As I grow older, my views on the Bible have shifted. Some of my views are similar to what Enns discusses below. I don’t think the Bible is meant to be a rule book for each and every situation in life, as a lot of conservative evangelicals treat it.
Feb 20, 2019
The Bible isn’t a rule book, an instruction manual, or a road map, says Peter Enns, a Hebrew Bible scholar and the host of the popular podcast The Bible for Normal People.So what is it?Something more complicated but infinitely better, as he explains in his thought-provoking new book 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.
RNS: I loved this book, which seems to be about the importance of honest wrestling with the Bible. You focus here on the Bible as a model of situational wisdom: what it teaches is not always consistent from one situation to another, and our job is to figure out how to navigate that.
Enns: In this book I take a more constructive approach than in my other books, which focused on deconstructing some points of view about the Bible that are very problematic.
I’m trying show what the Bible’s antiquity, ambiguity, and diversity tell uspositively how the life of faith is more like a quest for wisdom than following a road map or book of instructions.
The Bible doesn’t work well as an owner’s manual that lays out for us what to do or think at every turn. It is holding out to us the invitation to accept the sacred responsibility going forward and working things out.
…RNS: You say that this kind of contradiction [how the Bible presents different, contradictory rules about slave holding among the ancient Hebrew people] is not a mistake but a model: the Bible itself is modeling for us how people need to reinterpret the law with every passing generation in a changing society.
Enns: Right. These changes in laws—all believed to have been given by God on Mt. Sinai, mind you—demonstrate that obeying God isn’t simply a matter of “obeying the law” but of thinking through what it means to obey God as circumstances change. More than simply being about changing views on slavery, we are seeing here different ways of thinking about what God is like, and what God expects from us in treating others.
These laws are not meant to be awkwardly reconciled, as if deep down they are actually saying the same thing, but respected as telling us something about how the Bible works. These laws contradict, and saying so is not an attack on the Bible but an acknowledgment of what is there. These contradictions are characteristics I embrace, and I actually think they are what make the Bible worth reading because they push us to think for ourselves, “Okay, what does it mean to obey God here and now?”
You can read the rest of that on RNS