Saturday, July 16, 2016

Saving the Bible From Ourselves: Learning to Live and Read the Bible Well - By Glenn R. Pauuw

Saving the Bible From Ourselves by Glenn R. Pauuw is a book about people's misuse of the Bible, how it has come to be used as a book that is a collection of isolated propositional statements that are written specifically for me and for my special encouragement.  Overall this book is argument against those views of the Bible (it critiques  other views as well) and I believe it is a rather good argument.  I mainly listed those two things because they are the things that captivated me most in this book. Then I will give my critique.

First, Pauuw does an excellent job at attacking the rather modern approach to the Bible that takes the form of hunting for individual verses that seem relevant to us, "…find the fragments you need at the moment.  If you are looking for your daily inspiration, then find a devotional fragment.  If you are arguing with the local heretic, find a doctrinal fragment.  If you are facing an ethical question, find a moral fragment.  They're all in there, already neatly numbered for you.  You just have to find the good ones." He makes a good case that part of what instigated this fragmentary approach was the addition of verse numbers and chapters to the text of the Bible. 

Second, and very much related to the first, is Pauuw's critique of our use of the Bible as though it were written directly to us personally (or at least the comforting parts and the parts that we like, the curses…not so much).  Pauuw demolishes the perspective that we can make ourselves the authority in discerning what we need from the Bible, and he demonstrates that we should trust the wisdom and sovereignty of God in His design of His own Word, and that means the WHOLE Word of God.  To use the author's own words: "How can the Bible possibly lead and direct our lives if we are the ones who predetermine which parts of it speak to us?  Fragmentary patters of reading entail a fragmented sense of authority."  Perhaps my favorite part in the whole book is where Pauuw presents the "Parallel -Universe Bible" where he demonstrates what would happen if we used verses that we do not find so applicable to ourselves in the same way that we use our favorite verses, that are often taken out of context, to apply directly to ourselves (for instance: everyone likes Jeremiah 29:11 but what about Deut. 28:29?).  I found that part absolutely hilarious (I was almost crying I was laughing so hard) but very clear in the point that is being made. 

So why did I only rate this book at 3 stars (out of 5)? Well, for one thing there were a bunch of statements and descriptions of things that were too…I don't know…"mystical" might be the right term.  Perhaps it was just me, but some of the way things were phrased seemed just plain weird to me (and I didn't necessarily understand it all).  He talked about things like "Story" or "Chaos". Another thing was that Pauuw approached (in my opinion) irreverence in how he spoke of God, in statements like: "God was willing to take a great risk with the Bible: He left it in our hands…"    and, ""To  enter history really is to give it a go in the rough-and tumble.  Even for God."  Those were just some of the things that bothered me about this book. There was a lot to be gleaned in it but was interspersed throughout the bothersome thing, and so ironically (having in mind Pauuw's excellent critique of the 'snacking Bible), if I ever read this book again I would read it in a 'snacking' sort of way.  That is why I only gave it three stars.  But on the other hand Paauw made a good (and convicting) case for reading the whole Bible rather than just fragments of it.  I'll end with quoting an excerpt that I really liked (there were several that I liked):

"Snacking (on isolated Bible fragments) hides things to be sure, but it also distorts the things it does show us.  For example, ,the Snacking Bible is not great news. It has gospel verses, but no gospel, because the gospel is the announcement of a particular turn of events within an ongoing story.  The gospel is not a sentence about justification by faith or a verse reference on the forgiveness of my sins.  The gospel is not the Romans Road.  The gospel is not John 3:16.  What the apostles Paul and John wrote - what God's Spirit enkindled in them - was something entirely different than these boiled-down reductions.  Evangelist D. L. Moody said he could write the gospel on a dime.  Well, Paul and John couldn't, and didn't."

Many thanks to the folks at InterVarsity Press for sending me a free review copy of this book to review (My review did not have to be favorable)

This book may be purchased (among other places) at Amazon and Christian Book Distributors