This is a book that explores the meaning of the inspiration of the Bible. It is also a book about one woman’s faith. For Evans, ‘Inspiration is not about some disembodied ethereal voice dictating words to a catatonic host. It’s a collaborative process, a holy give-and-take, a partnership between Creator and creator.’
The departure from the traditional view of inspiration, that every word was carefully and deliberately chosen by God, to a view that ‘mistakes, edits, rewrites, and dry spells’ characterized the writing of scripture is sure to provoke any sleepy evangelical. Most evangelicals are afraid of the word contradiction, even though the words of the Bible are often confusing, disturbing and sometimes seem to be at odds with each other, but Evans relishes the conversation. As a striking example she details the atrocities commanded by God carried out by the Israelites against the inhabitants when they entered the promised land in the Old Testament. Contrast this with the pacifistic words of the New Testament, not to mention the tender conscience of the modern Christian who champions for world peace.
Evans argues that the discovery by liberal scholars of the poetry, myth, and symbolism of the Bible has come about because we’ve all but reasoned out any transcendent meaning by our scientific and often sterile view of sacred texts. In other words, we’ve lost the ability to be imaginative in our insistence to codify truth into a doctrinal handbook.
Alternating clever fictional contemporary narratives based on bible stories, Evans illustrates that the inspiration of scripture might mean something more akin to magic than dry orthodoxy, that struggling with the hard concepts of the Bible are part of its great mystery. It’s a compelling argument.
I can’t help but feel though, that Evans undercuts any authority of scripture whatsoever when she cuts it from its moorings. Here’s an example: “Sometimes the miraculous moments in scripture strike me as …fish stories—colorful exaggerations (Evans uses the word exaggeration more than once when describing Biblical stories) of events that may or may not have transpired as recounted.” Why interact with scripture at all, if you’re so skeptical about its truth? What possible value could a book of lies have? “I would leave my faith a dozen times …only to return to it a dozen more,” Evans writes. This statement encapsulates the book exactly. In my view Evans seems suspended between a version of traditional evangelical faith and a progressive critical emergent church view.
I found it both disturbing and refreshing, because she says things that ‘we don’t say’.
I was given a complimentary copy of the book by Thomas Nelson in return for my honest opinion.