The Bible Tells Me So

bible tells me so book

The Bible Tells Me So: Why defending Scripture has made us unable to read it, by Peter Enns. Originally published in 2014. 288 pasges.

Peter Enns is wrong about a great, great many things (is that a spoiler?). However, I do believe he gets two things right. The first is this:

“The Bible isn’t a cookbook—deviate from the recipe and the soufflé falls flat. It’s not an owner’s manual—with detailed and complicated step-by-step instructions for using your brand-new all-in-one photocopier/FAX machine/scanner/microwave/DVR/home security system. It’s not a legal contract—make sure you read the fine print and follow every word or get ready to be cast into the dungeon. It’s not a manual of assembly—leave out a few bolts and the entire jungle gym collapses on your three-year-old.”

When the Bible is relegated to a book of rules on miutiaea, a how to manual which requires those believers who do not live in the land of Bible bookstores and hundreds of English language printed versions of the Bible, to somehow know the nuances to be found in the Greek or Hebrew translations of this word or that, that’s enough to make anyone decide not to read it. After all, if it takes a degree in theology, Hebrew and Greek to grasp it, how can we ever get a proper understanding?

The other thing he gets right is this:

The Bible is not, never has been, and never will be the center of the Christian faith.  Even though the Bible (at least in some form) has been ever present since the beginning of Christianity, it’s not the central focus of the Christian faith. That position belongs to God, specifically, what God has done in and through Jesus.

To which I add a hearty ‘Amen!” In fact, if what is sandwiched between those two quotes -the former near the beginning of his book, the latter near the end of it- wasn’t so filled with heresy and complete rejection of almost every tradional and accepted tenet of Scriptural teaaching, it would be easy to think that Mr. Enns holds a sound and reasoned view of the Bible.

As it is however, he spends nearly 270 pages of ink to tell his readers that the Bible is a book of myths about God written by a tribal people who, like all the peoples of their day, needed to view God as a violent, warrior-king. In essence, Enns believes the Bible is peripherally inspred by God who tolerated the misinterpretation and truth stretching by His people because there really was no other way for them to record history except through their own twisted lenses.

Additionally, that when you couple the realities of these misguided people with the real, verifiable history revealed through more recent archaeological and paleontological research, you should thank your lucky starts that these people got it wrong. That the God whom we worship was not a genocidal, psychologically ambiguous, blood thirsty war-like God.

That, despite the alarming nature of it coming from a Christian pastor, wasn’t for me the most disturbing feature of The Bible Tells Me So. After all, I’d read and heard all of that in one version or another before. Nothing to see there (for the believer grounded in his or her faith).

The most disturbing part to me was the so-called glaring inconsistencies Enns seemed to find between the four gospels. That was something I had never been exposed to, even from the most liberal of emergent church writers. I thought it was understood among the faithful, even the misguided faithful, that the gospels, like any other testimony of several witnesses, was simply written from different perspectives, with different aims, and potentially different audiences in mind. Not so, says Enns! The gospels are unreliable and historically disprovable.

I could go on and on, but the main takeaway I got from this one was dismay that I got suckered in by the tag line- “How defending the Bible has made it unale for us to read it”- without reading the back to see who had endorsed the “brilliance” of this book. The second thing was that I found myself unable to look away, akin to the way people often describe train wrecks. I suppose I could give myself a few kudos for sticking it out to the bitter end.

My conclusion on this one is to skip it. It is actually just one more piece of evidence supporting Jesus’ admonition about wheat and tares. The ambiguity of the term “Christian” and the ambiguity of what Christiansare supposed to believe was never more obvious to me than when reading this book. Enns is after all, a fairly well regarded theologian, and I use THAT term loosely as well.

Because he is an engaging, humorous storyteller and talented at turning a phrase, I’ll give him a point for that.

Grade: D




You’re the Cream In My Coffee


You’re the Cream in My Coffee: A Roaring Twenties Novel, by Jennifer Lamont Leo. Published on September 15, 2016.

This is one of those instances where I eat my words and walk back a resolution concerning two genres.  The first is Christian fiction. The second is romance novels. This book falls definitively in the former camp and leans heavily into the latter.

I am far from alone in my trepidation when approaching the genre. You don’t have to look far to find page upon page of critiques of Christian fiction, and Christian romance in particular. This blogger offers a pretty comprehensive list of 8 things that can and often do go wrong with Christian fiction.

However, when a friend is published (and I consider longtime e-friends friends), you buy their books. You give them the press you would deeply desire that they give you, even when they write a genre that you’re a little skeptical about. After that, you pray that it is as good a tome as you hope it is. Fortunately, Jennifer does an admirable job of missing most of the landmines in that list of problems with Christian fiction.

Jennifer takes her readers on a journey with Marjorie Corrigan, oldest daughter of her widowed father and difficult stepmother in the fictional town of Kerryville, Illinois in the wake of WWI and during the years of prohibition. As the story opens Marjorie is 26 and engaged to be married to a well respected young doctor in the town. She is fond of him,  feels quite fortunate, and has resolved to be a good wife, even if she never feels the depth of love for him that she felt for her first love when she was just a girl of sixteen. Jack, her first love, was presumed to have died in The Great War.

With two months left until her wedding to Richard, Marjorie’s feet turn to ice. The lack of passion she feels for Richard alarms her. In addition to her wedding panic, she is experiencing fainting spells at the most inopportune times, causing rumors to swirl around her small town.

She heads to the Windy City to have some tests run on her heart, but the problem doesn’t lie with her physical heart and she decides to stay in Chicago for a time of respite and freedom before her upcoming nuptials, much to the chagrin of her fiance and stepmother.It is during her summer in Chicago that Marjorie gains clarity while simultaneously stumbling into more and more ways to complicate her life.

That’s as much of a spoiler as I want to give away. You can get a few more hints about the trajectory of the story from the Amazon teaser.

As far as Christian fiction goes, this is one of the better books I have read of the genre, which I summarily dismissed several years ago as a dead end literary road. Jennifer manages to infuse faith into the book without being overly preachy (at least most of the time), her characters have layers, and her story has a depth often missing from modern Christian books which focus on romance.

I like that the book is set in the 1920’s and that even though it has some modern themes running through it, the propriety of the times shines through without the pretense of perfect people living perfect lives. The 20’s were after all, probably as much of an influence on the modern morality shift as were the 60’s.  Jennifer does will with showcasing that reality and the realities of city life during the tumultuous period after the first world war.

Because I had sworn off Christian fiction while still reading the occasional bit of fiction where Christianity flowed as a a positive undercurrent, it was a bit of an adjustment to reacquaint myself with a story where the characters openly witnessed to, discussed Bible verses with and offered prayer between one another. I usually find it trite, formulaic, and frankly, annoying. In this case it was always well infused into the story line, so I was able to make the adjustment. The characters’ struggles with faith were more realistic, less formulaic and  less flaky than what I have read in previous Christian fiction.

Jennifer does an admirable job with this book. I’m still not sold on Christian fiction as a genre, but it was a relief to read a well written Christian novel whose characters inspired me to want to read on to the end to see how their stories panned out.

Grade: B

Jennifer Lamont Leo blogs at Sparkling Vintage Fiction.

Content advisory: This is a very clean book. There are references to alcoholism, the organized crime associated with prohibition, and the trauma many soldiers were left with after the war.