The Evangelical Universalist Forum

$2: "The Bible Tells Me So" by Peter Enns (6 Nov 2018)


I disagree. They did hear a voice. As it says in Deut. 4:10-13 "Especially concerning the day you stood before the Lord your God in Horeb, when the Lord said to me, "Gather the people to Me, and I will let them hear My words, that they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children… and the Lord spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of the words, but saw no form. You only heard a voice. So he declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone.

Deut. 5:22 "These words( the Ten Commandments) the Lord spoke to all your assembly, in the mountain form the midst of the fire, the cloud and the thick darkness, with a loud voice; and He added no more. And He wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me."

Moses was declaring the moral code that is written in the hearts and minds of all mankind.

The problem occurs when we are faced with those who break these laws. Do you allow marauding bands of evil doers roam the countryside, wreaking havoc on people; killing, stealing, kidnapping your children and selling them into slavery etc.etc. Are we to just say,“We love you.” and let evil people continue in their ways until they “see the light”?


I would say the latter based on this idea:

“If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat;
if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head,
and the Lord will reward you.”


I know that. And you are welcome to do so!
And we could get into a lively debate, but I’m tired of debates. You would, I think, love the book, agree with it or not.


Here are 3 crucial points that the theme of this thread should take into account:
(1) Jesus’ teaching, especially as expressed in the Sermon on the Mount, implies the doctrine of progressive revelation. But most Christians have ducked the radical significance of this core insight. What is needed is a better articulated expression of this doctrine that frankly confronts its inevitable repudiation of the modern Fundamentalist doctrine of biblical inerrancy.

(2) Jesus motif, “You have heard that it was said of old…but I say to you” is one centerpiece of His progressive revelation, which includes His teaching about loving enemies, nonretaliation, and turning the other cheek. But we must recognize that Jesus’ teaching on nonviolence is anchored to God’s twice-repeated OT vision of the abolition of Warcraft:

“They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks…nor shall they learn warcraft any more (Isaiah 2:4 = Micah 4;3).”

(3) Our theology must confront the historical reality of the exodus from Egyptian slavery and the ancient Promised Land theology with which it is inextricably linked. Liberated Hebrew slaves need a homeland with the space and opportunities for agriculture and livestock management. Since the coveted land is inevitably already occupied by other tribes, conflict and warfare seem inevitable. But surely God wanted the Israelites to pursue loving compromises in a new world that works for everyone. Modern explanations of a preferable course of Israelite policy must take these 2 facts into account:

(a) Modern OT scholars reject the biblical impression that the Conquest of Canaan is carried out solely by liberated Israelite invaders from the wilderness. Israelites already occupy the Judean hills. So Israelite expansionism results from massive Israelite reinforcements from outside Canaan. So we must think in terms of an internal civil war rather than merely the impact of an invasion from outside forces.

(b) The often overlooked fact that God called pagan groups to embark on their own exodus to other lands must be recognized and given serious theological reflection:
“Are you not like the people of Israel to me, O people of Israel? says the Lord. Did I not bring Israel up from the land of Egypt, BUT ALSO the Philistines from Caphtor (= Crete) and the Arameans from Kir (in what is now modern Iraq) (Amos 9:7)?”


Yes. I have maintained for awhile now that the problems that arise from the OT are not with the OT itself, but with our understanding of what kind of book(s) the OT is.
What KIND of book it is determines HOW we read it.
But I did not have an overall explanation of what the answer was, til I read some Brueggemann, Boldt, and now for its clearest expression, Enns. (The biggest and clearest hint was in the 1800’s by Wm. Ellery Channing who was way out front of the rest of these guys).


At the end of the book in the OP, Enns writes a 265 word summary. Here 'tis:



I think there were many people in ancient times who also saw God as an all benevolent supreme being- for ex. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Cyrus the Great, David, etc.etc.- just as Christians do today. However, they saw God as a judge as well which many Christians still believe today, myself included. Yes, we are to love others as ourselves. Jesus wasn’t the first to ever teach this. But, to me this doesn’t always cut it in an evil world.

No offense, mcarans, but this sounds a little bit too idealistic. If my daughter was kidnapped by some sex trafficking ring, I wouldn’t be baking them an apple pie.


TBTMS is good, just like the other Enns books I have read.


Dave, I am in the process of reading the book on my kindle. I agree that God didn’t command the Israelites to wipe out the Canaanites—men, women, children, and babies, that the statements that He did, was the thinking of the Hebrews that God was behind this genocide that they carried out.

But I don’t agree that the miraculous events recorded in the OT was merely literary devices, but historical.
For example, the world-wide flood and Noah’s ark are found in the traditions of many peoples throughout the world. The details are somewhat different. For example some have that Noah sent out a raven rather than a dove. And of course, they have for him a different name instead of “Noah.” But the stories are essentially the same. There was a great flood. A man built a large boat and took animals on it, and at one point released a bird in order to find out if the water had receded. Here are a couple of sites that are worthwhile checking out:


They may or may not be. There are many stories found in the traditions of different peoples that aren’t really true. However, they have been shared and passed down through the ages pretty much intact. For example, Jack and the Beanstalk, and the Beauty and the Beast date back from thousands of years ago. That’s the power of storytelling.


Don I somewhat agree with you on that - for me the interesting thing as well is what historical core there really is in the re-imagining of the history.
A number of themes from Genesis were already extant in the surrounding cultures, long before Genesis was written. As I understand it, the Jewish writers adopted those themes but improved them by showing the reality of the one true God; as in the opening verses of Genesis, where the Jewish rendering dispersed with the somewhat ludicrous presentations of earlier folk, with the ‘gods’ fighting with one another, or ‘god’ being irritable because he was woken up by all the uproar on the ground, etc.
The Jewish presentation is magisterial, measured, wise - I consider it to be so because looking back at it from our vantage point of a clearer revelation in Christ, it makes sense, whereas other similar stories do not.
Does that make sense?


According to the Bible God sent the flood to wipe out all the evil people. Men, women, children and babies perished as well. This sounds like genocide to me.


That story - the Flood - must be treated with the same hermeneutic , imo, as the Canaanite slaughters. I think the story has things for us to consider, but I don’t think that it literally happened in that exact way.


I consider Genesis myth pretty much up until Abraham.


We all know that. But who wrote those words that have become part of the Bible? Was it not Moses? Could Moses have been mistaken in thinking that God had sent the flood?

Even in our day, people continue to ascribe disasters to God. When a tsunami occurs there is bound to be someone who claims that God sent it in order to punish the people who were affected by it. When the twin towers fell in 9-11, many people said that God sent it in order to punish Americans for their wicked way of life. People have said that God raised up Hitler in order to punish the 6 million Jews that he or his followers tortured and/or killed.

When are we going to stop blaming God for the occurrence of evil? GOD IS LOVE!!! LOVE is not just one of God’s characteristics. LOVE IS GOD’S VERY ESSENCE!!! (John 4:8,16)


I appreciate and understand your position. This is where we (as those who realize there is a greater calling) are working to start to let folks see that.

let me know what you think. :grinning:


DaveB, I don’t think it happened that way either. This story may be one that shows how the act of one righteous man who obeyed God saved the world and the human race. It’s similar to the story of Jesus; like the butterfly effect. Although, I don’t necessarily believe in the butterfly effect because I think it takes more than one man to change the entire world.

Paidion, I don’t blame God for the occurrence of evil.

To me, such things are the result of man’s sins. However, do we allow people like Hitler to continue in their madness?

'Let not anyone pacify his conscience by the delusion that he can do no harm if he takes no part, and forms no opinion. Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends than that good men should look on and do nothing." John Stuart Mills

Do you agree with this statement?


Yes, I do agree with that statement. But that does not imply that we should physically resist evil men or kill them or have them imprisoned in order to stop their evil doings. Jesus instructed us what we should do:

"You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. (Matt 5:38-41)

"You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (Matt 5:43,44)


From what I recall, there was very little resistance when Hitler first started his reign of terror. Do you have any other suggestions? Or was the world to just stand by and watch millions of Jewish people being slaughtered?


With all due respect. You got the 99…99% figure - how EXACTLY? By taking a poll and statically analyzing the results? Assuming you got a big enough sample, to warrant it’s statistical accuracy. Please enlighten us, to the statistical methodology you employed.