The Bible Tells Me So

bible tells me so book

The Bible Tells Me So: Why defending Scripture has made us unable to read it, by Peter Enns. Originally published in 2014. 288 pasges.

Peter Enns is wrong about a great, great many things (is that a spoiler?). However, I do believe he gets two things right. The first is this:

“The Bible isn’t a cookbook—deviate from the recipe and the soufflé falls flat. It’s not an owner’s manual—with detailed and complicated step-by-step instructions for using your brand-new all-in-one photocopier/FAX machine/scanner/microwave/DVR/home security system. It’s not a legal contract—make sure you read the fine print and follow every word or get ready to be cast into the dungeon. It’s not a manual of assembly—leave out a few bolts and the entire jungle gym collapses on your three-year-old.”

When the Bible is relegated to a book of rules on miutiaea, a how to manual which requires those believers who do not live in the land of Bible bookstores and hundreds of English language printed versions of the Bible, to somehow know the nuances to be found in the Greek or Hebrew translations of this word or that, that’s enough to make anyone decide not to read it. After all, if it takes a degree in theology, Hebrew and Greek to grasp it, how can we ever get a proper understanding?

The other thing he gets right is this:

The Bible is not, never has been, and never will be the center of the Christian faith.  Even though the Bible (at least in some form) has been ever present since the beginning of Christianity, it’s not the central focus of the Christian faith. That position belongs to God, specifically, what God has done in and through Jesus.

To which I add a hearty ‘Amen!” In fact, if what is sandwiched between those two quotes -the former near the beginning of his book, the latter near the end of it- wasn’t so filled with heresy and complete rejection of almost every tradional and accepted tenet of Scriptural teaaching, it would be easy to think that Mr. Enns holds a sound and reasoned view of the Bible.

As it is however, he spends nearly 270 pages of ink to tell his readers that the Bible is a book of myths about God written by a tribal people who, like all the peoples of their day, needed to view God as a violent, warrior-king. In essence, Enns believes the Bible is peripherally inspred by God who tolerated the misinterpretation and truth stretching by His people because there really was no other way for them to record history except through their own twisted lenses.

Additionally, that when you couple the realities of these misguided people with the real, verifiable history revealed through more recent archaeological and paleontological research, you should thank your lucky starts that these people got it wrong. That the God whom we worship was not a genocidal, psychologically ambiguous, blood thirsty war-like God.

That, despite the alarming nature of it coming from a Christian pastor, wasn’t for me the most disturbing feature of The Bible Tells Me So. After all, I’d read and heard all of that in one version or another before. Nothing to see there (for the believer grounded in his or her faith).

The most disturbing part to me was the so-called glaring inconsistencies Enns seemed to find between the four gospels. That was something I had never been exposed to, even from the most liberal of emergent church writers. I thought it was understood among the faithful, even the misguided faithful, that the gospels, like any other testimony of several witnesses, was simply written from different perspectives, with different aims, and potentially different audiences in mind. Not so, says Enns! The gospels are unreliable and historically disprovable.

I could go on and on, but the main takeaway I got from this one was dismay that I got suckered in by the tag line- “How defending the Bible has made it unale for us to read it”- without reading the back to see who had endorsed the “brilliance” of this book. The second thing was that I found myself unable to look away, akin to the way people often describe train wrecks. I suppose I could give myself a few kudos for sticking it out to the bitter end.

My conclusion on this one is to skip it. It is actually just one more piece of evidence supporting Jesus’ admonition about wheat and tares. The ambiguity of the term “Christian” and the ambiguity of what Christiansare supposed to believe was never more obvious to me than when reading this book. Enns is after all, a fairly well regarded theologian, and I use THAT term loosely as well.

Because he is an engaging, humorous storyteller and talented at turning a phrase, I’ll give him a point for that.

Grade: D



10 thoughts on “The Bible Tells Me So

  1. seriouslyserving says:

    Thanks for this review!
    A friend recommended Peter Enns to me, and when I began looking up his stuff on YouTube, I got the distinct impression that this is a man walking in the darkness. He gets so much wrong because he is not reading scripture in the light of the holy spirit’s blazing fire.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. hearthie says:

    He can’t tell the difference between Jehovah and Odin? Tsk.

    Reminds me of a quote from Dr. McGee – about being a new pastor and trying to tell an old woman about something from the Bible, and she got him corrected right quick. He had the book learnin’ – she had a lifetime with the Holy Spirit.

    God gave us both Strong’s Concordance and the Holy Spirit. The latter is more reliable than the former, but if we’re given both, we’re accountable for using both.

    I am suspicious of people who don’t read the Bible seriously (what we often mis-call literally) – I tend to think they’re trying to wiggle out of theology they don’t happen to care for. Everyone has theology they don’t care for, we suck it up and wait for the wisdom about “why” to show up – and it does, in time.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Elspeth says:

    I think he would say that Odin and Yahweh are very different in that Yahweh is the True and Living God Almighty. But he would also say that the Bible *acknowledges* the existence of other, lesser gods such as in the book of Job or when Elijah went up against the prophets of Baal. He thinks Job presents a stronger argument.

    Ultimately, this guy is (to quote seriouslyserving) trying to read Scripture on the merits of historical proofs, using finite post modern Western knowledge, sensibilities and values.

    It is quite a book, one that skeptics will love, but not only skeptics, but people who have all kinds of issues with theological and Scriptural commands they don’t like.


  4. Robyn says:

    I agree. One of the sayings that bother me … a lot, is when the name BIBLE is turned into a catchy acronym: Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. ughhhhh

    I want to say, “People, you sanitize your humanity when you try and read the Bible in prescriptive fashion, making it impossible to view yourself accurately. And, you take all the fun out of learning and life.”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. hearthie says:

    “That the God whom we worship was not a genocidal, psychologically ambiguous, blood thirsty war-like God.”
    – Nope, still sounds like Odin. Or Thor. Or maybe Ares. I could go on? The War God is a standard pagan type. (Actually, if you look at the gods of Europe, Africa, and the Med region in general, the gods differ little but in names and details of their mythologies).

    I actually think that the gods have some basis in reality, but I’m not about to worship fallen angels, regardless of their power level.


  6. Elspeth says:

    You are correct. His basic premise was that the exodus (starting with the drowning of the Egyptian army, and the removal of the Canaanites (often through violence and war) was a misrepresentation of God.


  7. hearthie says:

    Because he can’t deal with saying, “This is what the Bible says… now, I wonder why God would choose to do this?” STOP wiggling around the tough stuff!!!! Just suck it down and ask for wisdom.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Elspeth says:

    BIBLE is turned into a catchy acronym: Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. ughhhhh

    You and me both, sister! I only in recent years grasped the silliness of that acronym, but when I did…LOL.


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