Today we continue blogging through Pete Enns’s new book on the Bible.
As I’ve said in our recent posts on The Bible and the Believer, one of my tasks this year will be to work on answering two questions that Pete raises regularly in his writings and podcasts:
- What is the Bible?
- What is the Bible for?
It is that second question which this book addresses. Countering popular notions of why God gave us the Bible and what it is designed to do in our lives, Pete offers an alternative vision of how the Bible actually “works.”
Rather than providing us with information to be downloaded, the Bible holds out for us an invitation to join an ancient, well-traveled, and sacred quest to know God, the world we live in, and our place in it. Not abstractly, but intimately and experientially. (p. 10)
Rather than providing “clear teaching” that leads us to indisputable “answers” (a notion easily dismissed when one considers the variety of contrasting interpretations the Bible has produced) or a “rulebook,” or an “instruction manual” that give plain, unambiguous guidance for the many situations with which life presents us, Enns’s reading of scripture leads him to suggest it is designed for another purpose.
The Bible is designed to lead us to wisdom.
Wisdom is about the lifelong process of being formed into mature disciples, who wander well along the unscripted pilgrimage of faith, in tune to the all-surrounding thick presence of the Spirit of God in us and in the creation around us.
…the Bible is a book of wisdom rather than prescripted answers, and inviting us to accept the sacred responsibility of pursuing wisdom and thereby learning to live well in God’s creation. (pp. 11-12)
This means, to use an illustration from the book, that God is not a “helicopter parent,” giving us the Bible as an exhaustive information source and instruction manual and then hovering over us every second to make sure we are following its clear directions. And solving every little problem for us along the way so that we stay on the right path.
If God were that parent, the Bible would not look and act at all the way it does.
When we are too committed to harboring and sheltering our familiar false expectations, the Bible itself has a wonderful knack of disrupting those expectations, challenging our categories, and, if need be, agitating our complacency. And the Bible does this simply by—I will say it again—being its ancient, ambiguous, and diverse self, oblivious to our expectations, so ill-suited as a field guide for faith, so reluctant to be co-opted by our questions and the agendas that drive them. (pp. 15-16)
As Pete Enns reminds us, God has given us the Bible “to invite us to explore, ponder, reflect, muse, discuss, debate, and in doing so work out a life of faith—not to keep that hard work from happening.” (p. 20)