Quotations in Context, part II: a “messy” Bible?
In our previous post we discussed a quotation from Telling God’s Story: A Parents’ Guide to Teaching the Bible that had been taken out of context to misrepresent the book. Here we’ll briefly clear up another. Dr. Enns has been accused of criticizing the Bible and its Author because of his use of a “messy room” metaphor in the introduction to the book.
Here is the quote which has been circulated and mis-explained:
“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.”
(TGS, page 10)
Dr. Enns does not say that he believes the Bible is a mess. As the first sentence of that excerpt implies, he is saying that the Bible can seem overwhelming, disorganized, or cluttered to parents who are trying to teach it systematically to their children. He goes on to give the example of someone trying to read and teach straight through the Bible, with a young child. Genesis and the first part of Exodus go all right, but things get trickier in the long “legal” sections and genealogies. If we expect the Bible to be organized like a textbook, we’ll be overwhelmed by its mix of genres and its refusal to behave neatly.
But by saying that it can appear messy to an overwhelmed parent, Dr. Enns is not denigrating the Bible. Our curriculum’s entire purpose is to help parents better understand the Bible and see how it fits together (so that it becomes “a welcome place”—page 12). This allows them to teach it to their children with the goal of introducing them to its Author and Main Character. As Dr. Enns says on page 27 of Telling God’s Story, he wants to help parents teach the Bible in a way that “brings out the full complexity and power of the Bible’s vision.”
Next in this series: Does God fail?