Book: The Bible Tells Me So…
By: Peter Enns
As my buddy Caleb Johnson would say…”Let us be clear”, this is not a comforting read for someone raised in a fundamentalist Christian faith.
The faith that comes from thinking of the Bible, or other holy book, in a fundamentalist way is a very reassuring and comfortable faith for many people to have. There really are no unanswerable questions in this type of faith, it’s all right there and we are able to know exactly what God wants and what “he” thinks about how anything. In a fundamentalist faith you can also know exactly how we should behave in all circumstances and how all others should behave in all circumstances. That won’t lead to any conflicts, wars, discrimination or anything…right?
I have come to find that this fundamentalist type of faith is a glass house of cards built on sand and Mr. Enns makes a strong argument against taking the Bible in this fundamentalist way.
“Whenever we think we have God in a box, safe and sound, under control and constant watch. God blows up our categories.
That is the lesson we learn from the Old Testament, Israel’s story. God meets the ancient Israelites as they are able to understand him—as a warrior who slays his enemies, human and divine; a deity who is appeased by the blood of animals; a God who commands that eating lobster and bodily discharges make one “unclean,” and considers virgin daughters spoils of war and the property of their fathers.
And just when it seems this is all there is to say, God also meets the
Israelites in unexpected ways, in crisis, in exile, and he is on the move, challenging his people not to limit his actions by their perceptions. On the pages of the Old Testament we see the ancient sages and story tellers pondering a God who won’t sit still long enough to have the cement of people’s perceptions dry around him.
And then in the Gospels and letters of the New Testament, God bursts ‘ on the scene again, at first in an expected way using the familiar language of messiah, kingdom, and liberation. But just when even Jesus’s closest followers thought they knew God’s next move, God acts with unnerving freedom: death and resurrection, with equal access to God for all.
I think part of what it means for God to “reveal” himself is to keep us guessing, to come to terms with the idea that knowing God is also a form of not knowing God, of knowing that we cannot fully know, but only catch God in part—which is more than enough to keep us busy.
If we read the Bible today thinking that this God of creation, freedom, and mystery is bound by a book as if it were a contract, with nothing left to say, no further moves or surprises, we will miss much. The Bible tells us so.”
Now having finished the book I feel lost. I don’t know how to set my compass. I was imprinted through my lifelong faith with a “literal” Biblical faith and now I’m seeing the foundation for what it is and I don’t know how to ground myself in this light. I found myself wandering around Boston yesterday, watching all the people running around and I was struck with a deep feeling of emptiness. I couldn’t imagine what it is all for. Why are we all not just subscribing to “eat, drink and be marry, for tomorrow we die”?
“Let go of fear. If I had to name the most common obstacle for Christians to a life of true trust in God, it would be fear—mainly the fear of being wrong about the Bible, which is often equated with being wrong about God. What we believe about God is very important to us, as it should be. Our faith defines who we are and helps us make sense of the world around us and the world that awaits us afterward. Our faith is the page upon which our personal narratives are written. To feel that our faith is threatened can easily turn to fear.”
“Feeling dis-ease and challenged in faith may be God pushing us out of our own safety zone, where we rest on our own ideas about God and confuse those ideas with the real thing. God may be pushing us to experience him more fully, with us kicking and screaming all the way if need be. Feeling unsettled may be God telling us lovingly, but still in his typical attention-getting manner, it’s time to grow.”