Reading the Bible: A Conversation with Peter Enns

If I had known Peter‘s birthday was Tuesday, I would have dropped this podcast then. After all, what better birthday gift for Pete than for our conversation to drop on the Interwebs!

You know he will agree.

The Bible Tells Me So

Jesus loves me.

In the 1860 novel, Say and Seal, the words of the song many of us grew up singing aimed to soothe a dying child. Not just a few adults today worry when they read certain parts of the Bible, and wonder how to make sense of it, does Jesus indeed love them questions and all.

Maybe you would dismiss this concern out of hand. Sure Jesus loves us, questions and all.

Yes, he does.

The real question is will my pastor, mentor, parent or peers love me when his or her interpretation is different. Rightly dividing the Word of Truth has come to be a shibboleth intended to enforce a new law. Jesus plus a preferential interpretation equals fellowship for many.

Could be you have never encountered such dispositions. Many of us have.

The Sin of Certainty

Take Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Each of the five contributors represents differing positions. Reading the different authors and their opinions the reader picks up an air of confidence from each one. It may even come across as certain.

Each writer, even if nuanced, finds the Bible to hold authority. How that gets meted out and what the particular writer views as a threat to that authority differ. Enns may suggest that is how the Bible works. In a recent video at Work of the People, Enns notes the Bible resists human control. One way control manifests itself, at least following Enns’ assertion, is the way human beings hold the Scripture and require certainty rather than faith.

People are to be loved not get bludgeoned by the Holy Book.

The Myth of Disrespect

Maybe you have been on the receiving end of that friend, fellow pastor, pastor or peer who accused you of a low view of Scripture, or a disrespect of the Word of God. One more illustration of bludgeoning with the Bible. None of the authors, though they have differing opinions about how or if inerrancy works, disrespects the Sacred Text.

Though we did not talk about it in this conversation, I think Enns’ reading would be something like Tremper Longman’s Christotelic hermeneutic. You would find this in Longman’s commentary on Ecclesiastes, The Book of Ecclesiastes (The New International Commentary on the Old Testament).

Enns’ proposal comes into full view when we talk about teaching the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, to children. In fact, he offers a guide for parents interested in how to teach children whose grasp of the abstract is not yet fully developed. You can find those resources here.

Though Pete thinks his podcast is the greatest on the Internet, throwing a little shade on all others, it does offer a resource for what he and his sidekick Jared Byas, The Bible for Normal People. One of the key things that resonated with me as I have followed Pete and engaged him in conversation – Pete to practices “faith seeking understanding” as he reads the Scriptures. In that, he follows in the footsteps of Anselm’s well-known motto.

If you find the podcast helpful, share it with your friends. Share it with your pastor friends as well as folks you know involved in leadership that touches on the pastoral. Also, consider heading over to iTunes, login, search for patheological and give us a five-star rating and a kind review.

About the Author
Husband to Patty. Daddy to Kimberly and Tommie. Grandpa Doc to Cohen, Max, Fox, and Marlee. Pastor to Snow Hill Baptist Church. Graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reading. Photography. Golf. Colorado. Jeeping. Friend. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as representing the corporate views of the church I pastor.