IS THE BIBLE A 'MESS?'
(Telling God’s Story,A Parents’ Guide to Teaching the Bible, Peter Enns, Olive Branch Books Charles City, Virginia. This book is to be used in conjunction with the Telling God’s Story series: Year One. Peter Enns states: I have been working on a Bible curriculum for Olive Branch Books, the religious instruction imprint of Peace Hill Press founded by well-known author, historian, and homeschooling guru Susan Wise Bauer)
BE LIKE THE BEREANS IN ACTS 17, TEST THESE AGAINST SCRIPTURE—I have placed a question at the beginning of each quote:
Is the Bible a mess?
“For many parents, the Bible looks a little bit like my child’s room. It’s a mess. Names, places, events are all over the place, and you hardly know where to start cleaning up. It’s such a mess, in fact, that if someone ripped twenty pages out of Leviticus or 1 Chronicles, you might not even notice it was missing. And if your aim is to teach the Bible to your children, the mess isn’t just confusing. It’s stressful.” (page 10)
Shouldn’t it be ‘what is God saying to me?’
“Our first struggle in reading the Bible is to move from the “What about me?” perspective to the “What does this tell us about God in that context?” question.
Knowing something about what the Bible is designed to do, what its purpose is, will help us adjust our expectations about what it is we hope to find in the Bible. If our expectations are modern instead of ancient, we will get ourselves into a bind. Before we can ask the hard questions—for example, “Is Genesis 1 in harmony with scientific thought? Or does Genesis 1 trump scientific thought?”—we must ask a more foundational question: What do we have the right to expect from God’s word as a book written in an ancient world?” (pages 18/19)
Not even indirectly?
“What is not addressed in the Bible are specifically modern situations. There is no Bible verse that will, either directly or indirectly, answer many of the questions that confront Christian families today: When do you begin dating? Is it OK to watch an R-rated movie? What kinds of books should your children read? What sort of education should they receive? In this light, I want to introduce what I think is the single most important biblical concept for living a Christian life, not only today, but during any era: wisdom.” (Page 24)
So what does sin really mean?
“There is nothing wrong with knowing good and evil. In fact, you might think that God would actually want Adam and Eve to eat of this tree. But what is at issue here is how the first humans decide to gain this knowledge. Rather than doing it God’s way, by eating of the fruit of the tree of good and evil, the first humans took matters into their own hands and tried to be like God in their own way. In other words, they tried to break down the boundary God had erected, part of the order he made out of chaos. In eating the fruit, humans became agents of chaos in disrespecting the boundary God had established. They were not simply being naughty: they were acting contrary to the creation order. Taking the fruit was like pulling at the loose end of a knitted sweater and watching the whole thing unravel. This is at the root of human woes: forgetting the place that God has made for us. We are the height of his creation. He even wants us to be like him, knowing good from evil. But it has to be done his way, through obedience to him. We are not the Creator.” (page 63/64)
Just ‘stories’, ‘symbolic’—not literally true?
“The issue is that I read him a very complex and intricate biblical narrative—the story of Adam, Eve, and the serpent—as if it were a child’s story. This biblical story was meant to convey something profound, mature, and foundational to ancient Israelites. Sitting down and reading this story with my son set him up to receive it as one tall tale among others. The Garden narrative is deeply theological and symbolic. Despite the neat talking snake, it is not the type of story that we should toss casually to our young children. When, at a more mature age, children are asked to revisit this story and begin dealing with it in earnest, many can hardly refrain from snickering. (“I outgrew talking animals years ago!”) Or consider another Bible story commonly taught to children: the story of the Flood. The boat, the animals, the rain, the drama— all lend themselves to videos, snappy tunes, macaroni art, flannel graphs, and furry friends. What is obscured is the simply horrific notion that God would bring down such drastic destruction on the earth, rather than finding some other solution to humanity’s rebellion. And that is a question young adults should ask.” (page 44/45)