Pete Enns has just released his latest book, The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending the Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It (HarperOne, 2014). It’s quite a bold piece of work, with a lot of serious claims about the role and purpose of the Bible. Endorsers of the book include Rob Bell, Rachel Held Evans, and Brian Mclaren. Tony Campolo also offers a blurb, but qualifies it with the statement, “[I] have some problems with what he has written.” Given that Campolo is no fundamentalist, this is a telling statement.
Another telling statement is the inside flap of the book cover which states, “In The Bible Tells Me So, Enns wants to do for the Bible what Rob Bell did for hell in Love Wins.” That about says it all.
In the end, The Bible Tells Me So is a book about contradictions. Enns intended it to be a book about contradictions in the Bible. But, it becomes quickly apparent to the reader that the contradictions are really in Enns’ own worldview. He claims the Canaanite Conquest is immoral, yet argues that the Bible provides no clear guide for morality. He claims that the Bible presents a diabolical genocidal God, yet he insists that we still “meet God in its [the Bible’s] pages” (3). He argues that the Bible is filled with re-worked stories, many of which are made up entirely, and yet he seems to know which stories really happened and which did not. He claims that the Bible provides no clear moral instruction, yet says that people are “disobedient” to God and in need of the cross. He claims that he is the one reading the Bible in an ancient manner, when, in fact, people in the ancient world did not read the Bible the way that he does.
All of these inconsistencies stem from one simple reality: Enns has fully adopted the methods and conclusions of the most aggressive versions of modern critical scholarship, and yet, at the same time, wants to insist that the Bible is still God’s word, and that Jesus died and rose again. While it is clear to most folks that these two systems are incompatible at most levels, Enns is tenaciously and relentlessly trying to insist that both can be true at the same time. While Enns’ desire to retain the basic message of the cross is certainly commendable, it stands as a glaring anomaly within his larger system. Somehow (and for some reason), Enns has put a box around the message of Jesus (or at least parts of it)—he protects the integrity of that story while at the same time not protecting much else.
For all these reasons, Enns comes across as a man divided. By the end of the book, the reader senses that he is a man trying to live in two worlds at once. Such a scenario is ironic in a book where Enns is purportedly trying to help people who are “holding on tooth and nail to something that’s not working, denying that nagging undercurrent of tension” (7). One wonders if Enns is describing others or whether he is really describing himself.