I seriously believe that Peter Enns has written one of the best guides to reading and understanding the Bible. Enns’ prose is fluid, humorous and illuminating, as he strips back the layers of modern thinking to reveal a Bible that is not to be treated as a “how-to” book that offers up easy answers and life hacks.
The Bible’s an ancient text, and it needs to be read in an ancient light. To not do so, by trying to make it perform to our modern expectations of reporting history, science or memoir is to not respect it for what it is. Not only this, but when we bring these kinds of demands to the Bible, we soon discover that it just won’t play along. And when that happens we either find ourselves running in loops trying to make it “work” (editing and overlooking as we go) or giving up on it all together. In other words, trying to make modern demands on an ancient script only ruins its unique beauty and voice; the effects of which are just as disastrous as someone taking the original cinematic version of Star Wars, dressing it up in too much CGI and having Storm-troopers ride on dinosaurs.
Yes, the Bible is an enigma to modern readers. Yes, if we take it at face value it certainly won’t align with what we have discovered through modern science or archaeological research. Yes, there are contradictions and internal disputes that its writers seem satisfied to leave on view. And let’s not forget those violent episodes and strange scenes! So what are we to do? How are we to understand it? How are we to read it today?
The answer, according to The Bible Tells Me So, is to embrace it as it is; with all its quirks, tensions, internal dichotomies, genres and perspectives. The Bible invites us into a story; a complex, evolving, self-critiquing story. And it’s only in the midst of our engagement with that story–with all of our questions and dialogue and head-scratching included–that we really begin to enter into the inspired mind-sets of those that penned its words to gain a glimpse what they were trying to say.
This doesn’t resolve all of the mysteries and puzzles. But it’s not meant to. And to be honest, I’d have been devastated if Enns had written a book that resolved all the tensions; I’ve come to love and depend on the sacred struggle–it’s an essential component of the Judeo-Christian religion. No, The Bible Tells Me So is a much needed call to throw off our modern demands, roll up our sleeves and prepare for a wrestling match. In that’s sense, it’s best to think of Peter Enns as a wrestling instructor; teaching us the manoeuvres and grapple-holds that we need to employ to get the most out of this tussle.
I assure you, after reading this you’ll never engage in scripture the same way again. And that’s for the better!
—Tristan Sherwin, author of Love: Expressed
The Bible Tells Me So–Front Cover Extract:
“What if God is actually fine with the Bible just at it is? Not the well-behaved version we create, but the messy, troubling, weird, and ancient Bible that we actually have? Maybe this Bible has something to show us about our own sacred journey of faith. Sweating bullets to line up the Bible with our exhausting expectations, to make the Bible something it’s not meant to be, isn’t a pious act of faith, even if it looks that way on the surface. It’s actually a thinly masked fear of losing control and certainty, a mirror of our inner disquiet, a warning signal of a deep distrust in God. A Bible like that isn’t a sure foundation of faith; it’s a barrier to true faith. Creating a Bible that behaves itself doesn’t support the spiritual journey; it cripples it. The Bible’s raw messiness isn’t a problem to be solved. It’s an invitation to a deeper faith”–Peter Enns.
Product Link on Amazon: The Bible Tells Me So