The Bible Tells Me So, Chapter 1: I’ll Take Door Number Three

When the Bible Doesn’t Behave

  • Enns begins by writing about how many have been taught about the bible. Does what he describes match what you were taught?
  • Some recent movies have provided a remake of some of the commonly known stories in the Bible (Noah, Exodus). What do you think the making of these movies have to say about how society currently views the Bible?
  • After referring to how Israel occupied their new homeland, the land of Canaan, Enns writes, “The God of the universe often comes across like a tribal warlord.” Enns goes on to ask:
    • What are we supposed to do with a Bible like this?
    • What are we supposed to do with a God like this?
  • “The Bible can become a challenge to one’s faith in God rather than the source of faith, a problem to be overcome rather than the answer to our problems.” (location 139, second to the last paragraph of this section)

The Bible Isn’t the Problem

  • Has anyone experienced “Bible induced” stress as described by Enns?
  • “The problem is coming to the Bible with expectations it’s not set up to hear.”
  • “What if God is actually fine with the Bible just as it is without needing anyone to stand guard over it? … Maybe this Bible has something to show us about our own sacred journey of faith, and maybe God wants us to wander off the beach blanket to discover what that is.” (location 183)

My Life, in Brief, and Such as It Is

  • “If I’m going to do this Jesus thing, I’m going to know what I’m talking about.”

Concerning Camel’s Backs and Beach Balls

  • Writing about his conservative seminary days: “But looking back, it seems we were all caught up in a system that exerted a deep, subliminal pressure on its members to conform — a system that apparently couldn’t hold it together without exercising some serious information control” (location 265)
  • “I was also beginning to mourn the fact that my life, filled with church, Christian college, and even seminary, produced a set of beliefs that could so quickly melt away simply by paying attention to a few lectures and reading some books over the course of a few months.”
  • “Shifting my thinking on the Bible did not mean I was losing my faith in God.”
  • How did the Israelites get water in their forty-year desert journey between Rephidim and Kadesh? The Bible never tells us. Some Jewish interpreters came up with the idea that the rock at the beginning and end was the same rock, and obviously it followed the Israelites around in the desert for forty years.
  • 1 Corinthians 10:4
  • “I swung my knapsack over my shoulder and said — and this is an exact quote — ‘Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.'”

Door Number Three

  • Door number one: I could ignore what I just heard that day in Sanders Theatre
  • Door number two: I could take the door my tradition expected of me, which is to push back against what I just heard.
  • Door number three: I could face what I just saw, accept the challenge, and start thinking differently about the Bible.
  • “I needed to learn (apparently the hard way) that trusting God is not the same thing as trusting the Bible — let alone my own ideas about the Bible.” (location 355)

So What’s My Point?

  • “My goal for this book, then, is to assure people of faith that they do not need to feel anxious, disloyal, unfaithful, dirty, scared, or outcast for engaging these questions of the Bible, interrogating it, not liking some of it, exploring what it really says, and discerning like adult readers what we can learn from it on our own journey of faith.”
  • What do you feel about the three big controversial issues that Enns describes in this section? (location 413)

The First Book of 2015

We will start 2015 by reading “The Bible Tells Me So… Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable To Read It” by Peter Enns. Enns currently teaches courses on the Old and New Testaments at Eastern University, and previously taught at Westminster Theological Seminary, Harvard University, Princeton Theological Seminary, Fuller Theological Seminary, Lutheran Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), Biblical Theological Seminary, and Temple University.

Enns blogs at


Trained as an evangelical Bible scholar, Peter Enns loved the Scriptures and shared his devotion, teaching at Westminster Theological Seminary. But the further he studied the Bible, the more he found himself confronted by questions that could neither be answered within the rigid framework of his religious instruction or accepted among the conservative evangelical community.

Rejecting the increasingly complicated intellectual games used by conservative Christians to “protect” the Bible, Enns was conflicted. Is this what God really requires? How could God’s plan for divine inspiration mean ignoring what is really written in the Bible? These questions eventually cost Enns his job but they also opened a new spiritual path for him to follow.

The Bible Tells Me So chronicles Enn’s spiritual odyssey, how he came to see beyond restrictive doctrine and learned to embrace God’s Word as it is actually written. As he explores questions progressive evangelical readers of Scripture commonly face yet fear voicing, Enns reveals that they are the very questions that God wants us to consider — the essence of our spiritual study.

Idolatry of God, Chapter 9: Want to Lose Belief? Join the Church

If you were a participant in Case Study 1: Fundamentalism, what would you take away, or how would you feel?

What do you think is the point of Case Study 2?

Re-written Nicene Creed on page 191

What is the point of Case Study 3?

Page 200: “I hope you will think of this book as a box of matches and these closing words as a plea to go and start some fires of your own. Fires that will burn away the Idols we so tightly hold on to, fires that will melt away the false certainties that we clothe ourselves in, fires that will keep us warm as we go about the difficult task of facing up to our anxieties, accepting the mystery of life, and embracing the world in love.”

Idolatry of God, Chapter 8: Destroying Christianity and Other Christian Acts

In terms of religion every theistic system can be seen to have its atheistic opposite. There are as many atheisms as there are theisms.

Would you find value in Atheism for Lent or Omega Course?

We are confronted with a more disconcerting type of mystery. Not a mystery that lies beyond the world we understand but a mystery that lies within it.

Idolatry of God, Chapter 7: I Need Your Eyes in Order to See Myself

What will a community, the Church, that seeks to enter in to and remain faithful to a way of life free from the relentless pursuit of certainty and satisfaction look like?

When we take a step back and look at our actions, do we not find that we stay mainly with those people who think like us?

When we accept our unknowing and brokenness, we are not weakening our faith, we are boldly expressing it.

How do you think you would react if you participated in the Last Supper and Evangelism Project?

Idolatry of God, Chapter 6: The Fool Says in His Heart, “There Is Knowing God”

The only way to break from our attachment to idolatry and the addiction to certainty is a change at the very core of our being, something that the apostle Paul called becoming a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Have you felt faced with the similar two choices as Finn (the new christian) on pages 122/23 when starting to question the beliefs once taken for granted?

  • Either leave the church or repress your questioning and insulate yourself from the outside world.

“It is not when we reject the Idol that we are freed from it but rather when we are directly confronted with the Idol rejecting its status as an Idol.” Rollins goes on to say that “The Cross testifies to a liberating logic where the prison of idolatry is shattered from within.”

Do you agree with Rollin’s analogy of how the church today largely teaches us to act like Oliver Hardy when it comes to the Crucifixion? (In the analogy, Rollins describes one of the Laurel and Hardy comedy motifs in which Hardy exhibits an excess of pride and arrogance, only to made to look ridiculous by a situation created by Laurel. It works because Hardy realizes by never accepts the reality of his humiliation.)

How do you understand the early church’s teaching of Jesus being fully human?

  • I’ve always taken this to mean he was like me, but Rollins says he is fully human because he is unlike me. In other words, it is me who is not fully human, or not as originally intended. (page 134)
  • Jesus lacked the lack. (without Original Sin)

I really like the second to last paragraph of the section “The Missing Link,” page 134

God of Christ is a reality that we experience as not existing. Instead, this God is present as the source that calls everything into existence.

God is not seen but is testified to in a particular way of seeing.

Quote at the end of page 138, “By revealing God as love, the Christian tradition rejects the idea that God is a meaningful being….”

To make the claim that you know God is actually to proclaim a no-God. It is to proclaim an Idol, masked as God.” (page 139)

In Christ we are confronted with a different understanding altogether, one in which God is not directly known (either as a being “out there” or as found in all things), but is the source that renders everything known.

Love is the crazy, mad, and perhaps ridiculous gesture of saying yes to life, of seeing it as worthy of our embrace and even worthy of our total sacrifice.

Ecclesiastes 5:18-20

Ecclesiastes 6:1-6

What do you think of Rollin’s depiction of the significance of as Christ dies on the Cross we read of the tombs breaking open and the dead coming to life?

A life in which the source of all is no longer approach as some being whom we ought to love, but as a mystery we participate in through the very act of love itself. (page 145)

Idolatry of God, Chapter 5: Trash of the World

Ironic how the original meaning of crucifixion, off being outside of the divinely given order has become the symbol for those who are within the divinely given order. Christendom.

Rollins says in page 101 that Paul describes a form of universalism as operating on a fundamentally different level by inviting everyone into a community in which everyone exists beyond or outside the operative power of any given identity, including a Christian one. What does this mean?

Based on what Rollins is saying about Paul, do we think that Paul would like the term “Christian?”

Page 108, “Paul understands participation in the life of Christ as involving the loss of power that our various tribal identities once held for us.”

In context of what Rollins writes about “universalism that is captured in the idea of the Christian as the trash of the world invites us to identify with the one who is placed outside all systems” what has been the affect of Constantine’s church?

Idolatry of God, Chapter 4: Be Part of the Problem, Not the Solution

Zombie movies have become popular in the last several years, what does the rise of zombie movies say about us?

The section “Give Me Freedom from the Pursuit of My Satisfaction” really speaks to me. In this section the focus is on obsession of the pursuit. Does the fact that “pursuit of happiness” is written in one of the founding documents of the United States say anything about that obsession?

Is selfishness natural or taught?

On page 79 Rollins writes, “Indeed, people who are driven to pursue something like wealth or fame are often painfully aware of this reality.” If that is the case, why are people driven for more, even when it is to their detriment?

“What we see here is a concrete example of how the freedom to pursue our highest ambitions is often not experienced as a freedom from an oppressive system but is itself felt to be oppressive.” (page 79)

How does the internal protest that Rollins describes on page 80 relating to parents, children and church?

Page 86, Rollins says the Good News of Christianity is, “You can’t be fulfilled; you can’t be made whole; you can’t find satisfaction.” Do you agree that this is good news?

Any comments on the reference to Ecclesiastes on page 91?

Any comments about Rollins’ take on atonement theories on page 93?

Idolatry of God, Chapter 3: Hiding Behind the Mask That We Are

All the stories that we tell ourselves about ourselves have a fictional quality. “A legend in our own mind.”

That which we are conscious of in ourselves is called the ego. This ego is the image we have of ourselves, the image that we present on a daily basis through work, recreation, and social medial. (page 54)

Our real beliefs are generally not to be found at the level of ego; rather they are more like the operating system of a computer they are the heart of the machine that causes it to act in certain ways.

We all have mythologies that we have constructed and adapted from infancy. The problem arises when we fully identify with these mythologies, viewing them as a complete and accurate description of who we are and how the world works. These narratives help us prop up the fantasy that we are in control of our destinies and are masters of our own actions. (page 60)

What do you think of Rollins’ explanation for Matthew 23:27-28? (page 62)

When we encounter a worldview different from our own, there are four common responses:

  • One is a form of consumption, by which we attempt to integrate the other into our social body. We attempt to persuade them that they should believe and practice in a particular way.
  • The second is a process of exclusion whereby we condemn and reject the other who cannot be consumed by us. “Vomiting the other out.”
  • The third is toleration. There is an attempt to accept the other, even they they seem strange to us.
  • The fourth is a dialogue aimed at finding agreement. It is the idea that beneath all our little differences, we’re really pretty much the same.
  • In each of these we stand over the other

A different way to approach the other involves placing ourselves beneath them in the sense of allowing their views to challenge and unsettle our own.

Literalistic listening is different than what we normally do where we filter what a person is saying through our own experiences. Example of what we normally do on page 68. In literalistic listening we take careful note of everything the other says from their position instead of quickly interpreting it in relation to our own position.

It means that we don’t simply look at the other through our own eyes, but we attempt to look at ourselves through the eyes of the other.

The church often turns out to be the most extreme agent of this myth-making: it doesn’t simply offer a narrative that tells us who we are, why we are here, and where we are going, but it tells people that this narrative has been directly delivered by the divine. (page 71)

The question that faces us, then, is how Christianity, in its most radical and subversive form, critiques the church and offers real freedom.