The Bible has much to say about its own purpose and authority. Among the most famous passages in this vein is 2 Timothy 3:16–17, where Paul writes, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
For Matthew Mullins, associate professor of English and history of ideas at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, verses like these are indispensable guides for how believers should read God’s Word. But the trouble comes, he argues, from an overly narrow conception of words like teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training that can tempt us to treat the Bible purely as an instruction manual for what to believe and how to behave.
In Enjoying the Bible: Literary Approaches to Loving the Scriptures, Mullins shows how the Bible’s method of instruction touches both the head and the heart. It works, in other words, much like poetry and other types of literature, informing our minds and stirring our emotions in ways that can’t be completely untangled. Jessica Hooten Wilson, an author and University of Dallas scholar specializing in theology and literature, spoke with Mullins about poetry as a gateway to greater enjoyment of God and his Word.
Who are you hoping to reach with this book?
I’m trying to reach anyone who might say, “I want to pick up this ancient, diverse, awesome text and enjoy my reading of it.” I’m writing to my Christian evangelical students and friends—people who, like myself, tend to think of the purpose of Scripture in a way that privileges information and instruction above enjoyment.
And if I’m being honest, I’m ...1
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Reading God’s Word like a Poem, Not an Instruction Manual
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