"The Bible isn’t a cookbook,” explains theologian Peter Enns in his latest book, The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It. “When we open the Bible and read it, we are eavesdropping on an ancient spiritual journey.”
Your response to those two sentences will probably determine your overall response to the book. If you’re sick of seeing the Bible as a legal, formulaic, contractual book of rules and recipes—if you prefer the idea of a complex, challenging story full of puzzles, paradoxes, and plot development—then you will probably love it. If you already know that the Bible isn’t a cookbook, wonder whether anyone really thinks it is, feel like you’ve heard dozens of writers making this point before, and roll your eyes involuntarily at phrases like “ancient spiritual journey,” then you probably won’t.
Personally, I find myself somewhat torn. I really like reading Peter Enns. He is creative, scholarly, witty, and at times hilarious. His writing is easy to understand, and he lays out his case clearly. And despite his troubled personal history with conservative evangelicalism, he critiques it without rancor. More important, although the overall message of the book—that the Bible isn’t a rulebook—is a somewhat overdone attack on a straw-man, his seven chapters each make important points evangelicals have often missed.
Those points, in brief: The Bible is, and functions like, an ancient book (chapter 1). God lets his children tell the story, and what they mean isn’t always what we assume it means (chapter 2). The Old Testament narrates different stories in different ways, with specific circumstances ...