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




The Benedict Option

benedict option

The Benedict Option, by Rod Dreher, originally published in 2017.

I decided to read this book after about six months of regularly reading Mr. Dreher’s commentary over at his blog on The American Conservative. As such, I approached this entire discussion and exploration of his ideas from a novice perspective. As such unaware that he had been promoting his idea in various forums and its interpretations have undergone various iterations over the past few years.

I am actually quite partial to the virtues of seeing a thing through new eyes. It was after all, my husband’s novice, unchurched, untainted conversion to the Christian faith which invigorated my own and showed -embarassingly so- how little I knew the Bible that I thought I knew so much about.

In the time since I have begun reading Mr. Dreher, I have come to learn that people whose opinions I hold in some regard find the sum total Mr. Dreher’s  commentary and prescription problematic. However, I am going to review this book the way I originally approached it; as a novice to Mr. Dreher’s ideas and solely on the merits of what he offered within its pages.

I begin this review with the same caveat I offered to my Protestant friend before she began it. Namely that Dreher is “big O” Orthodox, and it is important for Protestants to  appreciate this distinciton as they begin his book. There are points and assertions Dreher makes which spring from this base and which no doubt would turn off many a Potestant who is unprepared for some of his points.

Overall, however, I think Dreher’s book and his idea is worth a look. I suspect many Christians are probably already living loose versions of his idea in their own lives if they aren’t trapped in an ideologically driven quarantine from other believers.

In sum, Dreher -in his book at least- porposes that Christians build intentional and separate communities from the larger culutre as the national and cultural trajectory grows increasignly hostile  to Christian values and the faith. It is probably best for the reader to do his or her own homework. However, eben with a few quibbles here and there, I agree with the heneral tone and proposal Dreher puts forth. After all the BIble does implore us to come out and be separate, calling us a peculiar people.

A quote:

Relearning the lost art of community is something Christians should do in obedience to the Apostle Paul, who counseled the faithful to do their parts to grow the Body of Christ “for the building up of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:15). But there are also practical reasons for doing so. Building communities of believers will be necessary as the number of Christians becomes thinner on the ground.

In the book I did not gather that Dreher was advocating total isolation from the larger culture, which was a good thing. On technological advances:

Benedict Option families and communities who remain apathetic toward technology inadvertently undermine nearly everything they are trying to achieve. Technology itself is a kind of liturgy that teaches us to frame our experiences in the world in certain ways and that, if we aren’t careful, profoundly distorts our relationship to God, to other people, and to the material world – and even our self-understanding.

When we abstain from practices that disorder our loves, and in that time of fasting redouble our contemplation of God and the good things of Creation, we re-center our minds on the inner stability we need to create a coherent, meaningful self. The Internet is a scattering phenomenon, one that encourages surrender to passionate impulses. If we fail to push back against the Internet as hard as it pushes against us, we cannot help but lose our footing. And if we lose our footing, we ultimately lose the straight path through life.

I liked the book. I think Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together is infintiely better (hello? It’s Bonhoeffer!),  but because he deals at length with the changes in the sexual culture and the inducement of technology into every phase of life, I think the book is worth a read.

Grade: B

RELATED: Review of Life Together, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.








Created to Be His Helpmeet, pt. 2

created to be

In the first part of this review I indicated that I would review this in two parts because it was structured as 2 books. I wish it were 2 books, or better, that Mrs. Pearl would have ended at the close of part one. While I gave part one a ‘B-‘, part two deserves a solid ‘D’.

As I finished part one, I was satisfied because American women, including the Christians, have mostly discarded Biblical marriage by reinterpreting  commands that are clearly and repeatedly indicated in Scripture. That increasingly bothers me and was the reason I was willing to overlook some of the problems in part one. It tilted much more in favor of Biblical marriage than most Christian women would admit.

One thing I hate even more than the state of American womanhood however, is the misandry that is now common in our culture, the media, and many churches. Underneath all of Mrs. Pearl’s wisdom concerning loving our husbands was a strong undercurrent of misandry; painting of men as one-dimensional beings, only interested in sex or unable to handle being challenged.

My antennae first went up during part one when she described the angel Lucifer as a “male being” in an attempt to explain some facets of masculine behavior. I’m not sure why in retrospect, but I let that gross error go, giving her the benefit of the doubt. I can see now that it was a taste of things to come. Is she comparing men to devils? Since we know unequivocally that God our Father, and Jesus, His Son, our Messiah, are masculine, where then does that leave us?

I can think of literally one thing in part two I agreed with. On page 217 was the story of a Vicky, whose husband didn’t lift a finger to fix anything around the house. While his own home fell apart, he was quick to rise and ride to the rescue of elderly women in the neighborhood who needed things around their homes fixed.  Mrs. Pearl is right that a woman are perfectly capable of taking care of yard work, painting a room, or fixing a leaky faucet.

I hate the trend becoming prevalent Christians as we attempt to distance ourselves from an androgynous culture: that jobs around the house  requiring any sweat or strength are inherently “men’s work” or that the sphere of the wife is limited to the work that requires little sweat equity: cooking, sewing, cleaning, and caring for the children. A good wife does what needs to be done if she can do it. There is no logical reason why the grass in our yard should remain overgrown until my husband is available on the weekends to cut it when I am at home everyday, presumably to manage the home. Unfortunately,  there wasn’t anything more to embrace in part 2.

Mrs. Pearl’s asserted repeatedly that mothers could, by virtue of perfectly watchful eyes, keep all harm from befalling their children. She offered a scenario in which a young child might be molested if his or her mother turned her back for even a couple of minutes. And yes, she said a couple of minutes. I understand the point she was attempting to make, but I thought that her line of reasoning went too far, and furthermore, was wrought with inconsistency. No one can keep their eyes on their children every minute of every day. Are mothers allowed to sleep?

That inconsistency showed again when she advised, rightly, that women whose husbands insist that they get a job do so. Does the wife in this position still bear guilt if harm befalls her child while in submission to her husband?

Another blatant inconsistency was the beginning of the chapter titled, “‘To Obey or Not To Obey?”  The chapter began with the story of a woman who went to “extreme” measures to get the attention of her husband, who was addicted to pornography. Given the rest of the exceptions to unquestioned obedience outlined throughout the rest of the section, the reader is left to assume that the Pearls agree with the actions of this wronged wife. However earlier in the book, there is the story of a woman whose husband frequented strip clubs and visited prostitutes. That wife is hailed as a hero for honoring her husband with love and sex even as he committed acts that were as bad, worse in fact, than the husband who was addicted to pornography.

Of all the objections I had to part two, however, none was so striking as Mrs. Pearl’s exploration of the Titus 2 command for wives “to love their husbands.” It was the only time throughout the book where I felt the need to double-check my understanding of a word by grabbing our great big Strong’s concordance. She limited her very long explanation of the command to love our men strictly to the bedroom, going so far as calling lovemaking a husband’s “most consuming passion”, putting it on the level of food as a desperate biological.

Whenever I hear sex held on par with food, it makes me shudder. This is the reasoning used by those forces who would encourage sexual activity by children at younger and younger ages. I certainly appreciate the importance of the physical relationship between a husband and wife in a marriage, and I’m no prude who believes in rationing intimacy based on my moods or whims.

Still, the word Paul used to describe what it means to love our husbands meant ‘to show affection, to be fond of, to admire’. It is the Greek word philos, often used to describe loving friendships. Mrs. Pearl implied that the only thing that matters is the sex. This is diminishing of men, implying that they don’t care whether or not their wives like them, so long as they get sex.

I was disappointed with part two of this book because part one held such promise. I cannot recommend this book in good conscience.

Part 2 Grade: D


Created to Be His Helpmeet, pt. 1

created to be

Created to Be His Helpmeet, by Debi Pearl. Originally published in 2004.

Since the book is divided into  two parts, almost like 2 books in 1, I’ll do its review in two parts. Part 1 is titled The Help Meet.

Part 1 is pretty good. There were a few things I disagreed with, and in fact, I offer my review with this very strong caveat: I do not recommend this to anyone in an extremely troubled marriage. It could be damaging to the heart of a woman who is doing all she can with no positive response from her man. In fact, I would suggest those in such marriages refrain from reading random books for pat answers.

If there was one thing that bothered me most about this book, it was the testimonials implying that any woman can single handedly save the man, the marriage, the family, and her sanity all by following the advice within its pages. It seemed to imply that a wife could, by prayerfully striking all the right notes, render a husband’s free will  irrelevant as he succumbed to the power of her perfectness as a help meet. That’s a dangerous seed to plant into the mind of a desperate wife.

To her credit, she pointed out that husbands who engage in sinful behavior were responsible for their own actions. I’d read reviews where women accused her of blaming wives for everything wrong in their marriages. I didn’t get that. It’s a book written by a woman, to women, about the responsibilities of women in marriage. That necessarily demands focused discussion rather than extensive caveats and attempts to balance.

Additionally, I was put off by the idea of wives ceasing to be individuals upon marriage.  I believe in loving, radical submission and making every effort to please your husband, but the implication that one’s total being is to be immersed in him is not a Christian teaching. My husband wants me to think, not parrot his thoughts.

With those stipulations, part one was still very good. For wives in reasonably good marriages, or who just need a glimpse of what a submissive wife looks like (far too many have never seen it) this is instructive. There were things I wasn’t fully conscious of in my attitude until I saw it while reading this book. It was good mirror for me. Now to some of the specifics.

I laughed out loud when I read the letter and the author’s response to the woman whose husband was getting a little too chummy with the office secretary. In part because this was, if memory serves, one of the points of controversy in the book. That this wife was advised to make her self more attractive than “the office wench” made many women howl in objection. The second reason I found it funny was because the advice sounds very close to what my godly grandmother-in-law, now 93, would say if I came to her with this type of dilemma.

This is only controversial because of our cultural sensibilities. For the sake of brevity, I will not reprint 1 Corinthians 7 here, but click on the link to read it. If a woman wishes to keep her man’s attentions, of course she needs to do what needed to be done to make herself attractive to him.  It doesn’t guarantee he won’t stray, but life doesn’t come with guarantees.

The reason I gave part 1 of this book fairly high marks was the extensive amount of ink -3 chapters- dedicated to the importance of being joyful, content, and thankful. These are invaluable to the health of any relationship and the fact that Mrs. Pearl understood this and called out women on their tendency to be ungrateful, even when they have pretty good husbands, was in my opinion, almost totally worth overlooking the parts I didn’t care for.

Specifically, I noted the women who complained because their husbands watched television, or “weren’t spiritual enough”, or any other number of minor things that were being blown up into major things.Women do fall into that trap. I’ve seen it more times than I can count and I appreciated Mrs. Pearl’s wisdom in pointing out that the notion that women are more spiritual than men is damaging to marriages.

Such wives inwardly exalt themselves over their husbands while pretending to be the dutiful, submissive wife. Looking for the good in our men, being thankful for the fact that we have good men, and refusing to try and make them be more like what we want than who God made them to be, is always good advice.

In a section titled, “Wisdom to Know Your Man”, Mrs. Pearl and her daughter lay out three different categories they claimed most men fall into: Mr. Command Man, Mr. Visionary, and Mr. Steady. I think that the idea that most men fit neatly into one of these three boxes was an oversimplification. If I had to categorize my husband, it would unquestionably be in the first category, Mr. Command, but there are nuances which her book failed to acknowledge.

I agree with her that certain types of men are more reserved and deliberate, and a strong woman can get frustrated with that type of man and dominate rather than appreciate him. I also remember when I was very displeased with my husband’s refusal -inability?- to capitulate to me. In time I learned that God knew I needed a strong man. We fit well together.

This book covers so much ground that it would be impossible for me to cover it all. I realize that my favorable review is not shared by many. In fact, the things that give me pause are what caused me to issue the word of caution above. This book isn’t for everyone.

Because I have always been a “big picture” type of person, it was easy for me to appreciate the good in this book despite its limitations. And I liked part 1.

Part 1 Grade: B-

Next time, I’ll take a look at part two.

Disquiet Time

disquiet time

Disquiet Time: Rants and Reflections on the Good Book by the Skeptical, the Faithful, and a Few Scoundrels. Edited by Jennifer Grant and Cathleen Falsani. Originally published in 2014.

I saw this on the shelf in the library, so I picked it up and flipped through the table of contents to see if I recognized any of the authors who offered essays for this compilation of thoughts on various aspects of The Bible.

When I saw the name Steve Brown, I checked it out without giving much thought to the other authors included. I listen to Steve’s snippets on the radio, and in addition to his awesome voice (second only to Voddie Baucham and followed by Alistair Begg), I appreciate Steve’s solid but compassionate exploration of the gospel.

Being acutely aware of your imperfections makes you giddy at the prospect of new mercies every morning and a Heavenly Father slow to anger and abounding in compassion, Who knows we are but dust. Steve reminds me, since I tend to skip along the outskirts of the town of Condemnationville pretty often, not to go there.

So like I said, I checked out the book. Sigh. I’m not going to hold it against Steve Brown that his essay was parked in the middle of some of the most outlandish interpretations of Scripture I’ve ever read. However, I was sure tempted to.

After nearly every essay, I found myself whipping out my tablet to google the -often female- author of ideas that stretched the bounds of the traditional interpretations of Scripture. A few of the men were kind of sketchy, but more often than not they seemed to stick to the spirit of Scripture. What I found were pastors of liberal denominations, emergent church pastors, and all sorts of interesting biographical information that would have informed me of what was to be found if I was familiar with many of the writers. But I wasn’t.

To be fair, there were plenty of opportunites here to eat the meat and spit out the bones. As a longtime believer who is familiar with and well taught of the Scripture, it was easy enough for me to do that. The new believer, the seeker, or the person just looking for an understanding of the Bible would come away from this book fairly convinced that there is very little need for sanctification and that Scriptural interpretation is intensely personal.

I think I just described post-modern American Christianity in its entirety in one sentence.

If I am making this book sound as if I didn’t enjoy it at all, I’m not being clear enough. There were parts I enjoyed immensely, little nuggets stuck right in the middle of essays I thought were otherwise drivel. But as I said before, I can handle that, and not everyone can.

One of the most egregious essays was Debbie Blue’s exploration of her thoughts on the story of  the conflict between Hagar, found in Genesis 16. She was so postmodern (not to mention feminist) in perspective, I asked one of our daughters what she thought about Blue’s opinion. She too thought Blue was off base in the way she interpreted the story, and that was before you consider that she repeatedly painted the picture of Ishmael as a toddler (rather than a young teen) when he and Hagar were sent away from Sarah and Isaac with the promise from God that he would make Ishamel a great nation.

Because I have wearied of a church which prizes propriety over piety, and seems uttely devoid of being able to bridge the gaps between the reality of human struggling, God’s mercy, and the command for us to increase in sanctification with the understanding that we will never fully arrive this side of Paradise, I picked up this book expecting far more than I got. It wasn’t worthless, but neither was it a wealth of encouragement to grow in grace.

You can get some idea of the impetus and thrust of the editors and contributors to Disquiet Time by reading a few posts at this site dedicated to the premise of the book. A book, by the way, which you can skip.

Grade: C-



Unchristian: What a New Generation really Thinks About Christianity…and Why It Matters, by David Kinnaman. Originally published in 2007.

I finished this book a couple of months ago, and my feelings about it were mixed. I didn’t know how to review it. The premise is simple: Christianity has a real PR problem with today’s generation of young Americans, and this is in large part due to the fact that we -American Christians- are for the most part horrible examples. We are, in a word, UnChristian.

On the one hand, and the research bears this out, there is very little difference between the lifestyle of the average Christian and the average American in terms of entertainment, how we spend our money, how we dress, etc. These are certainly legitimate concerns.

However, Kinnaman loses me with his insistence that most moderns reject Christianity because of the behavior of Christians. While there is something to be said for the issues in the American church, this conclusion thoroughly ignores the fact that the Bible clearly indicates that fewer and fewer people will embrace truth, choosing the “broad way”, while those who choose the “narrow road” will be few in number.

He makes excellent points, many of which I have made myself on numerous occasions, such as:

“Having spent time around “sinners” and also around purported saints, I have a hunch why Jesus spent so much time with the former group: I think he preferred their company. Because the sinners were honest about themselves and had no pretense, Jesus could deal with them. In contrast, the saints put on airs, judged him, and sought to catch him in a moral trap. In the end it was the saints, not the sinners, who arrested Jesus.”

But a lot of the “hypocrite label that he claims is rightly thrown at Christians by unbelievers strikes me as disingenuous. He ignores the corresponding balance of human nature which has always rejected Christ and His Truth.

For all the problems in the postmodern church, and they are many, the solution to the “problem” of lagging Christian conversions has little to do with the church itself, and more to do with the spirit of the age; a spirit which has infected the church in ways big and small. Such as the way many American Christians conflate our political views with convictions of faith.  Kinnaman makes a good observation here:

 “It strikes me as unChristian that we often have more charitable attitudes toward ideological allies than we do toward brothers and sisters in Christ with whom we disagree on matters of politics.”

Also,  there is the proliferation of ministries which focus on technology as a means of spreading the gospel rather than being salt and light to other human beings in the flesh. It gives us the false illusion that we are doing more than we actually are. The strategy is a bad one:

“In an era of mass media, it is easy to believe that the more eyeballs, the more impact. But radio, television, and tracts accounted for a combined total of less than one-half of 1% of the Busters who are born again.”

I doubt the Internet does much better. It probably does more to turn people off than draw them in. If those of us who are really, truly pressing for a true and deep relationship with Christ would connect with others outside of our comfortable christian bubbles, we might see more people opening their hearts to the gospel.

Instead, Kinnaman suggests we should try to be “used of God” in media, arts and entertainment, and other avenues to reach people through the mediums of communication most commonly used today:

In many ways politics follows culture. As ancient Greek musician Damon of Athens said, ‘Show me the lyric of a nation and it matters not who writes its laws.’ Movies, television, books, magazines, the Internet, and music are incredibly significant in shaping world views and lifestyles of today’s America. And Christians are expressing a growing awareness and response to these avenues of influence. Where is God calling you to serve him – media, arts and entertainment, politics, education, church, business, science?

Am I the only one who has noticed how inept and far afield “Christian” media goes when it attempts to make movies and music which connect with the culture? For all the panic and shrieking Christians expressed over the movie, “The Shack”, I found the theology in that movie as “accurate” as most Kendrick Brothers films. In other words, Christian movies leave as much opportunity to eat the meat and spit out the bones as most secular produced movies which portray Christianity in a positive light.

Despite my initial and lingering problems with some of David Kinnaman’s conclusions, UnChristian certainly offers an opportunity for prayerful self-reflection. This is an appropriate summation of something we need to consider as we encounter those outside of the faith:

Being salt and light demands two things: we practice purity in the midst of a fallen world and yet we live in proximity to this fallen world. If you don’t hold up both truth in tension, you invariably becomes useless and separated from the world God loves.

Too often, it seems we forget that God loves those who have not yet encountered His grace as much as He loved us before we encountered it.

Grade: C+







At My savior’s Feet: A Bible Study

I started this study on Monday, and when I am done with it six weeks from now, I may or may not offer a review. It is an exploration of the parables of Jesus.

You may notice that it is logged under the category, “My friend wrote this book!”. That is because a friend of mine, a flesh and blood friend, is indeed one of its authors. I am excited to dive into this and re-establish a steady morning routine that includes times of study. I read Scripture regularly of course, but it’s been a while since I committed to a sustained time of independent study. This is exciting on two levels for me.

The official start date was Monday, and there is a small fee for the full study. However, if you click on the link above you can get a free abbreviated version of the study’s daily verses.

Hello Mornings is an excellent site for mothers of many or any woman who likes tips and suggestions for fitting time in the word into your daily routine whether you have 5 minutes or 50 to do so.

Y’all know I plug my friends’ work, so… just go take a look, huh?