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

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

by Peter Enns


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Controversial evangelical Bible scholar, popular blogger and 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 rulebook 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 readers, 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 the Bible. Moving us beyond the damaging idea that “being right” is the most important measure of faith, Enns’s 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.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062686756
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 02/11/2020
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 119,357
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.68(d)

About the Author

Peter Enns is the Abram S. Clemens Professor of Biblical Studies at Eastern University, St. Davids, Pennsylvania. Enns speaks at schools, churches, and seminars across the country and is a frequent contributor to journals and encyclopedias. He is the author of several books, including The Sin of Certainty, The Bible Tells Me So, Inspiration and Incarnation, and The Evolution of Adam.

Table of Contents

Maps and Timeline

A Divided Promised Land ix

Pete's Pretty Close Timeline of Biblical History xi

Route of the Babylonian Exile xii

1 The Bible's True Purpose

Oh Good. Another Book on the Bible 3

Three Surprising Things That Make the Bible Worth Reading 5

God's Plan A: Wisdom 9

God Is Not a Helicopter Parent 13

You Are Not Alone 15

2 The Bible Doesn't Really Tell Us What to Do-and That's a Good Thing

Screwing Up Your Kids Biblically 23

Fools and Finances 28

My Big Point, and Then an Even Bigger Point 35

And an Even Bigger (and Final) Point 38

The Little and Hidden Things 44

3 God's Laws: Evasive and Fidgety Little Buggers

Some Details Would Be Nice, O Lord 51

Maybe You Didn't Hear Me: I Want Clarity 56

Don't Forget Your PIN 59

Laws Don't Stand Still for Very Long 63

Not to Beat a Dead Lamb, but … 65

Transposing the Past 69

4 Wisdom = Time + Diversity

Changing the Script 75

The Most Important Part of the Book Thus Far 78

This Part Is So Exciting! 82

You Were There 86

Peel Me a Sour Grape of Wrath 89

5 When Everything Changes

Rachel Is Weeping for Her Children 97

Don't Put God in a Box, Unless You Want to Be Swallowed by a Fish 102

Rewriting History 107

6 What is God Like?

The Universe Freaks Me Out 117

The God of the Bible 120

The Wisdom Question for All of Us 123

We're Stuck Being Human 126

7 Imagining and Reimagining God

You Mean to Tell Me That Actually Worked? 135

Banking Options 136

What Does God Have to Be Jealous About? 139

Tiptoeing Around the Touchy Almighty 144

8 Interlude: Jesus and All That

God Is_(Fill in the Blank) 153

It's What Christians Do 155

Does Your God Recycle? 157

9 Seriously Updating the Ancient Faith

Adapting to Survive 163

Standing on a Table Covered in Syrup with My Hair on Fire 166

We Need to Get This in Writing 169

Dealing with an Inconsistent (and Somewhat Ridiculous) God 173

God's Honor Is at Stake 179

Angels and Demons 183

Not Your Father's Judaism 186

10 Treasures Old and New

German Christmases and French Drains 193

Something About Jesus That Doesn't Get the Attention It Deserves 197

Jesus, Wisdom from God 202

Think About It: Four Gospels 205

11 Reimagining God the Jesus Way

Just Hear Me Out 215

Paul Reimagines the God of Moses 218

Going Off Script 222

1 Temple Avenue, Back Room, Jerusalem 225

This Land Is My Land 230

Children of Abraham 234

12 Dying and Rising for Others

What Is God Up To? 241

No, Seriously, What Is God Up To? 246

13 Figuring It Out

Reading Someone Else's Mail 253

Does God Influence Elections? Dear Lord, I Hope Not 256

Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals: No Big Deal, Nothing to See Here 260

14 Grace and Peace to You

The God of the Here and Now 271

The Challenge of Wisdom 275

Acknowledgments 278

Scripture Index 281

Subject Index 284

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