Friday, September 19, 2014

Book Review: The Bible Tells Me So (by Peter Enns)

The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read ItThe Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It by Peter Enns
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A lot of factors affect the amount of stars I give each book: readability, the depth of research involved (footnotes/endnotes/bibliography/appendices), logical argumentation (to support the entire thesis), the goal or aim (telos) of the book (plot development), good humor/sarcasm, author's temper, etc... Peter Enns deserves 5 stars for every one of these factors except logical argumentation. For that, he deserves 4 stars at best. (To be fair, though, it's not as though Enns is being illogical; the book is actually very logical).

There are a handful of places in which Enns takes for granted certain controversial scholarly conjectures without much elaboration (e.g. "insufficient" evidence for a worldwide flood and certain ancient battles recorded in Joshua, Jesus being a Pharisee, the Four gospels being written after 70 A.D. by people who were not eye-witnesses of Jesus, non-mosaic and post-exilic authorship of Pentateuch--not simply a post-exhilic redaction of mosaic authorship, etc.), and I think that definitely weakens his thesis significantly; but since he includes a detailed list of recommended reading--some of which I have also read and would recommend--I figured it was reasonable to give give him 4 stars for that.

Admittedly, because his thesis is NOT about disproving the Old Testament's historical accuracy entirely, but rather is about helping Christians in their faith by reading their bible more honestly in light of scholarly research--in light of a God who is sovereign and perfectly comfortable with allowing whatever historical and scientific inaccuracies are there (from fallible human authors)--no one should be surprised to find out that Enns took certain scholarly conjectures for granted as he compiled the book.

Enns is an exceptionally talented communicator of complex historical and theological ideas, and for that alone this book is worth reading. He does promote an evangelical message of unwavering faith in Jesus Christ alone, the God of the Bible for salvation, and for that he should be commended. To be clear though, Enns considers the first seven books of the Old Testament scriptures as ancient near eastern myth, and the remaining books of the bible (including the New Testament) to be subject to scholarly scrutiny regarding its historical accuracies as well. For many Christians, this will become a stumbling-block to their faith in Christ; however I can imagine the opposite occurring as well. I imagine many well-educated Christians becoming invigorated by Enns message about the faithfulness of the God of the Old Testament, Jesus the Messiah, and the work of His Holy Spirit in renewing creation.

I don't think it is fair to rate this book poorly (with one or two stars) simply because I think it contains significantly debatable arguments. It was very enjoyable to read. I read it in two days. It was that enjoyable; and no book that enjoyable deserves 1 or 2 stars.

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