The Bible Tells Me So by Peter Enns

Discussion in 'Books / Publications Forum' started by annsni, Oct 18, 2014.

  1. annsni

    annsni
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  2. Deacon

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    It's not as bad as all that. I eagerly awaited the publication of his book and was a little bit disappointed - nothing really new.

    Peter Enns generally writes for a post-graduate evangelical audience. In this book he dumbs down his presentation, which in my opinion, makes his arguments much more abrasive. IMO, the review was a reaction to this abrasive presentation.

    Peter Enns presents many arguments that are debated in one sense or another among anyone who study the bible in detail. Dr. Enns takes a view which is objectionable to a general 'go-to-church-on-Sunday' population but that is of concern to many who wrestle with the text on a daily basis.

    When one studies for teaching the bible on a regular schedule, they can't help but confront these difficulties. And for some people, it even becomes a stumbling block – a faith issue.

    I follow his thoughts but I'm a wimp when I teach. I don't usually deal with text-critical apologetic issues in class. When we studied Genesis' opening chapters, I presented a simple 'formed and filled' structure that was accepted well, without controversy. Then I devoted a just a single class to the various opposing viewpoints – and some in the class erupted. I learned not to directly confront these issues. Some people just aren't ready for them—some never will be.

    Instead I spend time every other class or so instructing them in modern interpretive methods, introducing a historical-grammatical hermeneutic method. For those that listen and apply it, they will become a better student of the bible in their own studies. And eventually be prepared to tackle these issues on their own.

    Here is a small portion of Peter Enns book:

    Chapter 3 - God Likes Stories (pp. 75-77)

    …storytellers "shape" the past. They decide what to include, what order to put things in, how to compress or combine scenes to save time and get the money shot, and so on. They also invent dialogue and scenes to knit the narrative together. They have to, since much of the past in inaccessible to storytellers—they themselves weren’t there to see and hear what happened.

    - - - Snip - - -​

    The biblical storytellers recall the past, often the very distant past, not "objectively" but purposefully. They had skin in the game. These were their stories. They wove narratives of thepast to give meaning to their present—to persuade, motivate, and inspire.

    To make that happen, like all storytellers, biblical storytellers invented and augmented dialogue, characters, and scenes to turn past moments into a flowing story—not because the were lazy or sneaky, but because that's what storytellers need to do to create a narrative. They shifted and arranged the past, or wove together discrete moments, all for the purpose of telling their story for their audience.

    The Bible itself gives 100 present proof that the biblical writers were doing just that: they present the same past events from different perspectives. And by different, I mean very different—big scenes, important details, and dialogue differ among writers.

    - - - Snip - - -​

    When we allow the Bible to set its own agenda, to show us what we have the right to expect—trusting God enough to let the Bible be what it is—we open ourselves to God's Word with its challenges and possibilities without a lurking fear of what we might find and going into shock when we find it. … [end quote]

    Rob
     
  3. annsni

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    What concerns me is much of what I saw in that review of his putting doubt into the infallability and accuracy of the Word of God. Even when you quote this: "They also invent dialogue and scenes to knit the narrative together. " makes me realize that this man does not believe that the words that the Bible records as what God said is really what God said. So how do we trust it? I've not personally read this book and probably never will but the excerpts that I see are highly concerning to me. Were the "storytellers" telling the truth? Does he believe that God was the one who actually wrote the book through the hand of the authors? It doesn't sound like it.
     
  4. Deacon

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    I wouldn't recommend that everyone read a book by Peter Enns...he walks a fine line.
    He does raise questions that make one question their faith,
    But truth be told, these are questions that need answering.
    He is out-front and frank about answering these questions - he is not evasive and doesn't mince words.

    Enns likens the bible to the incarnation of Jesus: it is 100% a human product ... and 100% inspired.
    Inerrancy becomes moot when you read the bible understanding that.

    Christians pick and choose what they hear from the bible.
    What doesn't fit, they ignore - much like a scientific theory.
    When we do see something that doesn't fit, we invent bizarre explanations to prop-up the doctrine of 'inerrancy'.
    These explanations can become quite convoluted, twisting scripture this way and that. ...it becomes quite a struggle to believe the bible.
    An example of this can be seen with the many explanations of Peter and the cocks crowing - how many times did Peter hear the crowing?

    The observations that Enns makes are not unique to him. They are present within many modern hermeneutic books and commentaries - hidden but present. Read anything about methods of interpreting various genre and you will find it - if not directly, then between the lines.

    Peter Enns has a blog where he posts thoughts and portions of his book.
    Check it out.

    Rob
     
    #4 Deacon, Oct 20, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 20, 2014
  5. Yeshua1

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    He seems to deny the truth of the scriptures being inerrant and infallible in all they teach us, as he wants to walk that fine line of accepting scientific "facts" as being just as true as the Bible...

    true science is confirmed by the Bible, but we need to trust the Bible first and foremost!
     
  6. Deacon

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    "Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things a man needs to believe in the most. That people are basically good; that honor, courage, and virtue mean everything; that power and money, money and power mean nothing; that good always triumphs over evil; and I want you to remember this, that love... true love never dies. You remember that, boy. You remember that. Doesn't matter if it's true or not. You see, a man should believe in those things, because those are the things worth believing in."
    Secondhand Lions ​
     
  7. Deacon

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    I'd point readers to a better choice of books that describe the state of the inerrancy debates.
    Read an inexpensive e-book called "Defining Inerrancy" [link]

    It is concise, to-the-point and can easily be read in a single evening.
    It is much less grating and 'evangelically friendly'.

    The authors divide the different viewpoints into two 'camps'.

    The Traditionalists, who maintain a literal approach to interpretation (except when they don't).

    And Contextualists, who incorporate biblical genre and historical context into how biblical literature is to be understood.

    I've heard it said that popular Christianity is generally about a century behind scholarly Christianity in the way they understand biblical literature.

    But I believe internet communication and blogging has quickened the tide, which is turning toward this new understanding of biblical inerrancy.

    Rob
     
  8. Deacon

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  9. Revmitchell

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    Enns walks a fine line because it is the liberal way. Back during the Elliot controversy over his book it came out that liberals intentionally engage in double speak in order to appear orthodox. Enns is a liberal and denying the narratives in scripture as myth is heresy.
     
  10. Deacon

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    Re: the Elliot controversy: in a similar purge Enns was fired from Westminster Seminary over his views.
    It shows that he willing to stand up to what he believes, despite the cost.

    Enns engages in the conversation regarding inerrancy because many of us have serious questions regarding the way we are to understand God's revelation to man in scripture.
    I have been taught and strongly believe that questioning scripture is healthy.

    Enns certainly is not attempting to "appear orthodox".
    He offers a nontraditional solution to the tensions and discrepancies evident of scripture.


    Rob
     
    #10 Deacon, Jan 16, 2015
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  11. Revmitchell

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    So is Satan. If you are going to stand up for something it needs to have value. Diminishing the truthfulness of scripture has none.
     
  12. Deacon

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    But understanding scripture in the way it was meant to be understood has untold value.

    Rob
     
  13. Revmitchell

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    Viewing scripture through the lens of science is not the way to accomplish that.
     
  14. annsni

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    I will post some of the things that concern me. I am posting from the review. If those who have the book disagree with the review, can you look at the referenced section and tell me how the reviewer got it wrong?

    I'll leave it at that for now.
     
    #14 annsni, Jan 16, 2015
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  15. Revmitchell

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    Pure liberal trash.
     
  16. Deacon

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    Ann, the reviewer you quote surely provides some highly incriminating examples that are found in the book.
    And Enns certainly does say them! But he continues to engage these points, sometime for many chapters; the statements are not left unsupported. And his conclusions are profound.

    Having just finished teaching the book of Joshua I am acquainted with its story and themes.

    In the book of Joshua we find many parallels drawn from the books of Deuteronomy between Joshua and Moses. One of the books themes is the entering of the people into the Promised Land, the completion the promise God made to Abraham and his descendants. The story is one of conquest and possession. The author arranged various historical events to support the themes. That's how history is written.

    Stories are written with a purpose.

    Enns makes it clear that "the extermination of the Canaanites is not an afterthought. According to the Bible, Israel's God planned it from the days of Noah and the flood, and he carries out the plan with bracing determination and precision, patiently encouraging and even training the troops to get it done." [p.40]

    The books of Deuteronomy and Joshua make it clear "To leave any Canaanites alive would (1) contaminate the land and (2) threaten Israel's devotion to their God." [p. 53]

    Then concerning the facts in the conquest stories of Joshua, Enns states that "archaeology and the biblical story don't line up well. What most everyone is certain about however, is that the Bible's version of events is not what happened.
    And that puts the question "How could God have all the Canaanites put to death?" in a different light, indeed.
    He didn't." [p. 60]

    Ultimately he argues that it's the theme and the intent of the author at the historical point in time that is important. How does the story engage with the people of Israel at that time?

    The book of Judges certainly confirms the incompleteness and the failure of the Israelites to conquer the land. Judges seems to stand in contradiction to Joshua. There is a distinct tension between the two books.

    Enns elaborates using the stories told in Samuel and Kings in comparison to the book of Chronicles. He notes that the purpose, the intent, the very questions the authors were dealing with, were vastly different.
    I could go on and on. There are many so many good books to read and if you're unwilling to face the challenge this book offers I've got no problems with it.

    No, you won't agree with everything Enn's writes. I don''t. But I've come away with a greater appreciation for the way God composed the many books of the bible.

    Personally I find the way the author engages biblical difficulties refreshing because it disturbs my preconceived views of the bible.

    Rob
     
    #16 Deacon, Jan 16, 2015
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  17. annsni

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    So what he's saying then is that the Bible is with error and not infallable. That we have to question what we read because much of it is made up stories and not true?
     
  18. Deacon

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    Hey, I'm still working the ideas presented in this book... it's a process that has taken a long time and will continue develop until God calls me onward.

    Here's my take-away on what Enn's is saying:

    The bible is collection of books written by men, inspired by God.

    The way the authors arranged what they wrote was exactly what God wanted written to tell his story.

    When any writer composes a story, sometimes they exaggerate to emphasize a point, sometimes they add material out of order, sometimes earlier oral legends are incorporated into the story because it helps the reader to understand the point of the story better, other times an author might employ literary techniques similar to a movie flashback without explanation.

    Some of the stories we read are fiction – chosen for their meaning and theme; chosen because they help the struggling people explain the situations where they find themselves.

    What we read in the bible works the same way.

    As with many stories, the biblical author was not present for many of the events that were written. Sometimes the stories were revised, rearranged and retold and blended into other books to emphasize totally different points. God used the authors to write their story using the conventions of writing that were acceptable at the time it was written to reveal himself to them in a way the readers would understand and in a way that would engage them into a working, living relationship with God.

    We can appreciate the reuse of ancient near-eastern stories that were rewritten from a Hebrew perspective. We see how the God of Israel engaged the tribal god's of other cultures. We see the progression of Hebrew theology from what they believed was a local deity of great power, to the Creator of all things, the God of god's, the Lord of lord's, and the Almighty LORD.

    As modern readers, we don't have to run about trying to explain the scientific ways that these events occurred. We don't have to fear archeological finds that advance or disprove what was written.
    We can take the writing at face value and knowing that in the eyes of the author, God was working out a plan and his people were a part of it.

    And the best part of it is knowing that God approved, it's inspired!

    Rob
     
  19. annsni

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    But God inspired falsehoods?
     
  20. Deacon

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    Are books that employ fiction a lie?

    Are the stories we tell our kids at night untrue?

    Are cartoons and graphic novels worthless because of their media type?

    Answer: they have great value in the telling.

    Rob
     
    #20 Deacon, Jan 17, 2015
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