'Seldom will you encounter such a fine combination of historical scholarship, interesting reading, and clever humour in one Biblical study. And then filled with faith and hope besides! Peter Enns does it again!' Richard Rohr, author of Falling Upward
For many Christians, the Bible is a how-to manual filled with literal truths about belief that must be strictly followed. But the Bible is not an instruction manual or rule book but a powerful learning tool that nurtures our spiritual growth, argues Bible scholar Peter Enns. It does not hold easy answers to the perplexing questions and issues that confront us in our daily lives. Rather, the Bible is a dynamic instrument for study that not only offers an abundance of insights but provokes us to find our own answers to spiritual questions, cultivating God's wisdom within us.
'The Bible becomes a confusing mess when we expect it to function as a rulebook for faith. But when we allow the Bible to determine our expectations, we see that Wisdom, not answers, is the Bible's true subject matter', writes Enns. This distinction, he points out, is important because when we come to the Bible expecting it to be a textbook intended by God to give us unwavering certainty about our faith, we are actually creating problems for ourselves. The Bible, in other words, really isn't the problem; having the wrong expectation is what interferes with our reading.
Rather than considering the Bible as an ancient book weighed down with problems, flaws, and contradictions that must be defended by modern readers, Enns offers a vision of the holy scriptures as an inspired and empowering resource to help us better understand how to live as a person of faith today.
How the Bible Actually Works makes clear that there is no one right way to read the Bible. Moving us beyond the damaging idea that 'being right' is the most important measure of faith, Enns's freeing approach to Bible study helps us to instead focus on pursuing enlightenment and building our relationship with God - which is exactly what the Bible was designed to do.
Enns (The Bible Tells Me So), professor of biblical studies at Eastern University, challenges Christians to reconsider the true purpose of the Bible. He begins with three characteristics he asserts make the Bible worth reading: ancientness, ambiguity, and diversity. For Enns, the Bible does not actually tell readers what to do, as Old Testament laws leave much room for interpretation depending on context. Arguing that differences in tone between the various books of the Bible (such as differences between 1 and 2 Chronicles, which was written "perhaps as late as the Greek period," and the other books of the Torah) result from the fact that they were written in different periods and cultures, Enns illustrates the fact that humankind's reimagining of God is an ongoing process. He analyzes passages from the Old Testament and New Testament in terms of historical context to illustrate how the nature of God and the problem of evil changes along the way. Far from diminishing the value of the Bible, these variations make readers reflect on their own situations and reconsider connections between past and present. Enns writes with a conversational, self-effacing tone that cushions the sections of close textual reading. Approachable and well reasoned, Enns's book will find an audience with Christians seeking a broader understanding of Scripture.