“The Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it.”
This is a common trope heard in evangelical circles, but it’s light years away from that simple, as Peter Enns explains in his new book, How the Bible Actually Works:
In Which I Explain How An Ancient, Ambiguous, and Diverse Book Leads Us to Wisdom Rather Than Answers – and Why That’s Great News (which I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of courtesy Harper Collins Canada).
His central argument is that God is not a helicopter parent and the Bible is neither an instruction manual nor a rule book; instead, it’s a a powerful learning tool that nurtures our spiritual growth by refusing to provide us with easy answers but instead forces us to seek and use wisdom.
The Bible itself is an embodiment of wisdom at work. Its ambiguity, antiquity and diversity dictates certain noticeable and intentional shifts as you move from Genesis to Revelation. That’s because each text was written at a specific time for a particular audience and in order to communicate something unique within that context, resulting in certain tweaks – big and small – as people grew in their understanding of who God is and the nature of his relationship with creation.
Through the pages of the book, Enns offers example after example of how the biblical writers exercised wisdom and made additions to or removed bits from previous pieces of scripture, showing us that the aim of the Bible is not to give definitive answers, but to discern what it means to live God’s way for our time; “thus the Bible, rather than closing down the future, sets us on a journey of relying on God’s presence to discover it.”
The Bible says a lot of things, many of which contradict each other, raise troubling questions about God, and appear to give answers to pressing questions that weren’t meant to be applied in 2019.
Wisdom, therefore, is needed not only to read the Bible, but also to continue on with the very biblical tradition of questioning, debating, and working out of the life of faith that its pages point us to.
It’s all far from settled, and that’s the point.
This is one in a long line of books about the Bible, but the best I’ve read in recent years, along with Rob Bell’s What Is The Bible? Do check it out when it becomes available on Feb. 19.