A little bit of background:
I was brought up in an extremely fundamentalist Christian subculture that loved to tout its allegiance to the Bible as the “inerrant, infallible Holy Word of God” also known as “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth,” and definitely as “Literal and to be taken LITERALLY as History and anything less is disrespecting God.” I was parented the “Biblical” way with the rod. The Bible might have even been more important than Jesus. No, it was DEFINITELY more important. Because the Bible tells me so?
Well. As I got older, I realized how narrow and truly ridiculous this view was if you were going to apply any sort of reason and basic hermeneutics onto the text of the Bible. Being asked to view this book as “literal” or “inerrant” was synonymous with being asked to check my brain and reason at the door of the church. So, what does any self-respecting mid-crisis-of-faith Christian like myself do with the Bible? Run for the hills, of course.
I stayed away from the Bible for the better part of two years while I was deconstructing things like hell, heaven, evangelism, churches like Antioch Waco, spiritual abuse, and my very real doubts about God that were simply not going away. The Bible became something that other Christians would throw at me like a trump card to smooth away my doubt. They couldn’t understand why I just didn’t care about it.
As someone who identifies as a “Red Letter Christian,” I felt like I should at least be reading the Gospels. And I tried. And I couldn’t. I actually couldn’t take the Red Letters seriously because of my undealt with issues and baggage surrounding this tome. And then I realized I had never dealt with my skepticism towards the Bible. Something had to be done.
Enter: The Bible Tells Me So, by Peter Enns. And now we will get to the actual review part of this review.
Enns is a Bible scholar. He teaches in university, he has degrees, and he responds to you on Twitter. In short, he knows his shit about the Bible, and he’s a cool dude! And you should probably make room for him on your bookshelf if you are at all interested in Christianity. “The Bible Tells Me So” deals with very complicated topics in depth, yet in a light-hearted way that won’t make you snooze. Enns knows his audience: the Normal People.
He breaks down all the fundamentalist preconceptions of approaching the Bible (as if it dwells in some unapproachable light of amazingness), and lets us know that we need to just let the Bible be the Bible and to stop trying to make it something that it isn’t. That reading it is important, but as Christians we also need to recognize that it is not the center of our faith. Jesus is.
He addresses many problems (yes, people like me see them as problems) that plague (like boils or flies) the Bible, such as the differing versions of Israel’s history, the troubling myths of Israel’s deep past (and why it makes zero sense to take them as actual fact), the bloodthirsty God of the Old Testament and the (very) troubling vendetta he has against the Canaanites, Paul’s writings, and how Jesus got extremely creative in interpreting Torah. And he doesn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, like I wanted to do.
If you are a Christian, read this book. And if you, like me, refuse to check your reason at the door in regards to the Bible, definitely read it. It will give you peace of mind, and a better foundation with which to approach this collection of stories that has survived the test of time.
I gave this book a 4/5 on Goodreads, which means “I really liked it.” And highly recommend.