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The older I get, the more I like–really like–Psalms and the wisdom books, Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes.

Genesis through Nehemiah tells a story, a story of Israel, from Adam** to the return from Babylonian exile.

And the story–though deep, complex, and worthy of far more than a Tweet-sized summary–goes something like this:

God formed a people of his own, delivered them from slavery, and gifted them a land and the promise of his presence if they remain faithful to his covenant, to the law of Moses. Obedience ensures perpetual presence in the land (i.e., “life”) and disobedience ensures eventual exile from the land (i.e., “death”).

Israel’s main storyline is pretty black and white, a lesson to be learned, a story with a moral…

But for Psalms and wisdom literature, life isn’t black and white. Life is messy, unpredictable, and often makes no sense.

These books take issue with the storyline and its morals. They interrogate the black and white script and conclude, “Life isn’t that straightforward.”

  • Job loses everything he has except his life. The script (e.g., Deuteronomy) says that such calamities are by God’s hand, a response to disobedience. Yet we learn from Job that this is not the case.
  • Ecclesiastes questions the “world order” God has made: nothing we do matters, since we all die and are driven to the point of madness at the thought of our futile existence.
  • A number of psalms lament God’s absence in the world. Like Psalm 73–where the author can’t get his head around how a just God can allow the wicked to prosper.
  • Or Psalm 89–where God is in effect called a liar for promising that one of King David’s descendants would always be on the throne in Jerusalem and then allowing the Babylonians to kill off the last of David’s royal line and take the people captive.

I like these parts of the Bible because, the older I get the more I live where the script makes less sense. Too much of life has happened. It’s all too messy.

Job’s experience threatens the foundation of his moral world. God punishes the wicked, yet Job isn’t wicked. So why is God doing this?

Job never gets a straight answer to the question–other than God telling Job “I’m God, the Creator. You’re not.”

I don’t take that to mean, “Be silent before the sovereign overlord, you puny human. How dare you question meeeee!”

I take it to mean, “You are human, Job, present here on earth for a few moments. You can’t possibly comprehend how the universe works, or my part in it. The script of the sacred story is fine as far as it goes, but this world and my place in it aren’t constricted by it. You will not figure this out, Job.”

Now, to get to my point.

For me, in my little private thought-world, the biggest reason not to believe in God in the conventional sense is the universe we inhabit.

Morality–discerning what makes up proper conduct toward others–is so very central to the human experience, and which people of faith ground in God’s goodness and justice.

Yet the universe we inhabit is largely deaf to our moral preoccupations. It is distant, cold, empty space, beholden to an apparently endless cycle of destruction and rebirth.

Here on earth, tsunamis take out coastlands and tens of thousands of lives. Mudslides, hurricanes, tornadoes, and volcanoes hit with little or no warning. Our environment is hostile, and we know, despite what an occasional crackpot T.V. preacher says, that God doesn’t cause these disasters because America has ceased being a “Christian nation.”

Sentient beings kill and eat each other. The entire evolutionary process is fueled by suffering and death on a massive scale.

So what kind of God is this, who abides by this clash of interests–a God who is good and just, expecting the same from us, but whose universe operates by a different standard?

I’m not the first person to ask these questions and I have no interest in answering them here–though I think Job points us in the right direction.

God’s answer to Job, if I may translate into the contemporary idiom, is that the divine is “trans-rational.”

At the end of the day, the human thought process can only get you so far when it comes to God.

At some point, for most of us, as it was for some biblical writers, God stops making sense.

The question then is whether the non-sense leads to disbelief in God or becomes an invitation to seek God differently–even through confrontation and debate, as these biblical books model for us.

I know people who have answered that question both ways–people close to me, whom I love and respect. I’m not judging anyone and I’m not here to debate the issue or try to make an argument.

I’m just saying that over time I’ve come to answer that question in the second way–as I think Job, some psalmists, and the author of Ecclesiastes did.

Some might call that kind of faith “fideism”–an irrational belief in God rather than based on “sound reason.” But I think the charge of fideism misses the halting lesson life insists on giving us, and also persists in presuming what Job’s friends also insisted on–that where God is concerned, things make sense.

The issue as I see it isn’t simply whether your faith is or isn’t “reasonable.” “Reasonable” is a moving target.

The issue is whether we are able to accept that our cognitive power–which can be limiting and deceiving as well as liberating and enlightening–is truly up for the task of grasping the divine.

That, I think, is what these books of the Old Testament are after in their own way and in their own time and place. And that’s why I like them.

**I see Israel’s story beginning with Adam because I see the story of Adam as a preview of Israel’s story. As Adam was placed in a garden paradise and exiled from it because of disobedience, Israel was gifted the lush land of Canaan and exiled because of disobedience–but I digress.

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.

155 Comments

  • Andrew Swann says:

    Great post. I also love the wisdom books – a reminder that the theology of the Deuteronomistic History is not the final, exclusive, definitive understanding of how God operates.

    • SJ says:

      I like reading your musings Peter…they show a lot of good natured common sense.

      I think the greatest mystery is God so His bible deserves the greatest thinking and meditation….we’re shallow thinkers until we start to engage the bible on a regular basis.

      Anybody can follow other people’s thoughts but not everyone seems to be able to follow God’s.

      It’s almost like He is creating order from chaos when we try to follow Him.

      • Pete E. says:

        Thanks, SJ. Loved your last line!

        • SJ says:

          Thanks Peter. I see Jesus in you a lot. You’re radical just like he is,

          • Kim Fabricius says:

            Yep, Job’s friends (who, btw, speak in the name of religion) are the sense-makers. And we know what God thinks of them. Job’s breakthrough comes when, by divine disclosure, he comes to see what his friends don’t, viz., that his sufferings aren’t for anything, that there is no explanation for them — that, yep, they don’t make sense.

            Now: you can respond to this non-sense in three ways: you can deny it and continue to try to force the sense of things (which is like trying to force cats to march in a parade); you can despair at the seeming meaninglessness of things, and, particularly, at the purposelessness of horrendous suffering; or, like Job, you can wonder at the riddle of the universe, the enigma of evil and good, and the unfathomable mystery of God — and accept the Triune God as the God of grace and creation itself as a form of grace. This existential posture is called faith.

    • Waldemeyer says:

      Hi Pete. I’ve been enjoying your blog for months now. Don’t post this but just so you know I’m personally finding the print style on the actual blog a little too light to read easily on my tablet. The comment section however with its bolder typeface is coming through much more clearly.

      • lbehrendt says:

        Pete, this is one of the very best things I’ve ever read about God and the Bible. As a Jewish reader, I think this captures something of the essence of modern Jewish faith in a way I’ve read from others, but never quite like this. The fact that this is written by a Christian makes it that much sweeter for me. Thank you for this.

        • Pete E. says:

          That means a lot. Thanks.

          • Beau Quilter says:

            My perspective is that of the person who stopped believing when God stopped making sense. Of course, that’s just a figure of speech. It’s not as though the non-sense occurred in my lifetime, it was always there. When I stopped believing, I thought about why I ever believed in the first place, and the answer seems obvious: I was indoctrinated to believe. I inherited my belief from parents, my friends, and the society in which I grew up. The experience of losing my belief in God was like a veil being lifted; I don’t see how I could ever go back to a state of belief even if I wanted to. It would make no more sense to me than returning to a childhood belief in magic.

            So why does one maintain their belief when God no longer satisfies sense or reason? What makes one believe? A personal revelation? I can certainly agree that there is much about the universe that we don’t yet understand; but I don’t see how the existence of God can be a presumption or base belief.

          • God can be known. I went from a Roman Catholic upbringing where I believed, at least, in the tyranny of God for 17 years, to an agnosticism leaning toward atheism but never addressed enough to dedicate, for the next 40 years, to a completely out of the blue visceral meeting with God. Since then life has been a series of understandings how the universe works, like pieces of a giant jig-saw puzzle sliding into their places.
            How one gets to that, if one wishes to, is looking. Where is unknown but becomes known as the next step on the path. My experience.

          • Beau Quilter says:

            Sounds like personal revelation of some sort. I address my non belief all the time; it was not a thoughtless deconversion. But looking for God (when no evidence is otherwise forthcoming), sounds an awful lot like looking for conspiracy theories. We are biologically prone to see agency everywhere, which is why we often jump at shadows, see faces in the clouds, anthropomorphize our pets.

            How visceral was this meeting? What did it entail?

          • A knowing with a physical rush magnitudes over anything in my experience. I had just read a description of relativity in Greene’s The Elegant Universe, realized I understood relativity and that set off my journey. It probably lasted a few minutes but I was out of time at that point.
            One does not have to believe in God to follow a path, in fact the Buddhists consider belief drags one down. (I’m not a Buddhist.) Only what you percieve can be known by you. In that vein, though, a means to understanding more is to accept everything as real. Everything exists. So something may be in the shadows or in the clouds or in one’s pet that exists beyond immediate perception. You only see what you are willing to see.
            My opinion is it does not matter in the long run what anyone does. This place is set up like a giant wheel that will vacate present realtiy sooner or later. However if someone wants more freedom in time and space and is willing to look at possiblities, they are there.

          • Beau Quilter says:

            I’ve never heard of a system of thought that accepts “everything as real”, that “everything exists.” I’m not sure I see how that concept is, in any sense, true or valuable.

          • louismoreaugottschalk says:

            maybe for you the existence of God can not be a presumption
            just as having a relationship with the brand or a product
            the family one grew up in endorsed, stay like a brand of mayonnaise.
            just a brand of mayonnaise but it kept the family together until it stopped working
            as social glue that everybody had in common and kept every one
            relating on the same level agreeing that the mayonnaise was good,
            the mayonnaise was relevant,
            mayonnaise kept everybody together.
            but then you know time passes and one experiences for oneself that one’s family’s favored mayonnaise seems much like all the others.
            one may even become dysphoric when it comes to mayonnaise.
            but you know there’s a definite void in one’s life now.

          • Beau Quilter says:

            Hmmm, that may be a useful but limited analogy. If so, the void is not the lack of mayonnaise, the void is the lack of a central theme that the family agrees on. But while I have lost areas of agreement with my extended family (specifically, our religious areas of agreement), I have discovered areas of agreement with a much larger body of humanity.

            Themes such as love, mercy, kindness, and generosity are more important to me now than the specific brand of religion that requires a 1st century resurrection.

          • louismoreaugottschalk says:

            bingo!

        • RonH says:

          Great words, Pete. These are the parts of the Old Testament that I feel I can relate to as well. The incarnated human parts.

          G. K. Chesterton didn’t write much about the Bible directly, but he did write an introduction to the Book of Job. It probably makes the most sense out of the book as anything I’ve ever read. It’s not long, and you might enjoy it.

        • archaeologist says:

          God says his ways are not ours and his thinking is above ours so unless you believe God and have the Holy Spirit helping you , you will not make sense of God or his word. Unbelievers cannot receive that help or the HS.

          • louismoreaugottschalk says:

            that’s not true RK!

          • 4 WIW says:

            Dear archaeologist: Thanks for your comment. This is exactly the verse that came to mind for me as well. God has revealed just enough about Himself for us to comprehend without it driving us mad. He explains very clearly in this verse why we can’t understand Him and what He does. There is another phrase from Scripture that augments this idea that we can’t understand God and that is that He gives us peace that passes all understanding. So on the one hand we can’t understand Him, but on the other it doesn’t matter because He give us peace about it. He certainly has for me and it sounds like He may have for you too.

          • Flying Spaghetti Monster says:

            So… You have to believe it to make sense of it, but in order to believe something, it has to make sense. Ugh, what a paradox 🙁

      • Fred Fauth says:

        Now that you mention that, I agree. A darker tone of black in the text would be much easier to read.

        • Pete E. says:

          It’s on the to-do list of things seen and unseen!

          • gingoro says:

            Pete when I go to http://peteenns.com/ and then click on blog all I get is a blank page. I normally use Firefox, but if I change to Chrome or IE then your pages work fine. My default browser for blogs is Firefox. There are checkers on line that go over your html and css to see if it should work under the most common browsers but of course the real test is actually running various browsers including safari. I know it is time consuming to test, sigh! Specifically http://peteenns.com/ works but http://peteenns.com/blog/ does not. I just updated to Firefox v 30.0.3 which is the latest and that does not help. DaveW

          • Pete E. says:

            It was tested for Firefox. Hmm. I’ve let my web people know.

          • SJ says:

            It is good to see you branching out Peter. When I skimmed your wikipedia bio I thought you might be being used by God in a special way. This blog change could be God opening another door for you.

            Regarding your article above….I think you may be relating so much to Proverbs, Psalms and Ecclesiastes right now because they help prepare you to take on God and His tests.

            I have had a really strange life but when I look back on it all I can see Yeshua was there the whole time coaching me through everything but my results really started to improve once I read the bible.

            I believe that this whole world and life is one big test….now that may sound unorthodox but I think reality bears this out….Once you think you’ve mastered something and the whirlwind is over along comes another whirlwind to sweep you off your feet….but the storm really isn’t as scary as the average person likes to make it….because you always meet Jesus in the storm sooner or later.

            Why does God test His people so much….I think it’s to teach us to beat sin like Jesus did. He wants us to learn to be overcomers and forgivers just like Jesus.

            You Can Overcome Sin
            http://realtruth.org/articles/140408-001.html

            If you look at your bio Peter I think you can see that you’re like both Jesus Christ and Job….the evangelical community and the people who were supposed to be your friends came after you like the Pharisees came after Jesus and Job’s friends came after Job and the world came after Martin Luther but you stood by your reasoned opinions about God and refused to be cowed.

            That’s why I may read one of your books…..I haven’t read any of the bloggers’ books on Patheos. I rarely read anything but the bible these days because I spend so much time evangelizing and correcting people’s bad theology that I don’t have much time left over for other things. But since I suspect you’re good at passing God’s tests I will have to break down and buy one of your books.

  • Andrew Swann says:

    Great post. I also love the wisdom books – a reminder that the theology of the Deuteronomistic History is not the final, exclusive, definitive understanding of how God operates.

  • Jameson Graber says:

    “The issue is whether we are able to accept that our cognitive power–which can be limiting and deceiving as well as liberating and enlightening–are truly up for the task of grasping the divine.”

    Can I ask for clarification on that? There seems to be more than a typo, here–I’m not sure exactly what you meant.

    It’s one thing to say you like those parts of the Bible, because they reflect something very real. It’s another thing to figure out how we ought to approach them as we seek to be closer to God. How would Jesus read Ecclesiastes, or Job, or the Psalms?

    • Pete E. says:

      I understand the question, but I have no idea how Jesus would read these books. The NT focus is also very narrow hermeneutically–it doesn’t provide a map for reading all portions of the OT.

      A while back I wrote a post about how the OT actually does things theologically the NT doesn’t, namely talk about struggling with God’s absence. The NT does little if anything with that (except for Jesus on the cross) because the view is short term–the end is right around the corner, so no long haul.

    • Justin Anderson says:

      Thank you so very much for this and for all of your writings and wrestlings, Pete. Your work means so much to a lot of us. Don’t stop. And don’t stop asking questions and living in this kind of Wisdom Literature Wrestling — not a cheap “wrestling” that some claim to do on a singular “dark night of the soul” (that was quickly mended by a lousy and unpersuasive apologetic argument) but rather the trauma and fracture of meaning itself…the direct critique of all answers that would attempt to disavow this originary trauma within the text and within our lives as humans.

      • Pete E. says:

        Thanks for your kind words, Justin.

        • Mark K says:

          OK, I’m gonna pile on in a good way, since I’ve had the same thought as Justin, and want to echo the thanks.

          Thanks, Pete, for sharing your biblical/faith-journey insight so freely. I know it’s been a hard road to get to this place in your understanding of the Bible (better
          you than me, brother –jk, acourse!), but your loss has turned into my/our gain. The biblicist draw-a-line-around-the-Bible perspective of what the Bible has to be–it just has
          to be!–wrecked my view of God for many years, and it was only in meeting up with your blog and books (and book recommendations) that that began to finally change. Now, knowing the God of the Bible is an exhilarating, terrifying, ride without a safety bar, and I love it. I am finally free to talk to God–the real God–and see God answering in ways that leave me dumbstruck.

          So I guess the moral is, I’d sacrifice you all over again to get to this place 🙂

        • But if God didn’t give us humans understanding of what is true at a finite level, how can we then live?

          “If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played? 8 And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle?” 1 Corinthians 14:7-8

          Consider within Christianity, millions of Christians disagree on almost everything–Augustinians and Calvinists versus the opposite, inerrantists versus errantists on the Bible, biblical law Christians versus Christian gay leaders, cessationists versus charismatics, complementarian versus egalitarian views of women, pro-war leaders versus pacifists, pro-torture versus anti-torture, pro-choice versus anti-abortionists, nationalists versus internationalists, opposing views on the nature of communion, the nature of God, disagreements about Jesus, views of the Old Testament, economics, capital punishment, immigration, Israel, prophecy!

          And in the past, everything from slavery to crusades…

          The lack of understanding and confusion seems endless.

          If we finite humans can’t know any truths about God because ‘he’ is transrational, what hope is there?

          I must admit, that is why after 60 years as a Christian–elder, youth pastor, mission volunteer, etc., I finally came to the conclusion that Christianity can’t be true. It sends too many mixed, contradictory, confusing messages.

          • Brian Millhollon says:

            I have been thinking about a line by Frodo in “The Return of the King”: “We set out to save the Shire, Sam and it has been saved-but not for me.” Answering the call to wisdom comes at a price. That irresistible fruit that opens your eyes to see the things of God can make it impossible to live contentedly in the garden. Ruined by the truth, Frodo could never return again to the simple life in the shire. But as Bilbo was fond of saying: “I’m going on an adventure”. And so, I believe, are we.

          • louismoreaugottschalk says:

            JRR Tolkien was writing in the midst of the Third Reich blitz.
            the truth of bombs hitting your homeland!
            now that’s going to cause some dysphoria!
            IMO
            artists giftedness helps them process truths beyond tradition, orthodoxy, entitlement, sentiment and nostalgia.

          • Another way to say it may be “ruined by perspective”. One can live in a place in innocence and content, like a family home. However once one sees the world, experiences humanity, draws and gives blood, one is never the same. The world as it is pretty much disallows innocence except in individual cases, such as in Dostoyevski’s The Idiot or Tom Hank’s brilliant Forrest Gump. Those few see the maelstrom but neatly avoid diving in. We who must dive, through being pushed off the board, can have faith that our adventure is a path toward perspective that is not ruinous, but beautiful, understanding, and complete. I am pretty sure that is out there. As you are.

          • louismoreaugottschalk says:

            for some reason you are post reminds me of Damien by Herman hesse.
            Ever read it?

          • Yes, although I admit don’t remember it. The Hesse books I remember best are The Glass Bead Game and Siddhartha.

          • louismoreaugottschalk says:

            yes both of those are good as well as Steppenwolf.
            I went through quite a phase when I was a freshman reading hesse.
            he was all the rage in the early
            1970s on Western Washington campus in Bellingham Washington. we kids were all a bit like Siddhartha coming out of our little bubble.
            the music was great!

          • I was in Indiana doing the same thing..

          • louismoreaugottschalk says:

            in the same period Of time 1969 through 1971 was When I discovered Vonnegut and I read everything of his. I was just a kid fresh out of Walla Walla Washington,18yrs old. I did not know anything! now I think Vonnegut and hesse were a kind of shortcut, enlightenment 101 for a generation of us boomers. I felt the need to grow up fast after cloistered childhood.
            ‘pages turning pages we were years from learning’
            ~ Jackson Browne

          • Chris Bourne says:

            What a lot that invites response! And what an eclectic thing this response is going to be.

            Yes, and I have quite a few years on you, Pete, this is the point at which faith can become so many things. Less afraid, less precise, less demanding of certitude (which was never faith in the first place), and by derivation frequently less banal, and a whole lot less boring. None of which makes it any easier to communicate. But at least it opens other possibilities, for example, to be less prone to the great sin of failing to enjoy what God might be, and perhaps even be right about that.

            I would like, and realizing you don’t know me from Adam (any Adam!), to add my pawprint to the others, as one who has followed the blog for some time. It is your sanity I appreciate, realizing that this is one thing some others do not. And one of the practical reasons I tag along is the difficulty I have as a EuroBrit in understanding what people like you have to face in the American Academy. It is so easy for us in the old world to be snide about US culture and the state of public discourse, and yours is one place I can come to for a dose of your reality. And I appreciate that, very much. You are an honest man, sir, and that is very special.

            Now, I said this was going to be eclectic, so I will prove it. The comments on the readability of the design. The main text font is already Hex0 and that’s as black as black gets. Lato is a typeface with a very low contrast ratio (there’s a lot more light than dark within the area of each character). So the line height of 1.8em is too great and readability would be helped if it were about 1.6 or even less. The problem for mobile devices is the font weight, currently set at 300. This would improve on mobile devices if it were set to 4 or even 500. For your web guys, that’s two character edits in the css file, a couple of seconds work. (And sorry, I was first trained as a typographer, nearly fifty years ago, but have kept up with the tech).

            Anyway, the main point is… Yes!

          • Pete E. says:

            Thanks, Chris. I will pass this on to “my people.” 🙂

          • Chris Bourne says:

            I’m sure they love unsolicited advice from an old codger who used to work in real lead! Ooh, I wonder if that is what did those funny things to my brain that made thinking seem like a good idea.

          • Austin Liang-wei Huang says:

            I have the same feeling as you do. Apart from the wisdom books, I am also wondering whether it is we Christians who have been always narrowing down the rest parts of the Bible to mere black and white doctrines by ignoring the complexity of the biblical society and the richness of biblical narrative itself.

          • louismoreaugottschalk says:

            yes IMO Christianity adds insult to injury!
            Jesus destroys the divisions by the example of his life which, via the Holy Spirit,
            one can be helped to follow.
            patience, tolerance & love are not humbug my friend!
            I think one is always tempted to worship one’s
            little grey cells.
            we are taught in AA that we shall intuitively know…

          • Thanks for sharing your views.

          • Luke Breuer says:

            But if God didn’t give us humans understanding of what is true at a finite level, how can we then live?

            Do you need these answers in order to love God and your neighbor as best as you can? Or are you asking for knowledge and wisdom which simply isn’t required for these tasks, or perhaps which is suspiciously not required for these tasks? (I sometimes wonder whether I am refusing to seek knowledge and wisdom for where God does want me to act, because I am running away like Jonah.)

            Consider within Christianity, millions of Christians disagree on almost everything […]

            Jesus warned of antichrists, Paul of super-apostles and those whose consciences are seared, etc. What is it that you are expecting to happen, that didn’t? You seem to dislike the fact that anyone can choose to call himself or herself ‘Christian’; can you propose a mechanism whereby anyone attempting to use that name must have certain beliefs, such that this diversity you claim exists would be disallowed? I wouldn’t be surprised if the final antichrist does precisely this: enforces ideological uniformity.

            If we finite humans can’t know any truths about God because ‘he’ is transrational, what hope is there?

            It’s not clear Dr. Enns made any such claim. Knowing something of God—perhaps analogically, as Thomas Aquinas argued—does not mean knowing him completely and exhaustively.

          • Thanks for sharing your perspective. But since we strongly disagree about Thomas Aquinas’ view of reality (several months back), I’ll stop here.

            And you said, “Do you need these answers in order to love God and your neighbor as best as you can?”

            But, hey, that’s the incredible problem, most Christians leaders even disagree what “love” is!
            In fact the ‘correct’ view of most Christian leaders is the central reason I finally came to the conclusion that Christianity can’t be true.
            Now I seek to care for others and hope that everyone might be cared for.

          • David says:

            Daniel – I’ve been where you are at several times in life. Been a Christian for forty years now. Well, on and off I suppose. God and I have had what I would call an adversarial relationship at times. Frankly I’ve lost total faith on more than one occasion. After years of trying to intellectualize what life means, what my place in the universe is and how to relate to an infinite God. I have read the bible many times and simply don’t understand how there can be so many contradictions. So I have come to the conclusion that, at least for me, I’ll never fully understand it. Faith is the difference between what we know with certainty and what we believe. Stated mathematically: Faith = Absolute Empirical Truth / Proof – What We Believe. In the end this makes those like Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins as much people of faith as St. Augustine or Thomas Aquinas.

            It may seem a bit silly to some but personally I have distilled my faith down to this – I am content to live (or attempt it at least) my life by just three chapters in the bible: Matthew 5, 6, and 7. The Sermon on the Mount. That’s it, nothing more and nothing less. I am no longer interested in studying hermeneutics, semiotics, semantics, eschatology, ecclesiology, pragmatics, exegesis or anything like that. I imagine myself to be one of those people standing on a hillside in Palestine two thousand years ago, what they experienced. This was for most the one time that they would have any interaction with Jesus. And He knew that. His words had to mean something. As Augustine said – “anyone who piously and earnestly ponders the Sermon on the Mount—as we
            read in the Gospel according to Mathew—I believe he will find therein …
            the perfect standard of the Christian Life.” Everything else is filler in my opinion.

          • Thanks for sharing about your own journey.

            However, since one of the main reasons I think Christianity can’t be true is because Augustine. (Let me count the ways I can’t stand his views or his actions…)

            But as a theistic free-seeker and humanist, I do seek to model my live on the Sermon on the Mount, the parables such as the Good Samaritan, and passages like 1 Corinthians 13. (It is tragic and absurd that so much of Christian dogma and doctrine and behavior severely contradict those passages.)

          • David says:

            Daniel – I understand totally. I would be curious to know how Augustine negatively affected your beliefs. To be honest, I’ve only read him a bit. Never been much on reading commentaries. Would rather do my own thinking. That said, I am in total agreement with you about dogma and doctrine which is why I endeavor to let my actions do the talking. I don’t go to church (for a host of reasons) but am active with a Christian humanitarian organization that is committed to active non violence against oppression. We have teams in Palestine (the west bank), Iraq and south America. I was in Palestine last year and hope to go to northern Iraq in the next year or so. My own journey, like everyone is else, is unique. If it weren’t for a very specific experience early in life I doubt I’d be a Christian. Suffice to say God presented himself in a very real and tangible way. Were it not for that the skeptic in me would have me exactly where you are at.

          • Intriguing.
            Are you part of Christian Peacemaker Teams, maybe? We’ve actively supported various outreach organizations (including CPT) in Palestine, Israel, Iraq, etc.? Also used to be on social concern/missions committees, etc.
            I lived for a most of one year in Palestine/Israel, go there virtually via the Internet every day, so would be very interested in hearing of your experiences.

            More later on experience with God and the downer of A.

          • David says:

            Yes, exactly. I was a delegate to Palestine last year and had been accepted to training and want to do full time work in either Iraq or Palestine. Unfortunately my father got very ill so decided to stay in the US for awhile to take care of him. So instead I’m doing this – http://www.bikingforpeace.org – as a way of being involved.

          • Great!

            Sorry to hear about your father. I’ve also been involved in helping my ill elderly parents though my sis does most of the work. My dad made it to 90, but then died last August. Tough times.

            I see you live or lived in Wickenburg, AZ. Small world sometimes. I used to teach literature and writing at Salome High School, just a frog hop;-) west.

            I make small efforts for peace through my writing, etc. My web blog is at http://infiniteoceanoflightandlove.blogspot.com/

          • David says:

            Daniel – Nice blog. I spent a little time reading it last night. In my opinion there are no small efforts at peace. The world is so filled with violence that any effort in that direction is big. I’m aware that little actions can have big ramifications.
            Yes, Wickenburg. Not really my cup of tea but this is where I’m at for now. I get out to Salome, Wenden, Aguila on my bicycle a bit. Have some snowbird friends that come into town and we load the bike up every week for a road trip. One of our favorite rides is to park in Wenden and ride to Alamo Lake. I didn’t even know that Salome had a high school.

          • Thanks for visiting on your virtual bike;-)
            Yeah S.H.S.–or at least when I taught there for 2 years–but that was in 1982! Then our students came from a 50-mile radius, even students from Ehrenberg on the Arizona/California border next to Blythe. We took a drove out to Alamo Lake, but it was about 112.
            Are there still lots of cotton fields in Salome/Wenden or have they gone away because of drought and loss of Colorado River water?

            Very depressing experiences with the churches in that area for us, so we would drive into Phoenix about once a month and attend a Quaker or Mennonite church.

            Back to topic: I’m not sure how Enns gets around all the horrific stuff in the Bible since it appears he is some sort of Calvinist, used to teach at Westminster Theological Seminary. I need to read his book The Bible Tells Me So.
            And any suggestions on how we ought to deal with ISIS, HAMAS, etc.? Weren’t you in danger from Islamic militants?

          • James says:

            Your tweet-sized summary looks very much like Ezra’s in Nehemiah 9. But it’s not the fully story of God’s righteous ways with his very human creatures; it is not even the full story of the Old Testament. The larger story includes grace, simply put. And, of course, grace doesn’t make sense, as you say, though we suspect it has something to do with God unconditionally choosing Adam, Abraham, Israel, and us Gentiles. Note hints in Romans 9 to 11: “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy…for God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.” Yes, limited atonement and double predestination are chapters only in the larger story of irresistible grace–even in the face of total depravity. Grace turns exile from a garden paradise into happy inclusion in a world made new. “O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!”

          • Larry Robinson says:

            As someone who has been serving and loving the Lord for 5 decades, my experience has been polar opposite that which Peter describes. This world, how it behaves (both people and the earth) make more, not less sense. The more you understand sin, free will, and the effect of sin on all of creation, the more inner peace and understanding I have experienced.

            The Psalms beautifully elaborate on this process while Eccliasstes reflects the cumulative effect sin has on one who set out to walk in the ways of the Lord and then departed from that path in pursuit of the passing pleasures of this world

          • Pete E. says:

            I support your experience, but I would certainly challenge your understanding of lament Psalms and Ecclesiastes.

          • Hominid says:

            You need to put down the bible, which is humanist mythology, and pick up The Origin of Species in which Darwin nails biological reality.

          • Heck, you’re talking to the wrong person–remember, I’m a retired literature teacher. I eat literature including various forms of myth for breakfast;-)

            But I also read plenty of science tomes. Recently finished The Ancestor’s Tale by Richard Dawkins. What a book!
            And read several books on cosmology, am in The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene.

            But I’m not only concerned with biology, anthropology (I majored in that subject for a while at university), I am very concerned with human rights, justice, etc.

  • Jameson Graber says:

    “The issue is whether we are able to accept that our cognitive power–which can be limiting and deceiving as well as liberating and enlightening–are truly up for the task of grasping the divine.”

    Can I ask for clarification on that? There seems to be more than a typo, here–I’m not sure exactly what you meant.

    It’s one thing to say you like those parts of the Bible, because they reflect something very real. It’s another thing to figure out how we ought to approach them as we seek to be closer to God. How would Jesus read Ecclesiastes, or Job, or the Psalms?

    • Pete E. says:

      I understand the question, but I have no idea how Jesus would read these books. The NT focus is also very narrow hermeneutically–it doesn’t provide a map for reading all portions of the OT.

      A while back I wrote a post about how the OT actually does things theologically the NT doesn’t, namely talk about struggling with God’s absence. The NT does little if anything with that (except for Jesus on the cross) because the view is short term–the end is right around the corner, so no long haul.

  • David Goneau says:

    Thanks for your blog post today. I’ve been reading… th.rough the wisdo.m books recently and been wrestling with how God doesn’t always make cognitive sense to my feeble, finite mind. I find I’m often left in that “Job place”. I hear and have heard so much about God but now, in the chaos and brokenness of the world, I simply want to see Him, to repent in dust and ashes, just to get a peek.

  • David Goneau says:

    Thanks for your blog post today. I’ve been reading… th.rough the wisdo.m books recently and been wrestling with how God doesn’t always make cognitive sense to my feeble, finite mind. I find I’m often left in that “Job place”. I hear and have heard so much about God but now, in the chaos and brokenness of the world, I simply want to see Him, to repent in dust and ashes, just to get a peek.

  • SJ says:

    I like reading your musings Peter…they show a lot of good natured common sense.

    I think the greatest mystery is God so His bible deserves the greatest thinking and meditation….we’re shallow thinkers until we start to engage the bible on a regular basis.

    Anybody can follow other people’s thoughts but not everyone seems to be able to follow God’s.

    It’s almost like He is creating order from chaos when we try to follow Him.

  • Waldemeyer says:

    Hi Pete. I’ve been enjoying your blog for months now. Don’t post this but just so you know I’m personally finding the print style on the actual blog a little too light to read easily on my tablet. The comment section however with its bolder typeface is coming through much more clearly.

    • Fred Fauth says:

      Now that you mention that, I agree. A darker tone of black in the text would be much easier to read.

      • Pete E. says:

        It’s on the to-do list of things seen and unseen!

        • gingoro says:

          Pete when I go to http://www.peteenns.com/ and then click on blog all I get is a blank page. I normally use Firefox, but if I change to Chrome or IE then your pages work fine. My default browser for blogs is Firefox. There are checkers on line that go over your html and css to see if it should work under the most common browsers but of course the real test is actually running various browsers including safari. I know it is time consuming to test, sigh! Specifically http://www.peteenns.com/ works but http://www.peteenns.com/blog/ does not. I just updated to Firefox v 30.0.3 which is the latest and that does not help. DaveW

  • I think these books, along with the Prophets, are by far the very best parts of the Old Testament.

  • I think these books, along with the Prophets, are by far the very best parts of the Old Testament.

  • R Vogel says:

    Nice new digs. I made sure to wipe my feet before coming in. I really enjoyed this piece. I struggle with the temptation to look askance at people who do not migrate in this direction as they get older. But everyone has a road.

  • R Vogel says:

    Nice new digs. I made sure to wipe my feet before coming in. I really enjoyed this piece. I struggle with the temptation to look askance at people who do not migrate in this direction as they get older. But everyone has a road.

  • Kim Fabricius says:

    Yep, Job’s friends (who, btw, speak in the name of religion) are the sense-makers. And we know what God thinks of them. Job’s breakthrough comes when, by divine disclosure, he comes to see what his friends don’t, viz., that his sufferings aren’t for anything, that there is no explanation for them — that, yep, they don’t make sense.

    Now: you can respond to this non-sense in three ways: you can deny it and continue to try to force the sense of things (which is like trying to force cats to march in a parade); you can despair at the seeming meaninglessness of things, and, particularly, at the purposelessness of horrendous suffering; or, like Job, you can wonder at the riddle of the universe, the enigma of evil and good, and the unfathomable mystery of God — and accept the Triune God as the God of grace and creation itself as a form of grace. This existential posture is called faith.

  • Pete, this is one of the very best things I’ve ever read about God and the Bible. As a Jewish reader, I think this captures something of the essence of modern Jewish faith in a way I’ve read from others, but never quite like this. The fact that this is written by a Christian makes it that much sweeter for me. Thank you for this.

  • Galorgan says:

    I’m an atheist, not a questioning believer (anymore) and you said you don’t want to debate here, so feel free to ignore/delete. I see why this line of thinking is sought after by thoughtful believers who have to make sense of the tri-omni god, the god of the old testament, and the seemingly indifferent world we inhabit. However, I don’t think it works (although I wouldn’t would I?). The conclusion you reach with Job, for instance, doesn’t let God off the hook. Even if I agree with the conclusion that God is saying we (Job) can’t understand the complex nature of the universe and what befalls us (which is charitable to the story, to say the least), it’s God who created us as we are. Thus he is responsible for our limitations, especially when it comes to knowledge and understanding. If we can’t possibly understand his universe or his part in it, it’s because he chose for us to be limited in that way when he created us.

    • Pete E. says:

      Yes, no debate, but I understand your point and I appreciate you posting it here.

    • Speaking of FIDEISM, Martin Gardner, the famed skeptic, author, and columnist for The Skeptical Inquirer, was not an atheist but a FIDEIST theist, who loved the works of both the atheist, H. G. Wells, and the Christian, G. K. Chesterton, as well as the works of the Christian FIDEIST, Unamuno. You should read Martin’s book, The Whys of A Philosophical Scrivener.

      • SJ says:

        Edward T, you read too many people….I know you’re a librarian and read too many books….I used to, too….I was a real bookworm and actually worked my way through college as a circulation desk clerk and briefly considered becoming a librarian….but I have seen your posts and you are consulting all the wrong experts on religion.

        You need to narrow your search, sir. You are made in the image of God….so make sure you don’t let these lesser people you like to read steer you away from him. You are made in the image of God and you need to establish your relationship with him by hyperfocusing on God by reading the bible exclusively for a while.

        If you listen to God’s critics they are going to teach you to crash and burn….Jesus Christ teachs His people to rule….

        That’s all I have to say to you Edward T….I know you are a voracious reader but a lot of the people you read give terrible counsel.

        Don’t forget you are important to God….make sure you get your relationship with Him on sure footing….don’t compare your results to fundamentalists….you only have to examine yourself to see if you are in the faith like Jesus says.

        This world likes to run a con game on people and the philosophers participate in these games alot.

        But Jesus Christ will make an overcomer out of you if you can learn to surrender absolutely.

        This may be the most important work you ever read Edward T so be sure to add it to your stash of key works. It’s only 4 or 5 pages long.

        Absolute Surrender, Andrew Murray
        http://www.ccel.org/ccel/murray/surrender.html

        • I read and adored Andrew Murray back in high school.

          I read and adored the Bible, and read it the OT in two different translations, not including endless study of individual parts. And I read the NT in four different translations, including endless study of individual parts.

          If the image of God is anything like it is depicted to be in the Bible, then I doubt very much the Bible is true. That includes not only the jealous, angry impatient God of the OT, but the God of the NT as well.

          See for instance, The Bad Jesus: The Ethics of New Testament Ethics http://www.amazon.com/The-Bad-Jesus-Ethics-Testament/dp/1909697796

          Also, who are “the least of these” according to Matthew? The Matthean community consists of two groups symbolized by “sheep” and “goats” respectively. In Matt. 25:31-46 the “least of these” are not the poor in general, but those who are in the mission fields sent out by the Matthean community. Determining that the unsuccessful result of the missionary works was due to the insufficient support from the community, Matthew attempts to elicit a strong concern among them. Hence, the Matthean Jesus, who identifies with the missionary team at the brink of collapse, encourages the sheep group to maximize its ongoing support for the least, and warns the goats group not to be indifferent to them. SOURCE: Das Weltgericht und die Matthäische Gemeinde by Joong Suk Suh, Novum Testamentum, Brill Academic Publishers, Volume 48, Number 3 / June, 2006, Pages 217-233

          Even Evangelical scholars have admitted that the “least of these” understood in context in Matthew poses a bit of a moral problem, and it has caused controversy among Evangelicals if you look up “least of these.” See also my piece http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2015/01/heavenly-extortion-according-to-author.html

          While in the Gospel,of John, everyone is “damned already” if they don’t agree with what Johnnine Christians believe about Jesus. Read what sociologists are also saying about the fourth Gospel’s anti-language: http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-gospel-of-john-consists-of-anti.html

          Or see my pieces on Paul the apostle that critique his teachings:

          http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2015/06/the-apostle-paul-fanaticus-extremus-all.html

          http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2015/06/the-apostle-paul-fanaticus-extremus-all_11.html

        • I read and adored Andrew Murray back in high school.

          I read and adored the Bible, and read it the OT in two different translations, not including endless study of individual parts. And I read the NT in four different translations, including endless study of individual parts.

          But today, after studying it even more, I would say that if the image of God is anything like it is depicted to be in the Bible, then I doubt very much the Bible is true. That includes not only the jealous, angry impatient God of the OT, but the God of the NT as well.

          See for instance, The Bad Jesus: The Ethics of New Testament Ethics http://www.amazon.com/The-Bad-Jesus-Ethics-Testament/dp/1909697796

          Also, who are “the least of these” according to Matthew? The Matthean community consists of two groups symbolized by “sheep” and “goats” respectively. In Matt. 25:31-46 the “least of these” are not the poor in general, but those who are in the mission fields sent out by the Matthean community. Determining that the unsuccessful result of the missionary works was due to the insufficient support from the community, Matthew attempts to elicit a strong concern among them. Hence, the Matthean Jesus, who identifies with the missionary team at the brink of collapse, encourages the sheep group to maximize its ongoing support for the least, and warns the goats group not to be indifferent to them. SOURCE: Das Weltgericht und die Matthäische Gemeinde by Joong Suk Suh, Novum Testamentum, Brill Academic Publishers, Volume 48, Number 3 / June, 2006, Pages 217-233

          Even Evangelical scholars have admitted that the “least of these” understood in context in Matthew poses a bit of a moral problem, and it has caused controversy among Evangelicals if you look up “least of these.” See also my piece http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2015/01/heavenly-extortion-according-to-author.html

          While in the Gospel,of John, everyone is “damned already” if they don’t agree with what Johnnine Christians believe about Jesus. Read what sociologists are also saying about the fourth Gospel’s anti-language: http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-gospel-of-john-consists-of-anti.html

          Or see my pieces on Paul the apostle that critique his teachings:

          http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2015/06/the-apostle-paul-fanaticus-extremus-all.html

          http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2015/06/the-apostle-paul-fanaticus-extremus-all_11.html

          • SJ says:

            Edward why are you critiquing God so much?…He’s not a work of literature….You need to approach Him as a human being…He has a perspective and His people have a unique set of ways.

            Stop using Him as a research topic and as a commodity to sell and study the bible to build a relationship.

            The people critiquing God that you read are killing the relationship for you. Criticism always kills relationships. It objectifies people into inanimate objects and removes the human element. That’s why God probably told His people they had to be like little children….Children know how to genuinely and simply like others without all the fault finding and over analyzing.

          • SJ says:

            Andrew Murray helps build the mind of Christ in you….A lot of other people like philosophers try to sabotage that work though so the mind of Christ can’t be supernaturally built in you.

            If that happens you lose your crown that Jesus promises his faithful ones. Jesus isn’t an intellectual exercise. He’s looking for loyal, true followers….loyal to the death. You better ascertain anyone you read about Jesus is an upright man according to God’s standard before reading him or he could be a liar.

            A River of Brokenness and Repentance
            http://soth.net/sermons/a-river-of-brokenness-and-repentance/

            Repentance and Brokenness
            http://hiswayout.com/repentance-and-brokenness/

            Down to the River to Pray
            https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=zSif77IVQdY

    • coastal says:

      Hi Galorgan, I too, have for many years struggled with the reality you address. That although I had nothing to do with how my doubting mind was formed, God still desires that I “get past” the dilemma he’s left me with. When they say, “leap of faith,” that’s indeed what it is for me. In the end, it doesn’t matter how much I complain to him about the the fact that he gave me a mind which struggles to believe. It comes down to a choice, even if not everything stacks up in my finite mind. My crisis brought me to the place it looks like some of Jesus’ followers landed – when many left him he asked them if they too were going to leave. Peter speaks for guys like me: “To whom would I go? You have words of eternal life.” I’m learning to turn my thoughts away from why God would make it so difficult for me, and accepting that this is why it’s called faith. It feels like the ultimate dare, in which God purposely chooses to leave us confused and then dares us to believe in spite of what our minds are telling us. I’ve decided to dare. Hope you do, too.

      • Galorgan says:

        Sorry, coastal, but that’s only one of the reasons I disbelieve. I realize that my language might make it seem as though I am close to belief, but I am not. I use language like this to show what I see to be the problems of the Christian faith, even if it were true. Thus I talk as if I believe some of the premises are true and show (what I think) the problems are from there.

        On to the content, my point wasn’t that I was lamenting that God (again assuming the premises are true) made people like you and me more prone to doubt than many believers (although that is another interesting area), but that he limited everybody’s potential. We all could be more caring, empathetic, or smarter (in this case), but he chose to limit us in these areas for his own reasons. Thus, when somebody answers, “We can’t understand God’s reasons” to a case of extreme suffering, it’s not an sufficient answer because it’s not as if God just stumbled upon us. He created us without the ability to understand. To stop beating around the bush, this means that the problem of evil is still a problem if we posit the tri-omni god. Lack of understanding of suffering does not answer it.

        To your point about the “dare,” I don’t hear a dare from a God, just from believers. If he was parting the skies and talking to me, I’d agree, but all I’ve gotten is words from other human beings.

        • louismoreaugottschalk says:

          yes! other human being suffer as you suffer. can you feel their pain?
          empathy my friend!
          perhaps that’s God talking to you.

  • Galorgan says:

    I’m an atheist, not a questioning believer (anymore) and you said you don’t want to debate here, so feel free to ignore/delete. I see why this line of thinking is sought after by thoughtful believers who have to make sense of the tri-omni god, the god of the old testament, and the seemingly indifferent world we inhabit. However, I don’t think it works (although I wouldn’t would I?). The conclusion you reach with Job, for instance, doesn’t let God off the hook. Even if I agree with the conclusion that God is saying we (Job) can’t understand the complex nature of the universe and what befalls us (which is charitable to the story, to say the least), it’s God who created us as we are. Thus he is responsible for our limitations, especially when it comes to knowledge and understanding. If we can’t possibly understand his universe or his part in it, it’s because he chose for us to be limited in that way when he created us.

    • Pete E. says:

      Yes, no debate, but I understand your point and I appreciate you posting it here.

    • coastal says:

      Hi Galorgan, I too, have for many years struggled with the reality you address. That although I had nothing to do with how my doubting mind was formed, God still desires that I “get past” the dilemma he’s left me with. When they say, “leap of faith,” that’s indeed what it is for me. In the end, it doesn’t matter how much I complain to him about the the fact that he gave me a mind which struggles to believe. It comes down to a choice, even if not everything stacks up in my finite mind. My crisis brought me to the place it looks like some of Jesus’ followers landed – when many left him he asked them if they too were going to leave. Peter speaks for guys like me: “To whom would I go? You have words of eternal life.” I’m learning to turn my thoughts away from why God would make it so difficult for me, and accepting that this is why it’s called faith. It feels like the ultimate dare, in which God purposely chooses to leave us confused and then dares us to believe in spite of what our minds are telling us. I’ve decided to dare. Hope you do, too.

      • Galorgan says:

        Sorry, coastal, but that’s only one of the reasons I disbelieve. I realize that my language might make it seem as though I am close to belief, but I am not. I use language like this to show what I see to be the problems of the Christian faith, even if it were true. Thus I talk as if I believe some of the premises are true and show (what I think) the problems are from there.

        On to the content, my point wasn’t that I was lamenting that God (again assuming the premises are true) made people like you and me more prone to doubt than many believers (although that is another interesting area), but that he limited everybody’s potential. We all could be more caring, empathetic, or smarter (in this case), but he chose to limit us in these areas for his own reasons. Thus, when somebody answers, “We can’t understand God’s reasons” to a case of extreme suffering, it’s not an sufficient answer because it’s not as if God just stumbled upon us. He created us without the ability to understand. To stop beating around the bush, this means that the problem of evil is still a problem if we posit the tri-omni god. Lack of understanding of suffering does not answer it.

        To your point about the “dare,” I don’t hear a dare from a God, just from believers. If he was parting the skies and talking to me, I’d agree, but all I’ve gotten is words from other human beings.

        • louismoreaugottschalk says:

          yes! other human being suffer as you suffer. can you feel their pain?
          empathy my friend!
          perhaps that’s God talking to you.

  • Justin Anderson says:

    Thank you so very much for this and for all of your writings and wrestlings, Pete. Your work means so much to a lot of us. Don’t stop. And don’t stop asking questions and living in this kind of Wisdom Literature Wrestling — not a cheap “wrestling” that some claim to do on a singular “dark night of the soul” (that was quickly mended by a lousy and unpersuasive apologetic argument) but rather the trauma and fracture of meaning itself…the direct critique of all answers that would attempt to disavow this originary trauma within the text and within our lives as humans.

    • Pete E. says:

      Thanks for your kind words, Justin.

      • Mark K says:

        OK, I’m gonna pile on in a good way, since I’ve had the same thought as Justin, and want to echo the thanks.

        Thanks, Pete, for sharing your biblical/faith-journey insight so freely. I know it’s been a hard road to get to this place in your understanding of the Bible (better
        you than me, brother –jk, acourse!), but your loss has turned into my/our gain. The biblicist draw-a-line-around-the-Bible perspective of what the Bible has to be–it just has
        to be!–wrecked my view of God for many years, and it was only in meeting up with your blog and books (and book recommendations) that that began to finally change. Now, knowing the God of the Bible is an exhilarating, terrifying, ride without a safety bar, and I love it. I am finally free to talk to God–the real God–and see God answering in ways that leave me dumbstruck.

        So I guess the moral is, I’d sacrifice you all over again to get to this place 🙂

  • Speaking of FIDEISM, Martin Gardner, the famed skeptic, author, and columnist for The Skeptical Inquirer, was not an atheist but a FIDEIST theist, who loved the works of both the atheist, H. G. Wells, and the Christian, G. K. Chesterton, as well as the works of the Christian FIDEIST, Unamuno. You should read Martin’s book, The Whys of A Philosophical Scrivener.

    • SJ says:

      Edward T, you read too many people….I know you’re a librarian and read too many books….I used to, too….I was a real bookworm and actually worked my way through college as a circulation desk clerk and briefly considered becoming a librarian….but I have seen your posts and you are consulting all the wrong experts on religion.

      You need to narrow your search, sir. You are made in the image of God….so make sure you don’t let these lesser people you like to read steer you away from him. You are made in the image of God and you need to establish your relationship with him by hyperfocusing on God by reading the bible exclusively for a while.

      If you listen to God’s critics they are going to teach you to crash and burn….Jesus Christ teachs His people to rule….

      That’s all I have to say to you Edward T….I know you are a voracious reader but a lot of the people you read give terrible counsel.

      Don’t forget you are important to God….make sure you get your relationship with Him on sure footing….don’t compare your results to fundamentalists….you only have to examine yourself to see if you are in the faith like Jesus says.

      This world likes to run a con game on people and the philosophers participate in these games alot.

      But Jesus Christ will make an overcomer out of you if you can learn to surrender absolutely.

      This may be the most important work you ever read Edward T so be sure to add it to your stash of key works. It’s only 4 or 5 pages long.

      Absolute Surrender, Andrew Murray
      http://www.ccel.org/ccel/murray/surrender.html

      • I read and adored Andrew Murray back in high school.

        I read and adored the Bible, and read it the OT in two different translations, not including endless study of individual parts. And I read the NT in four different translations, including endless study of individual parts.

        If the image of God is anything like it is depicted to be in the Bible, then I doubt very much the Bible is true. That includes not only the jealous, angry impatient God of the OT, but the God of the NT as well.

        See for instance, The Bad Jesus: The Ethics of New Testament Ethics http://www.amazon.com/The-Bad-Jesus-Ethics-Testament/dp/1909697796

        Also, who are “the least of these” according to Matthew? The Matthean community consists of two groups symbolized by “sheep” and “goats” respectively. In Matt. 25:31-46 the “least of these” are not the poor in general, but those who are in the mission fields sent out by the Matthean community. Determining that the unsuccessful result of the missionary works was due to the insufficient support from the community, Matthew attempts to elicit a strong concern among them. Hence, the Matthean Jesus, who identifies with the missionary team at the brink of collapse, encourages the sheep group to maximize its ongoing support for the least, and warns the goats group not to be indifferent to them. SOURCE: Das Weltgericht und die Matthäische Gemeinde by Joong Suk Suh, Novum Testamentum, Brill Academic Publishers, Volume 48, Number 3 / June, 2006, Pages 217-233

        Even Evangelical scholars have admitted that the “least of these” understood in context in Matthew poses a bit of a moral problem, and it has caused controversy among Evangelicals if you look up “least of these.” See also my piece http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2015/01/heavenly-extortion-according-to-author.html

        While in the Gospel,of John, everyone is “damned already” if they don’t agree with what Johnnine Christians believe about Jesus. Read what sociologists are also saying about the fourth Gospel’s anti-language: http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-gospel-of-john-consists-of-anti.html

        Or see my pieces on Paul the apostle that critique his teachings:

        http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2015/06/the-apostle-paul-fanaticus-extremus-all.html

        http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2015/06/the-apostle-paul-fanaticus-extremus-all_11.html

      • I read and adored Andrew Murray back in high school.

        I read and adored the Bible, and read it the OT in two different translations, not including endless study of individual parts. And I read the NT in four different translations, including endless study of individual parts.

        But today, after studying it even more, I would say that if the image of God is anything like it is depicted to be in the Bible, then I doubt very much the Bible is true. That includes not only the jealous, angry impatient God of the OT, but the God of the NT as well.

        See for instance, The Bad Jesus: The Ethics of New Testament Ethics http://www.amazon.com/The-Bad-Jesus-Ethics-Testament/dp/1909697796

        Also, who are “the least of these” according to Matthew? The Matthean community consists of two groups symbolized by “sheep” and “goats” respectively. In Matt. 25:31-46 the “least of these” are not the poor in general, but those who are in the mission fields sent out by the Matthean community. Determining that the unsuccessful result of the missionary works was due to the insufficient support from the community, Matthew attempts to elicit a strong concern among them. Hence, the Matthean Jesus, who identifies with the missionary team at the brink of collapse, encourages the sheep group to maximize its ongoing support for the least, and warns the goats group not to be indifferent to them. SOURCE: Das Weltgericht und die Matthäische Gemeinde by Joong Suk Suh, Novum Testamentum, Brill Academic Publishers, Volume 48, Number 3 / June, 2006, Pages 217-233

        Even Evangelical scholars have admitted that the “least of these” understood in context in Matthew poses a bit of a moral problem, and it has caused controversy among Evangelicals if you look up “least of these.” See also my piece http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2015/01/heavenly-extortion-according-to-author.html

        While in the Gospel,of John, everyone is “damned already” if they don’t agree with what Johnnine Christians believe about Jesus. Read what sociologists are also saying about the fourth Gospel’s anti-language: http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-gospel-of-john-consists-of-anti.html

        Or see my pieces on Paul the apostle that critique his teachings:

        http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2015/06/the-apostle-paul-fanaticus-extremus-all.html

        http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2015/06/the-apostle-paul-fanaticus-extremus-all_11.html

        • SJ says:

          Edward why are you critiquing God so much?…He’s not a work of literature….You need to approach Him as a human being…He has a perspective and His people have a unique set of ways.

          Stop using Him as a research topic and as a commodity to sell and study the bible to build a relationship.

          The people critiquing God that you read are killing the relationship for you. Criticism always kills relationships. It objectifies people into inanimate objects and removes the human element. That’s why God probably told His people they had to be like little children….Children know how to genuinely and simply like others without all the fault finding and over analyzing.

        • SJ says:

          Andrew Murray helps build the mind of Christ in you….A lot of other people like philosophers try to sabotage that work though so the mind of Christ can’t be supernaturally built in you.

          If that happens you lose your crown that Jesus promises his faithful ones. Jesus isn’t an intellectual exercise. He’s looking for loyal, true followers….loyal to the death. You better ascertain anyone you read about Jesus is an upright man according to God’s standard before reading him or he could be a liar.

          A River of Brokenness and Repentance
          http://soth.net/sermons/a-river-of-brokenness-and-repentance/

          Repentance and Brokenness
          http://hiswayout.com/repentance-and-brokenness/

          Down to the River to Pray
          https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=zSif77IVQdY

  • jp says:

    I too have grown to love these books as I have gotten older, and imagine the book of Job as being the musings of an old Job looking back and trying to make sense of what has happened to him.

  • RonH says:

    Great words, Pete. These are the parts of the Old Testament that I feel I can relate to as well. The incarnated human parts.

    G. K. Chesterton didn’t write much about the Bible directly, but he did write an introduction to the Book of Job. It probably makes the most sense out of the book as anything I’ve ever read. It’s not long, and you might enjoy it.

  • archaeologist says:

    God says his ways are not ours and his thinking is above ours so unless you believe God and have the Holy Spirit helping you , you will not make sense of God or his word. Unbelievers cannot receive that help or the HS.

    • louismoreaugottschalk says:

      that’s not true RK!

    • 4 WIW says:

      Dear archaeologist: Thanks for your comment. This is exactly the verse that came to mind for me as well. God has revealed just enough about Himself for us to comprehend without it driving us mad. He explains very clearly in this verse why we can’t understand Him and what He does. There is another phrase from Scripture that augments this idea that we can’t understand God and that is that He gives us peace that passes all understanding. So on the one hand we can’t understand Him, but on the other it doesn’t matter because He give us peace about it. He certainly has for me and it sounds like He may have for you too.

  • SJ says:

    It is good to see you branching out Peter. When I skimmed your wikipedia bio I thought you might be being used by God in a special way. This blog change could be God opening another door for you.

    Regarding your article above….I think you may be relating so much to Proverbs, Psalms and Ecclesiastes right now because they help prepare you to take on God and His tests.

    I have had a really strange life but when I look back on it all I can see Yeshua was there the whole time coaching me through everything but my results really started to improve once I read the bible.

    I believe that this whole world and life is one big test….now that may sound unorthodox but I think reality bears this out….Once you think you’ve mastered something and the whirlwind is over along comes another whirlwind to sweep you off your feet….but the storm really isn’t as scary as the average person likes to make it….because you always meet Jesus in the storm sooner or later.

    Why does God test His people so much….I think it’s to teach us to beat sin like Jesus did. He wants us to learn to be overcomers and forgivers just like Jesus.

    You Can Overcome Sin
    http://realtruth.org/articles/140408-001.html

    If you look at your bio Peter I think you can see that you’re like both Jesus Christ and Job….the evangelical community and the people who were supposed to be your friends came after you like the Pharisees came after Jesus and Job’s friends came after Job and the world came after Martin Luther but you stood by your reasoned opinions about God and refused to be cowed.

    That’s why I may read one of your books…..I haven’t read any of the bloggers’ books on Patheos. I rarely read anything but the bible these days because I spend so much time evangelizing and correcting people’s bad theology that I don’t have much time left over for other things. But since I suspect you’re good at passing God’s tests I will have to break down and buy one of your books.

  • But if God didn’t give us humans understanding of what is true at a finite level, how can we then live?

    “If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played? 8 And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle?” 1 Corinthians 14:7-8

    Consider within Christianity, millions of Christians disagree on almost everything–Augustinians and Calvinists versus the opposite, inerrantists versus errantists on the Bible, biblical law Christians versus Christian gay leaders, cessationists versus charismatics, complementarian versus egalitarian views of women, pro-war leaders versus pacifists, pro-torture versus anti-torture, pro-choice versus anti-abortionists, nationalists versus internationalists, opposing views on the nature of communion, the nature of God, disagreements about Jesus, views of the Old Testament, economics, capital punishment, immigration, Israel, prophecy!

    And in the past, everything from slavery to crusades…

    The lack of understanding and confusion seems endless.

    If we finite humans can’t know any truths about God because ‘he’ is transrational, what hope is there?

    I must admit, that is why after 60 years as a Christian–elder, youth pastor, mission volunteer, etc., I finally came to the conclusion that Christianity can’t be true. It sends too many mixed, contradictory, confusing messages.

    • louismoreaugottschalk says:

      yes IMO Christianity adds insult to injury!
      Jesus destroys the divisions by the example of his life which, via the Holy Spirit,
      one can be helped to follow.
      patience, tolerance & love are not humbug my friend!
      I think one is always tempted to worship one’s
      little grey cells.
      we are taught in AA that we shall intuitively know…

    • Luke Breuer says:

      But if God didn’t give us humans understanding of what is true at a finite level, how can we then live?

      Do you need these answers in order to love God and your neighbor as best as you can? Or are you asking for knowledge and wisdom which simply isn’t required for these tasks, or perhaps which is suspiciously not required for these tasks? (I sometimes wonder whether I am refusing to seek knowledge and wisdom for where God does want me to act, because I am running away like Jonah.)

      Consider within Christianity, millions of Christians disagree on almost everything […]

      Jesus warned of antichrists, Paul of super-apostles and those whose consciences are seared, etc. What is it that you are expecting to happen, that didn’t? You seem to dislike the fact that anyone can choose to call himself or herself ‘Christian’; can you propose a mechanism whereby anyone attempting to use that name must have certain beliefs, such that this diversity you claim exists would be disallowed? I wouldn’t be surprised if the final antichrist does precisely this: enforces ideological uniformity.

      If we finite humans can’t know any truths about God because ‘he’ is transrational, what hope is there?

      It’s not clear Dr. Enns made any such claim. Knowing something of God—perhaps analogically, as Thomas Aquinas argued—does not mean knowing him completely and exhaustively.

      • Thanks for sharing your perspective. But since we strongly disagree about Thomas Aquinas’ view of reality (several months back), I’ll stop here.

        And you said, “Do you need these answers in order to love God and your neighbor as best as you can?”

        But, hey, that’s the incredible problem, most Christians leaders even disagree what “love” is!
        In fact the ‘correct’ view of most Christian leaders is the central reason I finally came to the conclusion that Christianity can’t be true.
        Now I seek to care for others and hope that everyone might be cared for.

    • David says:

      Daniel – I’ve been where you are at several times in life. Been a Christian for forty years now. Well, on and off I suppose. God and I have had what I would call an adversarial relationship at times. Frankly I’ve lost total faith on more than one occasion. After years of trying to intellectualize what life means, what my place in the universe is and how to relate to an infinite God. I have read the bible many times and simply don’t understand how there can be so many contradictions. So I have come to the conclusion that, at least for me, I’ll never fully understand it. Faith is the difference between what we know with certainty and what we believe. Stated mathematically: Faith = Absolute Empirical Truth / Proof – What We Believe. In the end this makes those like Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins as much people of faith as St. Augustine or Thomas Aquinas.

      It may seem a bit silly to some but personally I have distilled my faith down to this – I am content to live (or attempt it at least) my life by just three chapters in the bible: Matthew 5, 6, and 7. The Sermon on the Mount. That’s it, nothing more and nothing less. I am no longer interested in studying hermeneutics, semiotics, semantics, eschatology, ecclesiology, pragmatics, exegesis or anything like that. I imagine myself to be one of those people standing on a hillside in Palestine two thousand years ago, what they experienced. This was for most the one time that they would have any interaction with Jesus. And He knew that. His words had to mean something. As Augustine said – “anyone who piously and earnestly ponders the Sermon on the Mount—as we
      read in the Gospel according to Mathew—I believe he will find therein …
      the perfect standard of the Christian Life.” Everything else is filler in my opinion.

      • Thanks for sharing about your own journey.

        However, since one of the main reasons I think Christianity can’t be true is because Augustine. (Let me count the ways I can’t stand his views or his actions…)

        But as a theistic free-seeker and humanist, I do seek to model my live on the Sermon on the Mount, the parables such as the Good Samaritan, and passages like 1 Corinthians 13. (It is tragic and absurd that so much of Christian dogma and doctrine and behavior severely contradict those passages.)

        • David says:

          Daniel – I understand totally. I would be curious to know how Augustine negatively affected your beliefs. To be honest, I’ve only read him a bit. Never been much on reading commentaries. Would rather do my own thinking. That said, I am in total agreement with you about dogma and doctrine which is why I endeavor to let my actions do the talking. I don’t go to church (for a host of reasons) but am active with a Christian humanitarian organization that is committed to active non violence against oppression. We have teams in Palestine (the west bank), Iraq and south America. I was in Palestine last year and hope to go to northern Iraq in the next year or so. My own journey, like everyone is else, is unique. If it weren’t for a very specific experience early in life I doubt I’d be a Christian. Suffice to say God presented himself in a very real and tangible way. Were it not for that the skeptic in me would have me exactly where you are at.

          • Intriguing.
            Are you part of Christian Peacemaker Teams, maybe? We’ve actively supported various outreach organizations (including CPT) in Palestine, Israel, Iraq, etc.? Also used to be on social concern/missions committees, etc.
            I lived for a most of one year in Palestine/Israel, go there virtually via the Internet every day, so would be very interested in hearing of your experiences.

            More later on experience with God and the downer of A.

          • David says:

            Yes, exactly. I was a delegate to Palestine last year and had been accepted to training and want to do full time work in either Iraq or Palestine. Unfortunately my father got very ill so decided to stay in the US for awhile to take care of him. So instead I’m doing this – http://www.bikingforpeace.org – as a way of being involved.

          • Great!

            Sorry to hear about your father. I’ve also been involved in helping my ill elderly parents though my sis does most of the work. My dad made it to 90, but then died last August. Tough times.

            I see you live or lived in Wickenburg, AZ. Small world sometimes. I used to teach literature and writing at Salome High School, just a frog hop;-) west.

            I make small efforts for peace through my writing, etc. My web blog is at http://infiniteoceanoflightandlove.blogspot.com/

          • David says:

            Daniel – Nice blog. I spent a little time reading it last night. In my opinion there are no small efforts at peace. The world is so filled with violence that any effort in that direction is big. I’m aware that little actions can have big ramifications.
            Yes, Wickenburg. Not really my cup of tea but this is where I’m at for now. I get out to Salome, Wenden, Aguila on my bicycle a bit. Have some snowbird friends that come into town and we load the bike up every week for a road trip. One of our favorite rides is to park in Wenden and ride to Alamo Lake. I didn’t even know that Salome had a high school.

          • Thanks for visiting on your virtual bike;-)
            Yeah S.H.S.–or at least when I taught there for 2 years–but that was in 1982! Then our students came from a 50-mile radius, even students from Ehrenberg on the Arizona/California border next to Blythe. We took a drove out to Alamo Lake, but it was about 112.
            Are there still lots of cotton fields in Salome/Wenden or have they gone away because of drought and loss of Colorado River water?

            Very depressing experiences with the churches in that area for us, so we would drive into Phoenix about once a month and attend a Quaker or Mennonite church.

            Back to topic: I’m not sure how Enns gets around all the horrific stuff in the Bible since it appears he is some sort of Calvinist, used to teach at Westminster Theological Seminary. I need to read his book The Bible Tells Me So.
            And any suggestions on how we ought to deal with ISIS, HAMAS, etc.? Weren’t you in danger from Islamic militants?

        • Hominid says:

          You need to put down the bible, which is humanist mythology, and pick up The Origin of Species in which Darwin nails biological reality.

          • Heck, you’re talking to the wrong person–remember, I’m a retired literature teacher. I eat literature including various forms of myth for breakfast;-)

            But I also read plenty of science tomes. Recently finished The Ancestor’s Tale by Richard Dawkins. What a book!
            And read several books on cosmology, am in The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene.

            But I’m not only concerned with biology, anthropology (I majored in that subject for a while at university), I am very concerned with human rights, justice, etc.

  • Brian Millhollon says:

    I have been thinking about a line by Frodo in “The Return of the King”: “We set out to save the Shire, Sam and it has been saved-but not for me.” Answering the call to wisdom comes at a price. That irresistible fruit that opens your eyes to see the things of God can make it impossible to live contentedly in the garden. Ruined by the truth, Frodo could never return again to the simple life in the shire. But as Bilbo was fond of saying: “I’m going on an adventure”. And so, I believe, are we.

    • louismoreaugottschalk says:

      JRR Tolkien was writing in the midst of the Third Reich blitz.
      the truth of bombs hitting your homeland!
      now that’s going to cause some dysphoria!
      IMO
      artists giftedness helps them process truths beyond tradition, orthodoxy, entitlement, sentiment and nostalgia.

    • Kevin Osborne says:

      Another way to say it may be “ruined by perspective”. One can live in a place in innocence and content, like a family home. However once one sees the world, experiences humanity, draws and gives blood, one is never the same. The world as it is pretty much disallows innocence except in individual cases, such as in Dostoyevski’s The Idiot or Tom Hank’s brilliant Forrest Gump. Those few see the maelstrom but neatly avoid diving in. We who must dive, through being pushed off the board, can have faith that our adventure is a path toward perspective that is not ruinous, but beautiful, understanding, and complete. I am pretty sure that is out there. As you are.

      • louismoreaugottschalk says:

        for some reason you are post reminds me of Damien by Herman hesse.
        Ever read it?

        • Kevin Osborne says:

          Yes, although I admit don’t remember it. The Hesse books I remember best are The Glass Bead Game and Siddhartha.

          • louismoreaugottschalk says:

            yes both of those are good as well as Steppenwolf.
            I went through quite a phase when I was a freshman reading hesse.
            he was all the rage in the early
            1970s on Western Washington campus in Bellingham Washington. we kids were all a bit like Siddhartha coming out of our little bubble.
            the music was great!

          • Kevin Osborne says:

            I was in Indiana doing the same thing..

          • louismoreaugottschalk says:

            in the same period Of time 1969 through 1971 was When I discovered Vonnegut and I read everything of his. I was just a kid fresh out of Walla Walla Washington,18yrs old. I did not know anything! now I think Vonnegut and hesse were a kind of shortcut, enlightenment 101 for a generation of us boomers. I felt the need to grow up fast after cloistered childhood.
            ‘pages turning pages we were years from learning’
            ~ Jackson Browne

  • Beau Quilter says:

    My perspective is that of the person who stopped believing when God stopped making sense. Of course, that’s just a figure of speech. It’s not as though the non-sense occurred in my lifetime, it was always there. When I stopped believing, I thought about why I ever believed in the first place, and the answer seems obvious: I was indoctrinated to believe. I inherited my belief from parents, my friends, and the society in which I grew up. The experience of losing my belief in God was like a veil being lifted; I don’t see how I could ever go back to a state of belief even if I wanted to. It would make no more sense to me than returning to a childhood belief in magic.

    So why does one maintain their belief when God no longer satisfies sense or reason? What makes one believe? A personal revelation? I can certainly agree that there is much about the universe that we don’t yet understand; but I don’t see how the existence of God can be a presumption or base belief.

    • Kevin Osborne says:

      God can be known. I went from a Roman Catholic upbringing where I believed, at least, in the tyranny of God for 17 years, to an agnosticism leaning toward atheism but never addressed enough to dedicate, for the next 40 years, to a completely out of the blue visceral meeting with God. Since then life has been a series of understandings how the universe works, like pieces of a giant jig-saw puzzle sliding into their places.
      How one gets to that, if one wishes to, is looking. Where is unknown but becomes known as the next step on the path. My experience.

      • Beau Quilter says:

        Sounds like personal revelation of some sort. I address my non belief all the time; it was not a thoughtless deconversion. But looking for God (when no evidence is otherwise forthcoming), sounds an awful lot like looking for conspiracy theories. We are biologically prone to see agency everywhere, which is why we often jump at shadows, see faces in the clouds, anthropomorphize our pets.

        How visceral was this meeting? What did it entail?

        • Kevin Osborne says:

          A knowing with a physical rush magnitudes over anything in my experience. I had just read a description of relativity in Greene’s The Elegant Universe, realized I understood relativity and that set off my journey. It probably lasted a few minutes but I was out of time at that point.
          One does not have to believe in God to follow a path, in fact the Buddhists consider belief drags one down. (I’m not a Buddhist.) Only what you percieve can be known by you. In that vein, though, a means to understanding more is to accept everything as real. Everything exists. So something may be in the shadows or in the clouds or in one’s pet that exists beyond immediate perception. You only see what you are willing to see.
          My opinion is it does not matter in the long run what anyone does. This place is set up like a giant wheel that will vacate present realtiy sooner or later. However if someone wants more freedom in time and space and is willing to look at possiblities, they are there.

    • louismoreaugottschalk says:

      maybe for you the existence of God can not be a presumption
      just as having a relationship with the brand or a product
      the family one grew up in endorsed, say, like a brand of mayonnaise.
      just a brand of mayonnaise but it kept the family together until it stopped working
      as social glue that everybody had in common and kept every one
      relating on the same level agreeing that the mayonnaise was good,
      the mayonnaise was relevant, yes
      mayonnaise kept everybody together.
      but then, you know, time passes and one experiences for oneself that one’s family’s favored mayonnaise seems much like all the others.
      one may even become dysphoric when it comes to mayonnaise.
      but you know there’s a definite void in one’s life now.

      • Beau Quilter says:

        Hmmm, that may be a useful but limited analogy. If so, the void is not the lack of mayonnaise, the void is the lack of a central theme that the family agrees on. But while I have lost areas of agreement with my extended family (specifically, our religious areas of agreement), I have discovered areas of agreement with a much larger body of humanity.

        Themes such as love, mercy, kindness, and generosity are more important to me now than the specific brand of religion that requires a 1st century resurrection.

  • Chris Bourne says:

    What a lot that invites response! And what an eclectic thing this response is going to be.

    Yes, and I have quite a few years on you, Pete, this is the point at which faith can become so many things. Less afraid, less precise, less demanding of certitude (which was never faith in the first place), and by derivation frequently less banal, and a whole lot less boring. None of which makes it any easier to communicate. But at least it opens other possibilities, for example, to be less prone to the great sin of failing to enjoy what God might be, and perhaps even be right about that.

    I would like, and realizing you don’t know me from Adam (any Adam!), to add my pawprint to the others, as one who has followed the blog for some time. It is your sanity I appreciate, realizing that this is one thing some others do not. And one of the practical reasons I tag along is the difficulty I have as a EuroBrit in understanding what people like you have to face in the American Academy. It is so easy for us in the old world to be snide about US culture and the state of public discourse, and yours is one place I can come to for a dose of your reality. And I appreciate that, very much. You are an honest man, sir, and that is very special.

    Now, I said this was going to be eclectic, so I will prove it. The comments on the readability of the design. The main text font is already Hex0 and that’s as black as black gets. Lato is a typeface with a very low contrast ratio (there’s a lot more light than dark within the area of each character). So the line height of 1.8em is too great and readability would be helped if it were about 1.6 or even less. The problem for mobile devices is the font weight, currently set at 300. This would improve on mobile devices if it were set to 4 or even 500. For your web guys, that’s two character edits in the css file, a couple of seconds work. (And sorry, I was first trained as a typographer, nearly fifty years ago, but have kept up with the tech).

    Anyway, the main point is… Yes!

    • Pete E. says:

      Thanks, Chris. I will pass this on to “my people.” 🙂

      • Chris Bourne says:

        I’m sure they love unsolicited advice from an old codger who used to work in real lead! Ooh, I wonder if that is what did those funny things to my brain that made thinking seem like a good idea.

  • Austin Liang-wei Huang says:

    I have the same feeling as you do. Apart from the wisdom books, I am also wondering whether it is we Christians who have been always narrowing down the rest parts of the Bible to mere black and white doctrines by ignoring the complexity of the biblical society and the richness of biblical narrative itself.

  • James says:

    Your tweet-sized summary looks very much like Ezra’s in Nehemiah 9. But it’s not the fully story of God’s righteous ways with his very human creatures; it is not even the full story of the Old Testament. The larger story includes grace, simply put. And, of course, grace doesn’t make sense, as you say, though we suspect it has something to do with God unconditionally choosing Adam, Abraham, Israel, and us Gentiles. Note hints in Romans 9 to 11: “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy…for God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.” Yes, limited atonement and double predestination are chapters only in the larger story of irresistible grace–even in the face of total depravity. Grace turns exile from a garden paradise into happy inclusion in a world made new. “O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!”

  • Larry Robinson says:

    As someone who has been serving and loving the Lord for 5 decades, my experience has been polar opposite that which Peter describes. This world, how it behaves (both people and the earth) make more, not less sense. The more you understand sin, free will, and the effect of sin on all of creation, the more inner peace and understanding I have experienced.

    The Psalms beautifully elaborate on this process while Eccliasstes reflects the cumulative effect sin has on one who set out to walk in the ways of the Lord and then departed from that path in pursuit of the passing pleasures of this world

    • Pete E. says:

      I support your experience, but I would certainly challenge your understanding of lament Psalms and Ecclesiastes.

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