When the Old Testament is read literally and not as literature, as is typical in my background and for most American evangelicals, God does not come across as good. "Other parts of the Bible are shocking to read, even barbaric, and hard to defend as the Word of God in civil adult conversation. God either orders a lot of killing or does it himself - and even comes across as a bit touchy...If we read this anywhere else, we would call it genocide." p. 5-6
Maybe we have not learned to read the Bible well. "The problem is not the Bible. The problem is coming to the Bible with expectations it's not set up to bear." p. 8 Maybe we have something to learn from how the early church interpreted the Bible. Take the Apostle Paul for example. Until I read this book I never stopped at this verse of Paul's and considered how weird it is.
1 Corinthians 10:1 Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, 2 all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.I never wondered before about the stalking Rock. In the story about Moses and the Israelites who wandered the desert for 40 years, Moses strikes a rock which miraculously gushes water twice, once at the beginning of the journey and once at the end. Some Jewish commentators figured Moses had struck the same rock, as it had been providing water for the four decades, and must have followed them the entire time. It would not have gathered any moss. (;-p) Paul apparently uses this interesting interpretative speculation to make a point about Jesus. When Enns encountered this Pauline hermeneutic in graduate school he freaked out a little bit. He survived and moved forward by distinguishing God from the Bible. "I needed to learn ... that trusting God is not the same thing as trusting the Bible." p. 21 This realization was liberating for Enns.
I gained a Bible - and a God - I was free to converse with, complain to, talk back to, interrogate, and disagree with, not as an act of rebellion, but as an act of faith and trust, rather than needing to tiptoe around lest a grumpy God lash out with plague, famine, and sword if I get the Bible wrong - like an abusive, drunken father you don't want to wake from his nap. p. 21Amen!
Enns invites us to be like Jacob who wrestled with God through the night, and God changed his name to "wrestles with God" aka, Israel. Enns writes instead of viewing the Bible as an owner's manual, legal contract, or assembly instructions, realize, "we are eavesdropping on an ancient spiritual journey." p. 23 In fact, we are reading multiple journeys as the writers encounter God and mature in their relationship with God. Like our lives with God, theirs are messy, have some u-turns, and still God works through them to draw others as well into a relationship.
I know this proposal is threatening to some readers, as it was for me, but I had no satisfaction with what I grew up with approaching the Bible either. Turns out, there are ways the church has been approaching the Bible that is more satisfying and has been around since it's beginning.