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You know, for me, reading the Bible, especially certain Psalms of lament and complaint, not to mention Job and Ecclesiastes, effectively and finally squashes any simplistic notion of “biblical authority,” where God gives the church a book and says, “Here you go. It’s all there. Just follow what it says and you’ll be fine.”

If you describe your own view of the Bible as being “authoritative” and yet do not fall into this simplistic notion of authority, then that is fine. Please carry on.

I blog about this sort of thing quite a bit (most recently here), but I am continually amazed at how this beautiful and complex Bible deconstructs what we desperately want—need—it to be, a timeless book of clear “teaching” that we are simply meant to read, accept, and act on.

The Bible deconstructs that sort of thinking, and any notion of biblical authority that does not address that reality is not a “doctrine of Scripture,” but a doctrine of a wish and a simple assertion of theological will.

And I keep returning to what I first began to see studying with Jews at Harvard and a theme that pervades The Bible Tells Me So and The Sin of Certainty: Christians could learn a lot about how to think of the Bible by paying closer attention to how the Bible actually behaves and by seeing how Judaism, more so than Christianity, has largely continued the Bible’s own inner-dynamic of struggle and debate about how best to read it.

Ironically, following the Bible’s own lead in this regard is itself an expression of a “doctrine of biblical authority”— just not the kind of authority we might be used to thinking about.

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.