospels being written after 70 A.D. by people who were not eye-witnesses of Jesus, non-mosaic and post-exilic authorship of Pentateuch--not simply a post-exhilic redaction of mosaic authorship, etc.), and I think that definitely weakens his thesis significantly; but since he includes a detailed list of recommended reading--some of which I have also read and would recommend--I figured it was reasonable to give give him 4 stars for that. Admittedly, because his thesis is NOT about disproving the Old Testament's historical accuracy entirely, but rather is about helping Christians in their faith by reading their bible more honestly in light of scholarly research--in light of a God who is sovereign and perfectly comfortable with allowing whatever historical and scientific inaccuracies are there (from fallible human authors)--no one should be surprised to find out that Enns took certain scholarly conjectures for granted as he compiled the book.Enns is an exceptionally talented communicator of complex historical and theological ideas, and for that alone this book is worth reading. He does promote an evangelical message of unwavering faith in Jesus Christ alone, the God of the Bible, for salvation, and for that he should be commended. To be clear though, Enns considers the first seven books of the Old Testament scriptures as ancient near eastern myth, and the remaining books of the bible (including the New Testament) to be subject to scholarly scrutiny regarding its historical accuracies as well. For many Christians, this will become a stumbling-block to their faith in Christ; however I can imagine the opposite occurring as well. I imagine many well-educated Christians becoming invigorated by Enns message about the faithfulness of the God of the Old Testament, Jesus the Messiah, and the work of His Holy Spirit in renewing creation.I don't think it is fair to rate this book poorly (with one or two stars) simply because I think it contains significantly debatable arguments. It was very enjoyable to read. I read it in two days. It was that enjoyable; and no book that enjoyable deserves 1 or 2 stars.
    more
  • Genni
    January 1, 1970
    I keep bouncing back and forth between three and four stars. Enns makes some really great points and offers some interesting views, but he also left me with more questions than he answered.Enns does not believe in an inerrant Word of God. A large portion of his argument for acceptable fallibility is not much more than interpretation. He begins with a bang, immediately addressing the issue of Canaanite extermination. This entire section will challenge traditional views of God. He posits that God I keep bouncing back and forth between three and four stars. Enns makes some really great points and offers some interesting views, but he also left me with more questions than he answered.Enns does not believe in an inerrant Word of God. A large portion of his argument for acceptable fallibility is not much more than interpretation. He begins with a bang, immediately addressing the issue of Canaanite extermination. This entire section will challenge traditional views of God. He posits that God did not make this command. He covers common defenses for God's behavior here and why they are unacceptable, and here I agree with Him. But then he says, "Biblical Archealogists are about as certain as you can be about these things that the conquest of Canaan as the Bible describes did no happen: no mass invasion from the outside by an Israelite army, and no extermination of Canaanites as God commanded". I am not sure which archaelogists he follows and I have not read much, but one thing I know, biblical scholars and archaelogists rarely agree on anything. The case cannot be as simple as he describes. I will definitely try to find out more in my own readings.So Enns believes that God is good and that the Israelites simply viewed and reported through flawed eyes. After this section, my biggest question was: if we are not to believe these "bad" reports of God from the Old Testament, then why should We believe the good reports? This section did little to help me believe that God is good.After all of that, I was certainly curious to see what Enns had to say about Jesus. I was surprised to find that he believes Jesus really was God, come to earth in human form. Yet this troubled me. Enns made it clear that, as far as the Old Testament is concerned, he is a naturalist. Then we got to Jesus, and yes, there was a bit of skirting around the resurrection and not much discussion of miracles, but he believes in the incarnation. So I am confused.Overall, I think this book is important. Enns does a great job of addressing issues that most people struggle with at some point, and he does so with humor and knowledge. He also addresses the fear that I think many evangelicals do not admit: if the Bible is errant, then what?? Can we trust a God with a flawed Bible? If read with an open mind, yet cautiously, then I think the reader will be challenged and their view of scripture broadened.
    more
  • Sally Ewan
    January 1, 1970
    I had heard of Enns in relation to Westminster Theological Seminary and the BioLogos Foundation, and I decided to read this book because I thought it would be helpful and stretching to read another point of view regarding the Bible. Much of what Enns says I could agree with--I don't have any problem with the idea that Chronicles and Kings were written with different motives and intended audiences--so I had a hard time understanding his straw man argument about people who want a "well-behaved Bib I had heard of Enns in relation to Westminster Theological Seminary and the BioLogos Foundation, and I decided to read this book because I thought it would be helpful and stretching to read another point of view regarding the Bible. Much of what Enns says I could agree with--I don't have any problem with the idea that Chronicles and Kings were written with different motives and intended audiences--so I had a hard time understanding his straw man argument about people who want a "well-behaved Bible". I would have liked more explanation of what he meant by that. I was concerned when I saw statements like this: "We're all free to put the pieces together as we think best."(86) This seems to imply that people can read the Bible as they wish and interpret it according to their own reason, which seems like humanism to me.I was really mystified by this: "Many just assume that Adam was the first human in the Bible, but humanity was already created by God earlier, on the sixth day of creation, according to the very first chapter of Genesis." Why would Adam not be the first human? What is wrong with the traditionally-held understanding that chapter 2 is a focused retelling of the creation of man, starting with Adam?Perhaps I'm not the intended audience. In a Wikipedia article on Enns: "Enns feels that the problems raised by the “human dimension” of the Bible for many evangelicals “has less to do with the Bible itself and more to do with our own preconceptions” of how the Bible “ought” to be. Enns advocates an incarnational model to help evangelicals reorient their expectations of Scripture and so come to peace with new developments in their understanding of the Bible." Then again, I'm sure I'd be someone he viewed as having pre-conceived notions about the Bible. The problem is that in today's society, we have lost an understanding of and appreciation for authority. So people who look to the past for wisdom and guidance are accused of being hidebound or primitive, unenlightened compared to those who make their own truth. Enns may be working toward synthesizing modern Biblical scholarship and faith, but in the process, he is trying to appeal to man as the final arbiter and judge. As Evelyn Underhill says, “If God were small enough to be understood, He would not be big enough to be worshipped.”
    more
  • Adam Ross
    January 1, 1970
    Another fascinating and helpful book on how our assumptions about the Bible get us into trouble and cause real problems in our lives and churches. Specifically he's critiquing the "Bible-has-all-the-answers" type of approach. His reply is that the Bible does not contain the answers to the questions, but rather is designed to get us to start asking the right questions. He emphasizes the life of faith over the life of puzzle-solving and total certainty, that the Bible's authority by nature involve Another fascinating and helpful book on how our assumptions about the Bible get us into trouble and cause real problems in our lives and churches. Specifically he's critiquing the "Bible-has-all-the-answers" type of approach. His reply is that the Bible does not contain the answers to the questions, but rather is designed to get us to start asking the right questions. He emphasizes the life of faith over the life of puzzle-solving and total certainty, that the Bible's authority by nature involves and assumes our own wrestling with it. This is a very Jewish approach to the Scriptures, as he points out, that God doesn't want a bunch of limp submissionists but people of faith wrestling with Him about it. God wants us to be Abraham fighting God's determination to destroy Sodom, He wants us to be Jacob refusing to stop wrestling. This means to stop trying to fit everything together perfectly, because God wants all the bumps and uneven places. He wants the chronologies of Kings and Chronicles to not line up, because that's what He gave us. He wanted four different versions of the crucifixion and we should really stop trying to get them to all work together "historically," because that's impossible. God wants the diversity and the internal debate within Scripture about who God is and what He is like, because more than anything, the debate and the wrestling is what really happened. Great stuff, challenging for a lot of us, and worthy of meditation.
    more
  • Joel Wentz
    January 1, 1970
    I have to admit, I picked up this book specifically because a few people told me it was "heretical." Probably to their chagrin, I ended up loving the experience of reading this more than most other books I've read about the Bible (and I've read quite a few). Enns weaves a bit of memoir into his serious (and I mean "serious") scholarship, and most surprisingly, the entire book is humorous. It's actually really, really funny.Regardless of your opinions on Enns' conclusions (and he even admits he i I have to admit, I picked up this book specifically because a few people told me it was "heretical." Probably to their chagrin, I ended up loving the experience of reading this more than most other books I've read about the Bible (and I've read quite a few). Enns weaves a bit of memoir into his serious (and I mean "serious") scholarship, and most surprisingly, the entire book is humorous. It's actually really, really funny.Regardless of your opinions on Enns' conclusions (and he even admits he is open-minded about many of them currently), his earnest desire to worship God through a healthy relationship with scriptures is front and center in this book. As someone who deeply, deeply struggles with the violence of the Old Testament, and the glaring historical errors and contradictions, I must admit that Enns feels like a breath of fresh air, and permission to let go of spiritual paradigms that are fear-based. I truly thank God for him and his work, and will be recommending this to many friends.
    more
  • Laura
    January 1, 1970
    Very well written and very easy to follow. I agree with much of the viewpoints presented. His presentation of the importance of the "stories" of Israel makes me want to read more and dig deeper. I struggle a bit with some of the concept of the stories evolving over time and becoming socially relevant to the times -- I'm not convinced that the problems in Jesus' time were all that different from the problems of our day and I truly struggle with how we are intended to broadly apply the principles Very well written and very easy to follow. I agree with much of the viewpoints presented. His presentation of the importance of the "stories" of Israel makes me want to read more and dig deeper. I struggle a bit with some of the concept of the stories evolving over time and becoming socially relevant to the times -- I'm not convinced that the problems in Jesus' time were all that different from the problems of our day and I truly struggle with how we are intended to broadly apply the principles of the Bible today. I'm in agreement with needing to take the broad message and that questions and interpretation are important. Also that we do live in different times and have different perspectives (certainly have different level of scientific knowledge). But we also suffer sometimes from wanting to make the Bible say what we want it to, and the line between interpretation and false teaching is a fine one. But this book is a good one for everyone interested in the Bible to read as it causes good reflection.
    more
  • Violinknitter
    January 1, 1970
    I didn't expect to like this book as much as I did (and I nearly docked a star for Enns' relentless colloquial tone), but I found it an enlightening & delightful read. Specifics I appreciated: Enns' discussion of how both Jesus & Paul read the Jewish scriptures in Jewish ways (well, duh!), *especially* their willingness to reinterpret the (now) OT in light of Jesus Himself. I've very rarely heard any preacher even refer to how the NT writers often take OT passages completely out of conte I didn't expect to like this book as much as I did (and I nearly docked a star for Enns' relentless colloquial tone), but I found it an enlightening & delightful read. Specifics I appreciated: Enns' discussion of how both Jesus & Paul read the Jewish scriptures in Jewish ways (well, duh!), *especially* their willingness to reinterpret the (now) OT in light of Jesus Himself. I've very rarely heard any preacher even refer to how the NT writers often take OT passages completely out of context to prove their point. I've also never completely understood why we evangelicals tend to handle the OT texts very differently from the ways the NT writers model for us. Apologies for a rather scattershot review. I seriously doubt I would agree with Enns on everything (his blog posts sometimes leave me thinking "yeah, no, I don't think so") but the perspective in THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO is helpful to me, especially in the ways it intersects w/what I've been reading from Scot McKnight and NT Wright.
    more
Write a review