Pete Enns & The Bible for Normal People

“The Bible is the Christian Holy Book” and Other Distortions of Christianity

The Bible for Normal People

Pete Enns, Ph.D.

Peter Enns (Ph.D., Harvard University) is Abram S. Clemens professor of biblical studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has written numerous books, including The Bible Tells Me So, The Sin of Certainty, and How the Bible Actually Works.Tweets at @peteenns.

A friend sent me this post by Fr. Stephen Freeman, “Has Your Bible Become a Quran?

Freeman makes several points in his post, but what drew me in was his provocative view that modern Christianity, especially in its view of the Bible, has more in common with Islam than with historic Christianity.

I have to be honest, the thought never once crossed my mind, but Freeman’s post is worth pondering.

He makes three points:

  1. The Bible is not the Christian Holy Book.
  2. Christians (and Jews) are not People of the Book.
  3. Submission to God is not a proper way to describe the Christian faith

For many Christians, each of these three points might seem 180 degrees backwards. Really? The Bible ISN’T the Christian Holy Book? We AREN’T “people of the book?” We DON’T submit to God?

But for Freeman, these claims are distortions of Christianity, and the Protestant Reformation is largely the reason why the modern church (read “evangelicalism’) has been “Islamified.” There’s a conversation starter (or stopper) if I ever heard one.

Personally, I’m not sure how much is gained by this rhetoric, but he makes some points that, wholly on their own, are probably worth keeping in mind for those who claim to have a “high” view of Scripture.

Here are some choice quotes, but read the whole article for yourself:

The Christian community predates its own texts (the New Testament) and is not described as in any way having a foundation on the Scriptures – the Apostles and Prophets are described as the foundation of the Church.

Christians are not baptized into the Bible. Jews were circumcised and made part of the Covenant people before ever a word of Scripture was written. God revealed Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob some hundreds of years before Moses ever wrote a line….

The movement from authoritative Church to authoritative book that occurs over the 15th and 16th centuries (the Protestant Reformation), should not be considered apart from the dialog with Islam in the two or three centuries that preceded it. It is worth noting that scholasticism in the West was largely begun in Andalusian Islam. It was not a natural development from within. Scholasticism was ultimately rejected in the Christian East….

Martin Luther’s, “Hier, stehe ich!” (demanding that only a Scriptural argument would be an acceptable response to his position) would have been unimaginable four or five hundred years before. 

On the face of it, denying that Christianity is submission to God seems ludicrous. Surely,  if God is truly God, then submission to Him is the only proper response. But submission is not a word that passes the lips of Christ. His invitation to become a child of the Father is not a demand to submit to the Supreme Being. It is why there can be no conversion at the point of a sword in Christianity….

The question placed in Christian Baptism (Orthodox) is: “Do you unite yourself to Christ?” This is the language of union, reflecting St. Paul’s teaching that Baptism is union with the death and resurrection of Christ. The modern Evangelical phrase, “Do you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?” has more in common with Muslim submission. 

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