Does God Let His Kids Lie About Him? A Thought (or Two) on the Enns/Bell Interview

enns

Look that face. What a friendly-looking dude. You almost hate disagreeing with him. Almost. 😉

Does God let his kids lie about him? That’s the question I found myself asking after reading this interview of Pete Enns by Rob Bell. Enns has a new book on the Bible coming out, and it promises to be the new progressive-Evangelical handbook for scrapping your old doctrine of Scripture, so, of course, Bell pulled him onto the blog to chat. Unsurprisingly the issue of ancient science and Old Testament violence came up.  I’ll quote Enns said about it at length, because why not?:

OK, so can we focus on one specific issue here that troubles a lot of people? In your book you do a spectacular job of explaining those violent passages in the Old Testament. Can you give my readers a bit on that?

I spend a chapter on in my book on God’s commend to the Israelites to exterminate every Canaanite man, woman, and child and take over their land. This is the go-to example many point to of God acting more like Megatron than a God of love. 

This is a huge issue that has bothered people ever since there’s been a Bible. It’s nothing new. It’s hard to find Christians or Jews that don’t have at least some problem with this. When we hear of modern genocides, where perpetrators claim that God is on their side, we just call that ethnic cleansing at the hands of crazy people. So how can Christians say God opposes genocide today when he commanded it yesterday? That’s what we call a real theological problem.

Well, that and the fact that Jesus said, “Love your enemies” and “my kingdom is not of this world” rather than “Let’s kill all the Gentiles [Romans] and take back our land.” So, on top of the moral problem, Jesus doesn’t seem to be on the same page with what God says in the Old Testament. 

This issue is involved enough that you can’t Tweet an answer. You really need to walk through the paces of discovering the Bible’s ancient voice. We take a step back and try to understand the Israelites as ancient people with ancient ways of thinking. They weren’t like the “nice Christians” we meet at church picnics and who listen to gospel quartets.

The Israelites lived at a rough time, the Iron Age, when nations fought tooth and nail over land and resources and the gods fought right along side of them, leading the charge

The nations that won had the mightier gods, and victory (slaughter, pillaging) gave gods honor. Losing meant your god was either a wimp or he was mad at your people for some reason and wanted to teach them a lesson in obedience. 

The Israelites were part of this ancient Iron Age world of warring, land acquisition, and destroying the enemy. They fit right in, and to expect their God-talk to be on a totally different page is to start off on the wrong foot. 

We shouldn’t cheer the Israelites and emulate them, which is what Christians with a violent streak throughout history have done—Spanish conquerors of the “West Indies” or European settlers of “America” treat the “new world” like it was Canaan and take over. And neither can we sidestep or minimize the violence, which is another strategy Christians have had for handling these passages.

They are what they are, and the Bible looks the way it does because God lets his children tell the story

Children tell stories of their parents from their point of view as children, which is not the whole story. Think of boys bragging about their dads on the playground. I loved my father and I defended his honor. He was a mighty man who could lift heavy objects, was a sharpshooter, brilliantly smart, and as strong as any man anywhere. 

Not everything I said about my dad was fully and objectively true, but this is how I saw my father, a description born of love, from my youthful perspective, that followed the “rules of the playground.” 

Eventually, looking back from a later vantage point, I realized how much my dad-talk actually limited my father, but that was how we talked and I wasn’t able, obviously, to take a step back and tell my father’s story some other way. 

And even if I could, if I had said things back then like how hard he worked to support us, how he stayed up when I was throwing up at night, and how he never missed my Little League games, I wouldn’t have gotten across to the other guys how awesome my dad was, how much better he was than all the others.

The Israelites described God according to their “rules,” how they and the people around them understood gods in general. And here’s a huge lesson in there for us today. 

We always perceive God from our vantage point, according to ways of thinking we aren’t even aware of most of the time. In these stories, the Bible gives us a glimpse of ancient Israelites doing that very same thing. 

So, when we read these stories, we don’t read them as absolute rules to live by or the final word about what God is like. Christians believe that in the Gospels, we get a deeper understanding about God from Jesus. The Gospels don’t allow us to remain where the Iron Age Israelites were in their understanding of God.

In other words, the Bible isn’t a rulebook for Christian living. It is a narrative that has movement and a trajectory. 

And while we’re at it, archaeologists are about as sure as you can be that the mass extermination of Canaanites that the Bible talks about didn’t happen—which is good news, I think. This helps us see these stories are stories that tell us how the ancient Israelites, at least at some point in their history, understood God.

And that, I realize, is a very long answer, but it’s as short as I can make it.

Alright, there’s a lot going on in there, some of it good and some of it bad. It’s kind of a variation on the Jesus-Tea-Strainer theme we’ve chatted about before. But like I said, the main question I’m left with is, “Does God allow his kids to lie about him?” Because that’s the basic thrust of Enns’ answer, right? The Israelites are young kids, excited about their dad, who told tall, pretty violent, tales about him in terms their kid conceptions of reality could grasp. And God looked on smilingly, letting it go because they meant well.

Now, to some degree I go along with a theology of accommodation in revelation. Most Reformed do. Calvin used to say that God used a sort of baby-talk to tell his children about himself, using terms they would understand to communicate. Bavinck developed this way of thinking at length. Isn’t what Enns saying kind of like that? Kind of, but where they part ways is the issue of truth. Does divine accommodation mean that well-meaning lies are okay about God? Calvin, Bavinck, and most of the Christian tradition would probably say no.

Indeed, looking at the thrust of the Old Testament revelation, God doesn’t seem to take lying about him too well. What are the first few commands?

And God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. (Exodus 20:1-7)

So:

  1. Don’t worship other gods.
  2. Don’t make idols or false representations of me.
  3. Don’t misuse my name and cheapen it.

Well, it seems to me that making up stories about God, saying he did a bunch of stuff he didn’t really do, like commanding a bunch of stuff he would never command because it’s clearly abhorrent to him, would probably fall afoul of 2 and 3, don’t you think? I mean, if Enns’ reading of the New Testament is right, and Jesus really is uber-pacifistic to the degree that all judgment or violence is just completely foreign to the nature of God, then these stories aren’t just tall tales, but pretty big whoppers. In fact, they’d seem to be blasphemous.

Now that would be odd wouldn’t it? For God to deliver commands to us about not falsely representing him and taking his name in vain, through narratives that falsely represent him and take his name in vain? What kind of confusing father is that? A little exaggeration here and there is one thing, but to fundamentally miss a key component like that is kind of a big deal. I mean, especially when God seems particularly picky about the “no false images” thing (Ex. 32-33).

In fact, in his helpful little work Against the Gods, John D. Currid has argued that when the OT picks up images from the surrounding culture, there’s usually a polemical edge. In other words, the OT revelation is often-times taking up cultural ideas and then subverting them, or explicitly opposing them through ironic use. I’m not that convinced, then, that God would inspire, or semi-inspire, or even simply ‘tolerate’ texts remaining in Scripture, his covenant documents, that grossly misrepresent him to his covenant people, the nations, and future generations of believers. It’s not just about inerrancy, but about having a trustworthy God. Accommodation is one thing, but if your accommodation includes aggressive falsehood, it’s actually not accommodation but misrepresentation.

Beyond that, the issue of culture and chronological snobbery pops up again. Enns makes the point that we always view God from our vantage point, thinking of God in terms that our culture finds amenable and understandable. But if that’s the case, then shouldn’t we slow the train down on judging the stories the Israelites told? Shouldn’t we be careful about our own modern, therapeutic ideas of parenting, democracy and such creeping in to our theology? Why is our culture’s judgment about the divine, or violence, or whatever, obviously more trustworthy? Because it’s ours? I don’t think Enns wants to go there.

Finally, yes, the passages in question can be pretty troubling. Still, I think there are answers that are helpful. I’ve got my own article on the issue of the conquest of the Canaanites trying to treat the issue in historical and theological context. But again, I’d point people to the work of Paul Copan in Is God a Moral Monster?or this helpful piece by Alastair Roberts. I’d also argue that even if Jesus does point us to a pacifistic ethic (which I doubt), there are ways of relating the Old and New Testaments in such a fashion that you don’t have to argue the OT was false in certain ways.

Because I’m lazy, I’ll quote myself from a post on a related subject:

So what do we say instead? I…would say something like, “Well, looking at Christ, his affirmation of the OT, as well as instruction to the effect that he has fulfilled and we’re moving on now, let’s look back and see how this command was functionally-appropriate for the time.” It’s a way of accepting all of what Jesus says when he affirms:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”

There’s both an affirmation that it’s all true, it was all valid, and yet, at the same time, now that Christ has come, we aren’t going back there. God spoke it all and did it all–every single law, judgment, story, and so forth–to somehow point forward towards a climax of grace and justice in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But of course, if you just cut bits out, or say the Israelites or Moses were confused at such & such point when the text says “the word of the Lord”, then you’re actually leaving out some of the testimony to the Glory of Christ.

Well, there’s more to say, but I suppose I’ll end my ramble here. Do I think God accommodates himself to be understood by his children? Yup. Do I think that includes lies about him? Nope. And neither should you.

Soli Deo Gloria

P.S. I like Pete Enns. He seems like a fun guy and I’d love to consume a sandwich and beverage with him at some point. So, though we disagree, please don’t be a jerk in the comments.

42 thoughts on “Does God Let His Kids Lie About Him? A Thought (or Two) on the Enns/Bell Interview

  1. I’m an atheist, so feel free to write this off as so much heathen nonsense, but Enns’s God still sounds more appealing. My father was violent and abusive, so a confusing dad doesn’t sound so bad to me. I might be able to embrace a deity who’s a little more Mrs. Doubtfire and a little less Bull Meecham.

    • Alex,

      Sure. I can see that. I think the actual situation when looked at in light of the bigger picture is different, but I can see you preferring Enns’ account. As an atheist, though, I wouldn’t trouble myself about the accounts in the OT first. They matter, but what matters far more is whether the NT Gospel accounts of Jesus death and resurrection happened If they did, and you decide the Bible is important, then it makes sense to muck about with these narratives. Until then, figuring out what you think about Jesus and so forth seems like a higher priority.

      If you’d like, I can recommend a number of excellent resources on that topic.

      Best,
      D

      • I think the Bible’s important regardless of what anyone thinks of it. And even though I don’t think it’s the word of God, I still find it endlessly fascinating.

        Any resources you think are good regarding the resurrection I’ll definitely take a look at.

      • Oh sure. It’s endlessly fascinating.

        As for resources on the resurrection, there are a number of varying length and complexity depending on how much time you have.

        1. The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Gary Habermas and Michael Licona
        2. The Resurrection of the Son of God by N.T. Wright
        3. The Historical Reliability of the Gospels by Craig Blomberg is more general but it does treat miracles, the historicity of the Gospels, and so forth.

  2. I almost stopped reading when Calvin was quoted. We should learn theology from a medieval lawyer that sanctioned the burning alive of another human? No thanks. Enns’ theological fortitude speaks for itself, and suggesting that oral stories passed about through generations might not become influenced by personalities and culture and experiences is vapid at best.

    Literalism is a dangerous game, and doesn’t play out well if you’re going to pick and choose your spots …

    • Nate,

      Fine, ignore Calvin. I mean, it’s an ad hominem, but he wasn’t the only one to make the point.

      As for the vapidity of suggesting stories passed around through generations wasn’t influenced by cultures and personalites, sure. Except for that’s not what I said. Go ahead and read the post again and see if I denied these narratives were influenced by their culture. I didn’t. What I denied is that they were influenced in such a way that they had become fundamentally untrustworthy in their accounts of God’s commands and activities. That’s a big difference.

      As for picking and choosing my ‘literalism’…bro…nowhere, and I mean nowhere are you going to find me discounting the importance of genre, context, history, the character of narrative and so forth. I didn’t say that in this post and I haven’t said it in any other post.

      Thanks again for commenting. Have a good one!

  3. I’ve read your blog somewhat regularly, Derek, so I think you will understand exactly what I am saying and I’d appreciate some feedback as to how it all fits into the discussion. In your question, “Does God let his kids lie about him?” . . . The word “lie” is problematic. In a modern/secular/materialistic context the word lie usually means contrary to empirical (or at least rational) facts. Using truth in this way, God’s kids (as well as every artist/author/filmmaker since the dawn of art/literature/film, have lied like crazy. Isn’t Enns, and others like him, saying that God let his kids tell literal lies about them because he was delighted with the “literary truth” they communicated? I’m not happy with the word “literary” but I think you know what I mean. We proclaim the Bible true, but then define truth so narrowly that we end up in a terrible mess. The problem is that we follow the Enlightenment and accept it’s framework in our interpretation of ancient authors. This is what Lewis (Barfield) meant by chronological snobbery. Anyway, I look forward to your thoughts.

    • Trent,

      I totally get you and appreciate where you’re coming from. It’s a really good question.

      To some degree I agree. For instance, when it comes to certain natural descriptions of things in Scripture, I think there is a phenomenological approach being used. I think that according to certain genre conventions, metaphor, simile, and parable definitely complicated straightforward ‘literalistic’ readings of things. I like what Kevin Vanhoozer calls a “well-versed inerrancy” that accounts for these things and tries not to squeeze truth too tightly into a modernist mold.

      That said, I don’t think that’s what’s happening here. These narratives are basically indistinguishable from others in the Scriptures that we take to be reality-depicting, or revelatory of the nature of God. In essence, Enns’ move isn’t just about rejecting the literal truth, but the “literary truth” of these texts as well. Say all we were working at was the narrative level, and we weren’t talking about whether or not this stuff happened, he’s still saying these stories are “false” in the sense that the ancient Hebrews were telling us the truth about the nature and character of God.

      Does that make sense?

      Again, thank you for your very gracious and thoughtful comment.

      D

  4. Thanks for that. I followed you up to “he’s still saying these stories are “false” in the sense that the ancient Hebrews were telling us the truth about the nature and character of God.”

    Are you saying he’s saying, “The Hebrews were telling us what they thought was the truth about the nature of God, but they were completely wrong”?

  5. Question(s): How literally are we supposed to take the words, “Then the Lord commanded…”? Is that phrase supposed to mean the same thing every time it is used in the OT or is there idiomatic range we are working with?

    What I am getting at is the difference between any one of us saying “The Lord spoke to me last night and said i should…” or “I felt God saying to me…” and us lying about having that experience to make a point. A key difference is the possibility of misunderstanding God’s will in that experience. Is it possible to misunderstand the experiences of God commanding the wholesale slaughter of an entire culture?

    Perhaps not in the way Enns presented it here but i think there is room to doubt the person’s interpretation of a divine encounter without being accused of lying.

    Also, I think it’s about time you more thoroughly articulate why you doubt Jesus points to a non-violent ethic. 🙂

    • Dan, I get your point. That’s a good question to ask. I would put those instances in the same range as, “Thus says the Lord” in Scripture. It might be idiomatic, but it is conveying the claim that God’s authority was behind a certain thing. The question becomes whether or not you think the the author of the narrative was right or wrong on that point. I don’t think that the divinely inspired author was just having the same sorts of confused feelings you and I have. Nor do I think that Moses did either. Also, if you follow the links to the various articles on the subject of the Canaanite invasion, I don’t think we have to call it a wholesale slaughter according to the biblical evidence we have. There is a lot about driving out the people from the land and not just killing them. Also, we have a lot of good reason to believe that the attacks we read about were tactical, and limited. I even think there is stereotyped war language being used in there. That is precisely where understanding the literary and linguistic context helps us read this passage better.

      • Yeah, when I’m at my computer I will check out the links.

        Re: ‘Wholesale Slaughter’: Sure, I would agree with the Canaanite invasion but what I had in mind was God’s command to Saul to destroy the Amalekites (1 Sam 14 or 15, i think). Although Saul disobeyed, God still wished for every man, woman, child and animal to be killed. This passage muddies the situation for me and causes me to have the questions I asked before.

  6. Derek,
    Yup, you’re right on track here, the Enns’ approach is hugely problematic for the very reason(s) you assert. Beyond his claim that God allowed his children to lie about Him, if one applies that hermeneutical principle its due it should just as fully be applied to the NT–and any of our interpretive efforts of it however narratively or imaginatively conceived they may be. Any and all religious concepts might also be thrown under the theological bus, including Enns’. Though much of his thinking regarding the “pre-historic” beginnings of Genesis Ch. 1-11 may be found helpful, this part of his thinking seems to me to be a dead end.

  7. “P.S. I like Pete Enns. He seems like a fun guy and I’d love to consume a sandwich and beverage with him at some point. So, though we disagree, please don’t be a jerk in the comments.”

    along with the meal, love =pray for him, correct, rebuke, exhort, call for repentance from the ‘work of his own hand’ (own mind/opinion)?

  8. Solid post. Hope to be able to read through the comments more thoroughly later, as those look promising as well.

    My biggest problem with what Pennsylvania was doing was this: he states that he wants a Bible with all the rough edges, that hasn’t been sanitized. And then he proceeds to sanitize them the best he can. I think it’s a pretty big mistake to try and let God off the hook for things He never asked to be excused of (eg, judgement).

    • Dude, yes.

      Also, this is why I am very interested in a book coming out by Joshua Ryan Butler called “The Skeletons in God’s Closet” that addresses a bunch of this stuff. Looks promising.

  9. Hey Derek.

    Thoughtful, intriguing piece. I thank you for exposing me to Enns arguments here. After reading your post, I find myself in agreement with his perspective. ◔ᴗ◔ (Interestingly, this has happened numerous times when I been introduced to ideas of Emergents by people writing rebuttals to them.)

    Anyway, here I go:

    1. Lying is a matter of intentionally saying something you know to be false. To characterize what Enns is describing as lying is so disingenuous as to itself approach lying. In his own example, Enns mentioned how he talked about his own father as a child. His viewpoint as a child was not only incomplete, but added things that were totally wrong. You wouldn’t say that kid was lying.

    That’s precisely what Enns is arguing. They honestly believed what they were saying about him; that means that the one thing you CANNOT call it is “lying.”

    2.
    You said:
    “So:
    Don’t worship other gods.
    Don’t make idols or false representations of me.
    Don’t misuse my name and cheapen it.
    Well, it seems to me that making up stories about God, saying he did a bunch of stuff he didn’t really do, like commanding a bunch of stuff he would never command because it’s clearly abhorrent to him, would probably fall afoul of 2 and 3, don’t you think?”

    The first thing I thought when you said this was: “uhh… Yeah, God didn’t like it at all, but the Bible is pretty clear that they did all that anyway, repeatedly.” Just because God commands against something doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen. How is your point here even an argument against Enns? Of course he would agree with you about this.

    3. You said,
    “Why is our culture’s judgment about the divine, or violence, or whatever, obviously more trustworthy? Because it’s ours? I don’t think Enns wants to go there.”

    As someone who holds a viewpoint that I feel is close to Enns, I regard this as one of the most powerful objection questions to our position, and I don’t yet have a good answer. Well done on spotting it.

    4. The Archaeological evidence is overwhelmingly compelling, and it seemed an important element of his concluding thoughts, but you simply brush over it as if it can be ignored or something. Explain?

    Toodles! Keep up the good work, and just remember that I was predestined to write all of this by God himself. ◔ᴗ◔

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  11. Thanks for a thought-provoking post. One small (administrative) issue – you’ve linked to “Against the Gods” twice, when the second link should point to “Is God a Moral Monster?”

  12. Derek,
    Good post. God does not allow His children to lie about Him. When someone can’t seem to come to an understanding of why God did something, it is foolish to state that it is because the text is just untrue. It is a good thought to consider that God would order the destruction of a nation. Do we not believe that men of flesh are hostile toward God? In the flesh, if someone were to take your child hostage and hold a gun to their head, would we not call that a just cause to retaliate with lethal force in order to save the child. Yet when God does this, men call Him evil. Just because men cannot see that they are hostile toward Him and toward His children that doesn’t mean that it isn’t the case. The flesh is hostile toward God. If we believed this, then we would perhaps recognize that we need to be saved from ourselves so that we do not suffer the same fate….Also yes, the God of truth, is known in truth not by “perspectives” of men.

      • A supernatural and providential prevention? In our world babies are beheaded, 8 year olds are gang raped, entire villages starve to death,people are buried alive… But God in all of his supernatural, providential prevention abilities uses his powers to make sure every word he wants in or out of a book is put in or kept out? I find this very disturbing.

      • DeSean, well, when you put it like that… 🙂

        But really, at this point we’re dealing with the problem of evil in general, which is a much bigger issue than I can tackle here.

        Two quick points, though:
        1. What in the Bible gives you the impression that your initial instincts on any given judgment are an appropriate indicator of what God will or won’t do? Probably not much. I mean, I certainly wouldn’t have come up with a plan to save the world that involved creating a nation, becoming one of its citizens, and then dying a gruesome death myself in order to end misery once and for all.

        2. You talk about the Bible like it’s just one book among others. I have a very different view as to its role and purposes. Getting that book right becomes very important when you understand its role in carrying the news that will save the whole world. It’s not just a pet project we’re talking about here.

        That said, I know this probably isn’t satisfying and I am sorry about that. I would much rather have a sit down conversation over a cup of coffee or something and get down to the real issues. Still, I hope it’s a start.

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  15. I’m not sure that I can agree with your analysis.

    Something is a lie if it is contrary to the truth that the text is intended to communicate. If the author’s intent is simply to show that his God is great, then it matters little whether the Jericho narrative provides an accurate description of an actual event. Further, this type of hyperbole was common in ancient Near Eastern texts; its hearers would likely have recognized that the events in question may or may not have actually occurred as described. The accusations of chronological snobbery seem to apply most aptly to those who insist on reading ancient Near Eastern narratives on terms that depart radically from how the author would have intended them to be heard.

    The merits of God’s inspiration must be judged within the context of the intended audience at the time of the text’s authorship. Unfortunately for us, God didn’t inspire the OT canon’s authors to convey truth in a way that would necessarily satisfy our modernist notions of truth. God elected to reveal Himself in an ancient context; we have to accept that the Israelites were not a whole lot like us.

    The treatment of guys like Enns and Sam Logan (and, now, Douglas Green) is what led me to jettison the PCA and head back to the PC(USA). By today’s standards, Machen himself would likely be asked to “resign” from WTS and he would probably also find himself somewhat out of place . A friend of mine who recently left the PCA to take a position at a mainline church recent said, the PCA ought to be renamed, “Southern Baptist Convention, Paedobaptist Synod”.

    • Rob,

      Hey, thanks for the comment. A couple of points:

      1. Yes, I get your analysis of ‘lie’, but I still think you’re missing the way that falls afoul of the biblical prohibitions against idolatry. The Israelites who built the golden calf thought that this was an adequate way of expressing their confidence in God’s strength. But God apparently thought that was inadequate and distorting of who he was to be proper. Saying God is a certain way that he really isn’t, and in a way that he very strongly will come out against later is not innocent hyperbole.

      2. That said, I know about ANE war hyperbole. If you read the articles I link as well as my own treatment of the subject, you’ll see that I’m dependent on it. That said, it’s one thing to say that they used hyperbole that all would have recognized about certain events, and quite another to say the events never happened because the events are totally inconsistent with God’s character as revealed in Christ. That is a much, much stronger claim.

      3. This is not just about modernist standards of truth and epistemology. In fact, I’d say it’s quite the opposite–it’s likely that its about modernist standards of morality, universality, and historicism.

      Finally, please don’t conflate this post with whatever beef you have with the WTS business. That’s certainly not what I’m about or supporting here. And on the PC(USA)–woof. I mean, I’m in a congregation that just voted out to head off to ECO and I’ll say that while there are many faithful congregations in the denomination, things are getting dicier and dicier. If you want an example of some of the goofiness going on in PC(USA) presbyteries right now, here’s a sad one: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thegodarticle/2014/08/no-trinity-for-me-please/ Not to mention the political shenanigans being perpetrated by progressives against conservatives. There’s more than one direction that ideological aggression can come from.

      Again, thanks for the engagement.

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  17. Well… the problem I have with this is the failure to react with the history of interpretation on these passages. Peter comments as though it’s a problem that’s just sort of out there, as though nobody else has ever thought about and worked through to some conclusions. Maybe he does so in his book, but it would be nice if he gave at least some attention to some of the standard arguments concerning these passages.

  18. Thanks for sharing Enns’ explanation. I had never heard that before (never even heard of Enns), and am happy to finally hear an explanation of those OT issues that makes sense and is consistent with the whole of Scripture and who God is. I know you disagree with him, and that’s okay, but I’m grateful you shared his enlightening perspective. It supports the integrity of the Bible much more than traditional attempts at explaining those issues do.

    • Melanie, thanks for the comment. A couple of comments by way of response.
      1. I really do hope you find some explanations that help you make sense of some of the difficult sections of Scripture. While you may find Enns’ explanation helpful, I would say that the one thing it does not do is maintain it’s integrity. It saves part of it by jettisoning the other parts.

      2. If you’re looking for another perspective, I would highly recommend Joshua Ryan Butler’s surprising new book, “The Skeletons in God’s Closet” where deals with the issues of judgment, hell, and holy war. The interesting thing is that people all across the spectrum (conservatives, progressives, etc) have been finding it very, very helpful. It deals with all the same concerns Enns does, but manages to do it in a non-traditional, but traditional way. http://www.amazon.com/The-Skeletons-Gods-Closet-Surprise/dp/0529100819

      I really can’t recommend it enough. Even if you come away disagreeing, I think you’ll find plenty that you’re challenged and blessed by.

      Best,

      Derek

      • Thanks for your response. Isn’t it fascinating how one person can perceive integrity in something like this while another person perceives the opposite? We humans are certainly intriguing. 🙂

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