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.








The Selfishness of Others

fear of narcisissm

The Selfishness of Others: An Essay on the Fear of Narcissism, by Kristin Dombek. Published in 2016. 160 pages.

I found this bizarre little book at the library and read it in an evening. I didn’t know what to expect when I started it, and am still slightly unsure what the overarching message of this “Essay on the Fear of Narcissism” was supposed to be. There were a lot of interesting insights, and the author’s concern that the Internet has turned far too many people into armchair psychiatrists diagnosing everyone who ever hurt them with a personality disorder rings very true.

Dombek convincingly makes the case that far too often,  people are able to transform their pain, a universal human condition, into blame with the right keywords and a few choice clicks. Suddenly their all too normal friends, lovers and parents are possessed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder and they don’t have to own any of their own stuff.

She rightly ponders whether this desire to search out the evil in others (and the technological wherewithal to do it easily) is a problematic development. After all we can find others to empathize with us in an instant:

If you’re a herd animal, and prey, you need to be able to understand in a split second what to do: you mirror the other alpacas, not the wolves, and you run. P. 103

She also note show often the herd encourages other members, virtual strangers, to leave relationships despite not having any way of judging the accuracy of the information the “alpaca” is expressing concerns about. The craving for empathy is great:

At this point, the Internet bubbles creepily up at the edge of our view, above and below and all around us just beyond perception, glimpsed only briefly through the peephole of our devices, not some “superspreader” of individual narcissism, but a laboratory testing for empathy, even basic intraspecies recognition, at a scale and speed beyond which we have ever been capable. p.103

Smack in the middle of her treatise is the contrast of what women stumble upon when they begin these searches versus what men stumble upon. Women enter things such as “boyfriend turned cold” or “boyfriend rejected me” and are treated to comfort from fellow victims at sites such as the Narcissist Abuse Blog or How We Got Here. The number of websites and forums dedicated to comforting those whose lives have been shattered by this new “epidemic” of narcissism is massive.

In contrast and very tellingly, she asserts that men who enter the same keywords using “girlfriend” or “wife” instead of “boyfriend” or “husband” find themselves in the midst of the red pill sphere reading sites such as The Rational Male, Chateau Heartiste, or Alpha Game Plan. Sites, Dombek asserts, which teach men that in order to be the kind of men women want, they need to behave more like narcissists. While she has very little good to say about these sites or the men who frequent them, she does drop in a bit of reality; namely, that women do seem inexplicably drawn to the very men who send them clicking around online trying to find a reason why their suffering isn’t at all their fault.

She rounds out this little book with an in-depth look at both the original story of Narcissus, as well as an exploration of Freud’s studies which put NPD into the psychological forefront in the first place.

As I said at the start of this post, this book was strange, and it was pretty hard to get a firm read on what ultimate conclusions she had drawn.. To her credit however, she was clear on the fact that all this mass diagnosing of clinical personality dysfunction in response to things that are often the normal way of humans and how they behave in relationships is not a good development.

Grade: C (The writing was difficult to read at times).

Content advisory: Smatterings of profanity and very frank sex talk.

The Escape of Oney Judge

oney judge

The Escape of Oney Judge: Martha Washington’s slave finds freedom. Originally published in 2007. Hardcover, 32 pages.

The Escape of Oney Judge is a children’s book, which as the title indicates, recounts the story of the escape of the female slave of Martha Washington, wife of founding father and first president George Washington. Oney was the daughter of an enslaved seamstress named Betsy, and an English tailor indentured servant by the name of Andrew Judge.

There are more detailed and extensive literary accounts of Oney Judge’s story, but this is the book our 9-year-old picked up from the library on a recent trip. She has written two book reviews for this blog, but this is one she wasn’t quite sure how to review, so it falls to me.

It’s a good, balanced historical children’s book. Rather than engage in hyperbole and theatrics, it reveals the complicated relationships and emotional connections that developed between slaves -particularly house slaves- and their masters and mistresses.

In Oney’s case, the realization that when all was said and done, she was still property to be bought, sold, or gifted was the impetus for her dramatic escape and time of hiding. Despite the constant dread of being found and sent back into slavery, Oney Judge decided the rewards and hardships were well worth the risk.

This is a very good book for kids between 7-10. I chose that age range based not only on reading level, which is well in hand of a literate 10-year-old, but content.

This was the 2008 Bank Street Best Children’s book of the year.

Grade: A

Content advisory: Nothing to be alarmed about here, but it is a story about the intersection of slavery and our country’s most beloved founding father.



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-


The Gluten-free, Almond Flour Cookbook.

GF Almond flour cookbook

The Gluten-free, Almond Flour Cookbook, by Elena Amsterdam. Published in 2009. 144 pages.

I stumbled upon this one in our local library and it couldn’t have come at a better time. I have finally accepted the reality that at this stage of life[1], the white sugar and white flour have to be forever banished. Or at least relegated to the odd special occasion. Since special occasions seem to occur with startling regularity in this house, I have to take the further step of figuring out which times I’m willing to throw caution to the wind and eat the cake.

I had been grappling with how to make this adjustment, given that baking is a very big part of my life. I even brought a decent supplemental income for a couple of years selling my home baked wares. Our eldest is also quite the baker and is on the cusp of developing quite the entrepreneurial enterprise as a baker herself. In other words, around here gluten is more than just the protein found in wheat that makes the bread chewy and the cake stay together. It’s a major part of kitchen life. Because we thoroughly enjoy working with it, I was a little sad to say goodbye to baking as much as anything else.

Enter this little book by Elena Amsterdam, and baking (at least baking I can actually eat) re-entered my life in a snap. I haven’t tried every recipe in the book yet, but I have tried 5 and not one has been disappointing. That was enough for me to go ahead and offer a review and endorsement of the book. The second reason I felt comfortable with it is that my husband thoroughly enjoyed the flavor of both the pancakes and the pecan shortbread cookies, and he is not easily impressed. Because he has become increasingly less tolerant of high levels of sweetness, these recipes are a good fit for him as well.

The natural sweetness of the almonds means that only few tablespoons of agave nectar are used as the sweetener in most of the recipes. I haven’t made one of the cakes yet, but I will this weekend -I hope, as we have quite a full one ahead- but the frostings will require confectioners sugar, making them recipes with a higher level of sweetness.

The caveat here is that almond flour is expensive. I paid $13.95 at our local warehouse club for a three-pound bag and felt like I was getting a real deal. However, because I am making adjustments to my diet which are permanent and not a temporary fix, I don’t have a problem with making the investment. As far as I am concerned, almond flour is equivalent to gluten free GOLD for someone who loves to bake but wants to keep the white flour in their diet to a minimum.

Grade: A

[1] The dietary changes are not related to weight loss, but rather hormone balancing, and by that I mean hormones of all sorts: adrenal and thyroid as well as estrogen and progesterone. I may review a good book I read on the subject at a later date. I am giving it 30 days to see if the positive changes I am experiencing are more than just a fluke.


Is Marriage for White People?

marriage crisis book

Is Marriage for White People? How the African-American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone, by Ralph Richard Banks. Originally published in 2011. 304 pages.

When I first heard of this book, I decided that the title was so preposterous there was no way I could take it seriously, and dismissed it as something I would “never” read. This, even though I was well aware that marriage rates bottomed out in the black community, including the black middle class, decades ago. I was also well aware of the standard lines which are floated when the issue comes up.

As is usually the case however, I was perusing our local library’s shelves, the book grabbed my attention, and I picked it up. Turns out that the book’s title was actually derived from an interesting set of circumstances and revealed a perspective that I was interested in reading more about, so I continued to read the book through to its conclusion.

What started out as a potential scholarly book turned about one-fourth of the way through into a book dominated by the thoughts and testimonies of single, successful black women who for various reasons either 1) had never married or had children or 2) had disastrous marriages to black men whom they had compromised on key values and standards for the sake of being married.

While Banks did a fairly decent job at the beginning of his book of providing statistics, it wasn’t long before this tome morphed into a 300 page round of, “Where have all the good black men gone?” There was far too much ink given to the voices and opinions of black women and not enough to black men. What he did have to say about black men didn’t make them look very good, either.

The fact that the highest earning black men are more than twice as likely as their white counterparts to never marry tripped a series of thoughts in me that strikes at the heart of the black relationship dilemma. The reality is, according to Banks, that the one who has the most options outside the relationship has the most power in it. In other words, successful black men wield a lot of relationship market power. Of course, the Christian ideal leaves no room for “options outside the relationship” once commitment has been made, but this is not a Christian book.

It’s enough to make you cringe because it touches on the “soft harems” which are ubiquitous among single, successful black men and many not-so-successful black men. Banks even starts off one of his chapters with this well worn joke:

5 Rules for a Happy Life

  1. You should find a woman that helps you with the cleaning and the chores,
  2. You should find a woman that is a good cook,
  3. You should find a woman that you can trust and share your feelings with,
  4. You should find a woman that enjoys making love to you,
  5. Last and the most important thing is that these 4 women should never meet.


There is presently a fast-growing polygyny movement in the lower socioeconomic black community, which claims to be based on Biblical principles. In reality, it seeks to legitimize the sexual patholoogy that has torpedoed the black family over the past 60 years. Someone once suggested we look into this minister as he appeals to young black men who might be good prospects for our daughters. We’ll pass, thank you.

However, the fact that I have run across this “Pastor’s” name so often in recent years underscores how fast the movement is spreading. The men I have seen engaged in the lifestyle are largely ill-equipped to do it in any way similar to the Biblical patriarchs of old. Namely, they are broke and have their women working jobs. I don’t see how this serves black family formation. More than anything, it hastens its obliteration which is already well underway.

One of the things Banks gets right however, is that the black American community is just the beginning as lower marriage rates, higher illegitimacy, and increasing numbers of men and women of all races, whether by circumstance or choice, are eschewing marriage and procreation altogether. The rot is spreading, perhaps more slowly than in spread in the black community, but the numbers don’t lie, and Banks does an excellent job of parsing the numbers before he starts to run afield, getting distracted by the woeful tales of black women.

His  insistence that the key for successful black women is “marrying out” in order to stem the high tide of never married black women is not without merit, but it ignores the realities that come with being a high achieving woman of any race. Many look up from their years focused on accomplishment to realize she may have missed her opportunity to marry. He rightly notes, though briefly, that large numbers of black women due to the fluidity of range of attraction in the black community, hinder their ability to widen their marriage prospects by being overweight and not fully cognizant of its impact.

Despite its informative offerings, I found Banks’ book in no way encouraging to the single black women he sympathizes with so greatly, nor does it offer any incentive to the significant minority of black men who find marriage unappealing in a market where they hold all of the cards. On the contrary, it mildly chastises them for not giving their sistahs their due and doing right by them, which is not an incentive to marry.

As this relates to the Christian community, I have wondered if even those young people who love the Lord and do everything right won’t still find themselves increasingly in the situation that Jeremiah, Daniel, and the other members of the remnant who were; not spared from the fallout when the judgement for disobedience was meted out.

Grade: C. It started with a lot of potential but too quickly fell into the common trope of female sympathy without a corresponding counter-balance to get to the heart of why many marriageable black men find no appeal in the prospect of marrying black women before they hit middle age.