A thoughtful reader emailed me recently regarding my post entitled “Quandary.” The reader brought up the question of what Jesus would do in the present election. As it was already a subject revolving in my mind, I decided to get some thoughts down here. The problem with “WWJD” thinking is that it often simply evolves into what a person thinks anyway. Once I heard my two daughters surveying their extremely messy playroom, and one said, “I wonder what Jesus would do with this room.” “He’d…Continue Reading “WWJD and the Myth of a Christian Nation”

I’ve had a great experience reading this little book by John Eldredge aloud to my two daughters. Epic: The Story God is Telling and the Role that is Yours to Play takes up the question of why the most popular books and movies move us so deeply. Its answer? They follow the same pattern as the creation/redemption story which, Christians believe, defines the terms for understanding human experience. We recognize its themes and movements instinctively because we are born into this story, and it creates…Continue Reading “Epic”

So here I am, again, writing about The Bible Tells Me So — which I already reviewed here. I’ve continued mulling over the book, bothered by various things. I wanted to return and complete my earlier representation of my experience with it here. Basically, I think it reflects some degree of scholarly hubris on the part of its author, Peter Enns. I have a lot of respect for him, and I believe his intentions with the book are good and God-honoring. But the overall result…Continue Reading “The Bible Tells Me… What?”

More than once in The Bible Tells Me So, Peter Enns affirms the tradition of debate in Judaism. I wanted to offer an extended quotation toward the end of the book that captures that tradition. I love the picture it gives us of God:

A famous story from the Talmud, Judaism’s early medieval core text on Jewish faith and life, records a debate between rabbis. The debate is over whether an oven that has been made impure could be purified and used again.

The majority opinion was no but one rabbi, Eliezar, argued the opposite, but, alas, to no avail. Exasperated by his colleagues’ dim-wittedness, he challenged them with some miracles. If I am right, he said, may that tree over there move — whereupon the tree picked itself up and moved about the length of a football field. But the others weren’t convinced. They were certain their argument from the Bible was sure, and no moving tree was going to convince them otherwise.

Eliezar wouldn’t give up. He called a stream to reverse course and then the walls of the house to bend inward, but the others responded the same way. Finally, Eliezar asked whether hearing the heavenly voice of God himself would convince them, at which point the voice of God declared that Eliezar was absolutely right.

This didn’t work either. The others responded that God had already given his Torah on Mount Sinai. In that Torah we read that God’s commands are “not in heaven” but right here, available to all. God himself is bound by his own recorded words in Torah, and so even his heavenly voice can’t change that.

At hearing this, God laughed with delight. “My children have defeated me! My children have defeated me!”

This story illustrates something Judaism seems to have a good handle on but that many Christians do not: debating each other, and debating God, is what God wants. (Peter Enns, The Bible Tells Me So)

Peter Enns’ Evolution of Adam was one of my favorite reads of 2013. So I didn’t think twice about tackling his newer book The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It. This one has a similar purpose — recalibrating our expectations of the Bible. But it leaves me with a very different mixture of reactions. Like The Evolution of Adam, The Bible Tells Me So showcases Enns’ considerable knowledge of the Bible and skill with historical criticism. It…Continue Reading “Reflections on the Bible”

Elric had studied with the monks. He knew the gospels back and forth. He had the Psalms by heart… He sang in Latin, but, for me, he put them into speech I understood. “God keeps me as a shepherd keeps his flock. I want for nought,” he said. “I bleat with hunger, and he pastures me in meadows green. I’m thirsty, and he leads me forth to water cool and deep and still. He hoists me to my feet when I am weak. Down goodly…Continue Reading “23rd Psalm, Godric-style”

I’ve been musing over some things I read in the notes to my chronological Bible recently. They seemed to me to suggest a compelling parallel between post-exilic Jews and modern American Christians. In the transition into the book of Esther, the commentary points out that the book’s purpose was to encourage Jews living in a foreign land. “These Jews of the Diaspora (meaning “dispersion”) faced different pressures and different problems than those Jews who had returned to Palestine,” it explains. The religion of the Diaspora…Continue Reading “Diaspora”

I think I’m done writing out my questions and thoughts-in-process on this subject for awhile. (I’m actually taking a reading detour into an Elizabeth Goudge novel right now and leaving this pot to simmer in the back of my mind and heart.) But I want to record here a few of the relevant ideas and resources that I’ve come across in recent weeks. In the comments, some others have indicated similar questions, so I’m sharing these for anyone interested in checking them out. 1.) This…Continue Reading “Violence in the Bible: Some Useful Sources”

I wrote this post last week, and it’s been sitting in my drafts folder. It’s such a sensitive subject, and I am so very much “in process” in mulling over it. But I know that as my understanding grows, I’ll want to remember the stepping stones along the way, and this is one of them. I’m planning to follow up this post with another one that simply lists some recent sources I’ve found helpful. On to the post at hand… This week’s chapter of The…Continue Reading “Cosmic battle, human war”

I’ve been thinking about God sending the Israelites into the wilderness for 40 years to discipline them for their unbelief. On Sunday a picture of the desert was projected on a screen in church, and what struck me most was how utterly barren it was. There is no way the Israelites could provide anything for themselves. They couldn’t raise crops or pasture livestock. They couldn’t barter with the hostile neighbors for clothing. Yet we’re told that God provided manna to eat, water to drink, and…Continue Reading “Consider the lilies”