Why Read the Bible?

That’s the question Pete Enns doesn’t answer (unless you are like him and get paid to read it).

He thinks biblical scholarship gives a good answer to the question, “what is the Bible.”

In the Bible, we read of encounters with God by ancient peoples, in their times and places, asking their questions, and expressed in language and ideas familiar to them. Those encounters with God were, I believe, genuine, authentic, and real. . . . All of us on a journey of faith encounter God from our point of view. . . we meet God as people defined by our moment in the human drama, products of who, where, and when we are. We ask our questions of God and encounter God in our time and place in language and ideas familiar to us, just like the ancient pilgrims of faith who gave us the Bible. . . . This Bible, which preserves ancient journeys of faith, models for us our own journeys. We recognize something of ourselves in the struggles, joys, triumphs, confusions, and despairs expressed by the biblical writers. ~ The Bible Tells Me So, pp. 23-24

But I read of encounters with reality, the sublime, the stuff God created, even religious inspiration in Shakespeare, Wendell Berry, and Orhan Pamuk. So why does one set of writings qualify as the Bible when we see so many “religious” “experiences” in so many other places?

This is why the higher critics, as hard headed as they appeared to be on the old theories of divine revelation, were still as sentimental as Sunday school students when it came to offering a reasonable account for the uniqueness of a certain set of religious writings by Jewish people over almost two millennia. Can you really put the Bible up again the Norton Anthology of British Literature unless you think it’s God’s infallible word?

10 thoughts on “Why Read the Bible?

  1. My youngest grandson (age 4) just recited these answers to WSC question 2 and 3 over FaceTime:

    Q. 2. What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?
    A. The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.

    Q. 3. What do the Scriptures principally teach?
    A. The Scriptures principally teach, what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.


  2. For heaven’s sake don’t ask Rome this question. You will get some nonsense about the Bible containing the Word of God without at all really being the same. It’s Barthian Balthasarianism, with a finger in the eye of Trent. Or Living Tradition, if you are faithful cool-aid drinkers.


  3. You’re the expert on American religious institutions. Tell me how this guy get hired and became a player in evangelical theology, while holding views from the liberal protestant handbook. Was there a cover-up at WTS? Or was he an inerrantist at first who sold out to the fads of the academy? What happened?

    Or is the problem that he, like Bart Ehrman, revealed in-group secrets to the out-group? In other words, it seems so-called conservative scholars much all the same doubts about the veracity of Scriptures as the liberals. (Did Jericho really fall? Did the sun really stand still in the sky? Did Moses really exist?) The difference is that conservatives never, ever express their opinions in public.


  4. and Why Read the Bible?

    G.K. Beale over at ligonier.org today: ” Well, if that’s true and we come to any part of Scripture, we can expect and should believe that we’re going to be transformed by living oracles. It’s not a dead word, these are living oracles.”

    Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

    In humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.

    Jesus: Isaiah 55:10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;11 So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.

    to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life.

    Other post: Every Square Inch is a Demanding Taskmaster: If more New Calvinists had read 2kers more than Tim Keller,

    If more New Calvinists (and everyone) read … (the Bible more)…


  5. He has written on his blog that his concern is for those Christians who lose their faith when their unrealistic views of the Bible falls apart. I’m skeptical of this claim – the mainline has embraced this line of thinking for the last ~150 or so years. Everywhere it has taken root, it has killed the faith. Are there really believers falling away from the faith because of the textual various among the synoptic accounts of Jesus’s statement about pouring new wine into old wine skins? I find that very, very unlikely and frankly his analysis of that text struck me as a classic example of trying to get into the mind of writers by imputing what the typical modern day scholar would have done.

    The larger problem of course is that Judaism and Christianity really are religions of the book. If the book ceases to be sacred, the religion is falsified. The NT makes claims for itself (e.g., 2 Peter 1, Heb 4, Eph 2, and our Lord’s own use of the OT) that are inconsistent with his claims here. In other words he is embracing a different religion from the one described in the NT. That’s fine I suppose, it’s a free country and all – people have invented mormonism, scientology, and so forth. But these are not Christianity. It is a funny way to rescue the Christian faith of wavering believers by introducing them to a different religion.


  6. Why is it easier to believe the Bible when it is man’s word instead of God’s?

    Personally, I see the Bible functioning more as a “means of grace” than as a “final reference point to produce theological certitude.” Through reading it, absorbing it, worshiping by it—in community—we are being tutored in the experience of God, who, at the end of the day, is not wholly perceived in even a sacred text.

    And to put it that way is not to denigrate scripture but to follow precisely what it models for us—a diverse spiritual narrative of struggle and triumph through which people meet and experience God.

    I believe that this experience of God is hindered if we place expectations on the Bible that, at least it seems to me, it was never intended to bear.

    That’s just as hard to swallow as biblical infallibility. At least with inerrancy, you get more for your believing buck.


  7. The overall point that we should put expectations on the Bible that it wasn’t intended to bear is sound. Enns problem is that he has no clue regarding the expectations that the Bible actually places on us, hence our claims of infallibility and inerrancy.

    The man, frankly, is a theological hack with a PhD.


  8. Pete doesn’t see emotionalism in himself only in evangelicals:

    2. Emotionally manipulative rhetoric to achieve the desired conclusion. This is related to #1.
    We see this at work when a debate begins with a loaded premise that biases the argument toward the desired conclusion. For example: “Brothers and sisters, we must be ever on guard to defend the Bible against those who seek to discredit it by claiming it is historically inaccurate.”

    Here we have an emotional appeal—almost shaming—that simple equates attacking the Bible with questioning its historically accuracy, i.e., anyone who really believes the Bible will not question the Bible on historical matters.

    The key here is to interrogate the premise “questioning = attacking” and to insist that the premise be defended, rather than simply accepted. If you question the premise, the discussion can potentially go in a different and helpful direction (provided both parties are willing to do so). But if this type of rhetoric is allowed to set the terms of “discussion,” there will be no discussion.


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