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How the Bible Actually Works

In Which I Explain How an Ancient, Ambiguous, and Diverse Book Leads Us to Wisdom Rather Than Answers - and Why That's Great News
Auteur(s): Peter Enns
Narrateur(s): Peter Enns
Durée: 7 h et 53 min
4.5 out of 5 stars (12 évaluations)

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Description

Controversial evangelical Bible scholar, popular blogger, podcast host of The Bible for Normal People, and author of The Bible Tells Me So and The Sin of Certainty explains that the Bible is not an instruction manual or rule book but a powerful learning tool that nurtures our spiritual growth by refusing to provide us with easy answers but instead forces us to acquire wisdom.

For many Christians, the Bible is a how-to manual filled with literal truths about belief that must be strictly followed. But the Bible is not static, Peter Enns argues. It does not hold easy answers to the perplexing questions and issues that confront us in our daily lives. Rather, the Bible is a dynamic instrument for study that not only offers an abundance of insights but provokes us to find our own answers to spiritual questions, cultivating God’s wisdom within us.

“The Bible becomes a confusing mess when we expect it to function as a rule book for faith. But when we allow the Bible to determine our expectations, we see that Wisdom, not answers, is the Bible’s true subject matter,” writes Enns. This distinction, he points out, is important because when we come to the Bible expecting it to be a textbook intended by God to give us unwavering certainty about our faith, we are actually creating problems for ourselves. The Bible, in other words, really isn’t the problem; having the wrong expectation is what interferes with our reading.

Rather than considering the Bible as an ancient book weighed down with problems, flaws, and contradictions that must be defended by modern listeners, Enns offers a vision of the holy scriptures as an inspired and empowering resource to help us better understand how to live as a person of faith today.

How the Bible Actually Works makes clear that there is no one right way to read or listen to the Bible. Moving us beyond the damaging idea that “being right” is the most important measure of faith, Enns’ freeing approach to Bible study helps us to instead focus on pursuing enlightenment and building our relationship with God - which is exactly what the Bible was designed to do.

©2019 Peter Enns (P)2019 HarperCollins Publishers

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  • Au global
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Adam Shields
  • 2019-03-08

The subtitle matters

I first read Peter Enns in 2011 as part of a discussion of his Inspiration and Incarnation. I was very frustrated with the book. But after processing and in context of spending about a year reading about and thinking about hermeneutics, I basically agree with his main points. The three follow up books to that, all more focused on the lay reader than the academic reader, have been helpful.

I think How The Bible Actually Works is where I would suggest most people start with Enns and his project. In an overly simplistic summary, Enns is suggesting that the best way to read the bible is to pay attention to how it works internally and historically and how early readers read it. And that means we acknowledge that the bible speaks with diverse voices. That it is often ambiguous and sometimes contradictory. And that the point is not to give us clear rules of life, but to help teach us wisdom.

“Reading the situation—not simply the Bible—is what wisdom is all about. It’s also, as we’ll see, what the life of faith is about. Sometimes it’s best to answer a fool, sometimes not. Which option is best at this unscripted moment depends on all sorts of factors that are impossible to anticipate, and so each time I read a nasty comment, I have to decide in the moment what the best way forward is in this situation.”

Like Enns’ other books, I think How the Bible Actually Works is going to be misread by many. First, the title is tongue in cheek. There is a lot of humor in the book. Enns’ podcast is called, “The Bible for Normal People” with the tagline, “The only God ordained podcast”.

Second, while Enns is trying to help the reader think about the bible differently, he is not reducing the bible to only wisdom literature or as in the quote below, reducing Jesus to just a sage. He is introducing those ideas, not reducing them to only those ideas.

If Jesus’s main goal were to be crystal clear, he wouldn’t have introduced thick layers of ambiguities and possible misunderstandings. But that’s what he did. Because he is a sage.

Enns is focusing on the bible as wisdom because it has for much of the last couple centuries been looked at as a rule book with very simple straight answers or a history book with a modern understanding of history, or a pro-science book. To counter that narrative, Enns is focusing on the wisdom aspects. At the start of Fleming Rutledge’s book Crucifixion, she talks about the importance of Historical-Grammatical work on scripture. But she also talks about how, now that we have introduced those aspects to the conversation, we need to return to the theological reading of scripture. I think that is really what Enns is doing here.

Because I have read three previous books by Enns. And because I have read quite a bit about hermeneutics more generally, this was a very quick read, or actually listen. Enns is narrating the audiobook and his humor and lightness come through well. This was a book I could put on in the background while I did chores. But I do think that for people that are less familiar with either Enns or hermeneutics it will be more challenging.

I do not agree with all of Enns conclusions. But I do think that the larger point, that Christianity is to teach maturity and wisdom, not rule following, is right. But that point necessarily means that we will not end up with the same solutions because we have different thought processes once we start working through the issues.

I also think that you really need his book The Sin of Certainty along with How the Bible Also Works. The Sin of Certainty focuses on trusting Christ and loving others as the primary call. This does not mean he views doctrine as unimportant, but that doctrine (knowledge) apart from practice in love distorts what Christianity is about. I think the Sin of Certainty will balance some of the focus here and to move the conversation from the individual to the communal.

What Enns is pushing us toward is maturity. Maturity is about obligation to others, not just freedom. Mature adults know that while their own desires and needs are not unimportant, that they have an obligation to both their (or other) children and their community. Reading scripture through the eyes of wisdom, in the pursuit of virtue and character, for the service of others, rooted in love, is a call to maturity.

16 personnes sur 16 ont trouvé cette évaluation pertinente

  • Au global
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Histoire
    5 out of 5 stars
  • RECESS LAUGHTER
  • 2019-02-19

Love hearing the author read his own book!

I first stumbled upon Peter Enns in connection with his Telling God’s Story series for children, which I really appreciated. Rather than first introducing our children to strange (although familiar to many of us) and difficult to understand Bible stories from the Old Testament, his reasoning went, let’s introduce them to Jesus, the way any other Gentile would have started out. My husband and I used these books with our children, started reading Pete’s other books for adults, and have been following him ever since. I don’t always agree with him, and I sometimes think he leaves big questions (of mine!) unanswered, but I have always appreciated what he adds to my understanding of the Bible and my walk with God.
I was pleased to be included in the launch team for How the Bible Actually Works, which meant I received a free advanced copy. I have happily scribbled in the margins all the way through to the end, on the eve of the actual release of the book, and have concluded that it’s well worth reading, for all sorts of reasons.
Today I purchased the Audible version, because the voice Pete uses as an author is very much particular to him—jokes, sarcasm, and all—and I thought it would be nice to hear him read it.
Enns says, “This book is for the frustratedly Christian—who have seen that the Bible doesn’t meet the expectations they have been taught to cling to and who are having trouble seeing a better way forward.
“This book is for the barely Christian—who are hanging on to some semblance of faith because they are worn out from having to defend a rule-book Bible.
“This book may even be for the formerly Christian—who have had the courage to leave their faith behind when it ceased having any explanatory power for their reality because of what they were taught the Bible had to be.”
Interestingly, I don’t consider myself to fall into any of these categories, and yet I still think the book was for me. (It was also a bit of an eye-opener to consider what this intended audience may have experienced.) I find it completely fascinating and compelling that God would give us a book, of all things, written by humans in particular times and places, through which we can get to know him better. I mean, humans use language and write books all the time. We love stories. It’s so interesting to me that the Bible is so layered and multifaceted—that people were writing for audiences and with intentions that they understood, and yet God was moving through them at the same time. And for thousands of years people have been reading, re-reading, debating, and making sense of it all, in different ways. I find it exciting and mysterious, and endlessly rich and fruitful to study the Bible and think about these things.
According to Enns, the Bible is ancient, ambiguous, and diverse, and rather than being “rough patches” to “deal with,” those attributes are “what makes the Bible worth reading at all.” I heartily agree.
In How the Bible Actually Works, Enns makes a potentially dense topic accessible, intriguing, and even fun. He’s a good teacher. He doesn’t sew everything up, nice and neat, but he raises important and compelling issues, and lets us in on his current thinking. I’m already looking forward to his next book.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Grant S Buse
  • 2019-03-01

Great reading from the author

I really loved this book for both the content and performance. The way Pete Enns reads his thoughts aloud is very well done. i love his humor and how he delivers it even in the midst of very serious and important subject matter.

1 personnes sur 1 ont trouvé cette évaluation pertinente

  • Au global
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • JMW
  • 2019-07-31

Engaging and Misleading

I really liked Peter narrating his own book. He did a great job making his text sound like a conversation, and I appreciate that.

The content of the book is troubling. There is so much that could be said, but I'll just leave one comment and let other attentive Christians think for themselves. Peter seems to be holding on to the view that human culture and experiences often trump the very words of the Bible.

Seems more like a book out of his cultural moment than a historical one.

2 personnes sur 3 ont trouvé cette évaluation pertinente

  • Au global
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Utilisateur anonyme
  • 2019-08-23

reimagining or rediscovering?

I just finished reading Peter Enns book "How the Bible Actually Works." I like it (hence the 4 stars). Enns has done his homework and brings up many valuable points that need to be considered today. At the end of the book, thankfully, he even identifies Jesus as the "highpoint of Christianity," which, honestly, it wasn't quiet clear where he stands reading the book until then.

Peter Enns keeps using the phrase "reimagine God in the here and now." He says that we as believers have the responsibility to seek wisdom to reimagine God in our current time. Again, I actually do like a lot of things Peter says in the book (besides his supersessionist claims in chapter 11 and his lack of promoting our dependency on the Holy Spirit as the primary source for wisdom). After some pondering, however, I still don't like the word "reimagine." It has the connotation of creating a God that fits my individual imagination. I would rather use the phrase "rediscover God in the here and now." God is God regardless if I see it or not. Nevertheless, different cultural circumstances require me to not stay on the surface but seek for wisdom and revelation from above, and not from within only, to rediscover God for my generation. That can be a painful process, especially if generational revelation clashes with each other. But that reality should never discourage us from going after the rediscovery of the God of old in the here and now. I'm not shaping God, or creating a god that fits comfortably in my cultural context, but I am living in a cultural context and I'm required, out of that context, to rediscover who God is, and how He relates to us (which, of course, requires an understanding of the context in which the Bible was written). This rediscovery only happens when we approach it with a poverty of spirit (Matthew 5:2), humility, teachability, and in the context of the greater Christian tradition, community, and the relentless pursuit of the truth.

To me, this is more than just a matter of semantics. I just simply refuse to believe that the survival of Christianity, or even the survival of God, depends on my ability to reimagine, or shape God in some new way. God is God, and the God of the Bible is the creator, the initiator, the one who gave me the ability to live within the context a reality. He is the one who shapes me and not the other way around. The problem starts when I hold onto the past, traditions, my own ideas, individualistic drive, or any of that, more than walking with God in humility, teachability, open ears, open heart, and open mind for Him to continue to shape me and, for the matter, the greater Christian Community.

I suspect, that one of the reasons why we have a few (not many, like some suppose), primarily young people (even high prolific leaders) struggling or even leaving their faith, is because in some traditions of Christianity this rediscovering of God has been rendered merely impossible because of certain theological convictions, traditional parameters, and unexplained or unscrutinized value systems. My job, however, is not to blame anybody or any conviction, but it is to look at my children and the people under my influence and see how I can help them discover, or rediscover, this great and mighty God.

See, reimagining is easy and can lead to conclusions faster. A rediscovery takes effort, digging, relentless seeking, the realization that we as believers really do need each other, and a continuous re-evaluation if what I discovered is actually the real thing. Maybe one of the reasons why some people fall away from the faith today is because we had too much reimagining happening and less rediscovery. A reimagining of God can likely lead to the false notion of the dispensability of God; "I actually don't need some God telling me what to do." God defies individualistic reimagining. However, an earnest rediscovery of the vastness, the power, the holiness, the justice, the reality of God always leads naturally and intelligibly to a full surrender and a realization of my need for a savior. I am in need of knowledge of God, not of my own imagined version of Him. Even Paul, in Ephesians 1, encourages us to not use our own imagination to form a version of God but to go after the spirit of wisdom, revelation, and knowledge of God:

"May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.
Ephesians 1:17‭-‬19 NASB

The reimagining that Enns described seems to have a lot more to do with historical circumstances and people's creativity in the moment to shape a god that fits the time, than with divine revelation that is shaping us.

Eph 3:21 says the glory belongs to God throughout all generations. He wants to be known and rediscovered by every generation. Re-imagining God puts the emphasis on me and my ability to shape a god that fits my cultural context. Rediscovering God as He is, and as He reveals Himself, gives glory to Him and His wonderful and undeserved generosity in His self-revelation.

Nevertheless, I want to be teachable myself and seek more wisdom, as Enns encourages his readers to do (unfortunately without really pointing us to any real source for it), in order to have growing understanding. I know that my view of things, including God, has expanded (I'm intentionally using this word) compared to when I was younger. Perhaps that's all Enns refers to when he says we ought to seek wisdom and reimagine God.

  • Au global
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Amazon Customer
  • 2019-08-22

takes verses out of context.

I have to stop listening because the author is taking bible verses out of context. if you really want to explain the bible, use the original meaning from the Hebrew or Greek. example discipline your child. author said this is child abuse. however the word could be interchanged with disciple hence gives the means of teachin them n or disciple them not physical abuse.

the other reference was train up a child in the way they should go. this again does not mean to force a child into learning what you want them to but it means to teach them in they way they are bent, or the way they are made. if you teach them in their learning style. understand them and work with the way they are, dont try to force them to be something they are not. this is the meaning.

1 personnes sur 2 ont trouvé cette évaluation pertinente

  • Au global
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Histoire
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Pete Sutton
  • 2019-08-16

Peter Enns should read more audiobooks.

Peter Enns should read more audiobooks: great voice, pace, delivery and articulation... and the book was fantastic!

  • Au global
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Ryan H Price
  • 2019-07-27

Great perspective and easy to listen to

A really well written explanation of historical Christianity’s understanding of how the Bible works. Easy and enjoyable to listen to.

  • Au global
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Jessica Short
  • 2019-07-22

Taking the Bible seriously

Enns does it again. He advocates taking the Bible seriously enough to think about what it means to us today. In other books, Enns talks about obvious "problematic" scriptures that keep us from imposing simplistic, legalistic views on the Bible. Okay. Great. So how should we understand the Bible? Enns tackles this question by saying that the Bible is a book of wisdom, and that we need to use wisdom when applying its teachings.

  • Au global
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Marshall C
  • 2019-06-03

Authoritative wisdom, not authoritarian answers!

Peter Enns tells us that the way to find our “answers” from the Bible is not by treating it as an external rule book of dos and don’ts, but as a way to discover your own internal wisdom re: any given present day situation, and yet (hopefully) without having to guess whether or not it is from God.