How the Bible Actually Works: In Which I Explain How An Ancient, Ambiguous, and Diverse Book Leads Us to Wisdom Rather Than Answers—and Why That's Great News (Paperback)
Controversial evangelical Bible scholar, popular blogger and podcast host of The Bible for Normal People, and author of The Bible Tells Me So and The Sin of Certainty explains that the Bible is not an instruction manual or rule book but a powerful learning tool that nurtures our spiritual growth by refusing to provide us with easy answers but instead forces us to acquire wisdom.
For many Christians, the Bible is a how-to manual filled with literal truths about belief that must be strictly followed. But the Bible is not static, Peter Enns argues. It does not hold easy answers to the perplexing questions and issues that confront us in our daily lives. Rather, the Bible is a dynamic instrument for study that not only offers an abundance of insights but provokes us to find our own answers to spiritual questions, cultivating God’s wisdom within us.
“The Bible becomes a confusing mess when we expect it to function as a rulebook for faith. But when we allow the Bible to determine our expectations, we see that Wisdom, not answers, is the Bible’s true subject matter,” writes Enns. This distinction, he points out, is important because when we come to the Bible expecting it to be a textbook intended by God to give us unwavering certainty about our faith, we are actually creating problems for ourselves. The Bible, in other words, really isn’t the problem; having the wrong expectation is what interferes with our reading.
Rather than considering the Bible as an ancient book weighed down with problems, flaws, and contradictions that must be defended by modern readers, Enns offers a vision of the holy scriptures as an inspired and empowering resource to help us better understand how to live as a person of faith today.
How the Bible Actually Works makes clear that there is no one right way to read the Bible. Moving us beyond the damaging idea that “being right” is the most important measure of faith, Enns’s freeing approach to Bible study helps us to instead focus on pursuing enlightenment and building our relationship with God—which is exactly what the Bible was designed to do.
Peter Enns (PhD, Harvard University) is the Abram S. Clemens Professor of Biblical Studies at Eastern University, St. David’s, Pennsylvania. He has also taught courses at Harvard University, Fuller Theological Seminary, and Princeton Theological Seminary. He is the host of The Bible for Normal People podcast, a frequent contributor to journals and encyclopedias, and the author of several books, including The Sin of Certainty, The Bible Tells Me So, and Inspiration and Incarnation. He lives in northern New Jersey.
“Seldom will you encounter such a fine combination of historical scholarship, interesting reading, and clever humor in one Biblical study. And then filled with faith and hope besides! Peter Enns does it again!” — Fr.Richard Rohr, author of Falling Upward
“This book is an oasis of insight in a desert of deconstruction. I learned more from the introduction here than most books. Pete Enns shows us what to do after we give up on the Bible, and how this ancient, ambiguous, and diverse book remains uniquely useful to modern people.” — Mike McHargue, co-founder of The Liturgists and host of Ask Science Mike
“Inviting, accessible, lively, provocative and best of all, highly educational, Peter Enns new book will clear up many misunderstandings you have about the most important book in the world and, in the process, move you closer to the book’s ultimate focus: God.” — James Martin, SJ, author of Jesus: A Pilgrimage and The Jesuit Guide
“Using wisdom as his touchstone informs and enlivens Enns’ exploration. . . . Though his subject matter is serious, his writing is sprightly and cheerfully enlivened by his occasional snark and sarcasm. The book will find a general readership intrigued by the insight and, yes, the wisdom he offers.” — Booklist
“Enns challenges Christians to reconsider the true purpose of the Bible. Far from diminishing the value of the Bible, these variations make readers reflect on their own situations and reconsider connections. Approachable and well-reasoned, Enns’s book will find an audience with Christians seeking a broader understanding of Scripture.” — Publishers Weekly
“A rare combination: sophisticated and accessible, serious and witty, provocative and precise. It’s also an honest book, giving voice to sincere questions and doubts. An important contribution to the conversation about how to faithfully interpret Scripture.” — Peter Wehner, Contributing Opinion Writer, New York Times; senior fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center; former senior White House adviser
“Brilliant, wise, sarcastic, and disarmingly profound. If you’ve ever found yourself frustrated with the bible, wondering not only what it is but what it’s for and how to read it, let alone why bother, then allow me to introduce you to one of my favorite bible teachers.” — Sarah Bessey, author of Out of Sorts and Jesus Feminist
“Enns seeks to place us on the hard, but rewarding, path of wisdom.” — Patheos
“With an entertaining mixture of ‘dad jokes’ and self-deprecation . . . Enns has offered a gift to the church. . . . Readers will find in these pages ideas that are at once challenging and life-giving, and scriptural interpretations that are at once faithful and dynamic—ancient and new.” — Anglican Theological Review