Reviewed by Conor Johnson | August 20, 2018
A number of years ago I overheard an interesting conversation at my local Starbucks. From what I could gather, it seemed that a sincere Christian was struggling to field questions from an ardent atheist: How can you take the Bible seriously when there are inconsistencies within it? How can you trust a God that would command genocide? Partly I was tempted to chime in, but truthfully, I didn’t have great answers to the questions myself.
Fast-forward a few years when I stumbled upon this snippet from Peter Enns’s book The Bible Tells Me So regarding the Israelite conquest of Canaan: “God never told the Israelites to kill the Canaanites. The Israelites believed God told them to kill the Canaanites.”
Whoa. As a then twenty-something raised in the “where is it written” ways of the Covenant Church, I was alarmed by this assertion—yet my interest was piqued. A short Amazon one-click purchase later, Enns’s book was at the top of my reading list. Unfamiliar with his work, I sat down to read the book, half-wondering if he would go the way of Bart Ehrman, a biblical scholar whose difficulty reconciling problems in what he thought was inerrant text led him to agnosticism.
Hardly. While Enns takes on difficult questions that too often get swept under the rug in our churches and Bible studies, he is in no way a deconstructionist simply looking to ruin our favorite Sunday-school stories. Rather, it is evident throughout the book that he believes the best respect we can demonstrate for Scripture is to be willing to ask honest questions of it and the culture in which it sprang. As he says, “The Bible looks the way it does because God ‘lets his children tell the story,’ so to speak.”
The Bible Tells Me So takes on a number of hermeneutically sticky biblical issues: Old Testament violence, the historicity of events as presented in Scripture, and inconsistencies between the gospel narratives. These topics are dealt with at a very accessible level and help to demonstrate a model of interpretation in which we, as readers, lower the red flags that sometimes (okay, often) go up when we feel the need to defend the sacred Book.
Through it all, Enns displays an easygoing, humorous writing style that works in his favor, given the touchy subject that is biblical inspiration and interpretation. One gets the sense that Enns, a baseball fan whose love of the sport is sprinkled throughout the book, would put up more of a fight over, say, the designated hitter rule than he would over how aligned you are with his thesis.
Anyone who takes Scripture seriously would benefit from this book, especially those who have perhaps felt the need to “defend” the Bible from attack, along with those who have difficult, unanswered questions about the text. You may have some of your views challenged, as this reviewer did, but you’ll never have so much fun doing so.