A battle over the Bible always seems to be brewing among Christians. From what the Bible is to what it says to how to interpret, they can’t seem to stop squabbling over the Scriptures. Peter Enns is on the front lines of this conversation with a new message: stop defending the Bible….
RNS: Summarize for me what the Bible is and isn’t in a handful of words.
PE: The Bible is holy scripture, not because it achieves some standard of perfection driven by alien theological requirements, but because God in his wisdom—which is inscrutable and no one can question—has given the church a collection of diverse, ancient writings. These writings span as much as 2000 years, arise out of many different contexts, and address a multitude of diverse, concrete concerns of the time. This is the inspired text we have, and we respect it and God when we refrain from imposing upon it modern expectations of systematic coherence and historical accuracy.
[tweetable]The Bible isn’t like an owner’s manual or legal contract[/tweetable], where we follow clearly a set of rules and if we deviate from them we risk spiritual disaster. Neither is it a depository of historical or theological information that conforms to modern alien standards of “perfection,” accuracy, or consistency. I believe that perpetuating these expectations sells the Bible (and God) short, for it spends so much time scurrying about explaining why the Bible doesn’t seem to behave as we “know” it should—which suggests, ironically, that God is not a good communicator.
RNS: What is the biggest misconception about the Bible held by Christians who believe differently than you?
PE: The biggest misconception is in expecting of the Bible something it simply doesn’t deliver—or can only deliver through an ingenious array of “defenses” and “explanations.” These tactics are not intentionally deceptive or destructive, but are driven by fear of losing a hold on the only Bible they know, which then threatens their faith in God. The logic is that divine inspiration must necessarily yield an inerrant Bible, and so to speak of inaccuracies and contradictions is seen not only as an affront to God, but in some cases casts doubt on God’s very existence.
The Bible cannot bear the weight of inerrantist thinking. Expecting it to is the true cause of disquiet and despair for those who have read the Bible and see the cracks in the inerrantist logic.