Tag Archives: Peter Enns


Word of the day: paraleipomenon (pa-ra-lay-po-MEN-on).

Left over. Extra. Warmed over. Rehash. Scooted to the side because it’s nothing new – and ultimately condemned to be tupperwared in the back of fridge where it becomes an impromptu science experiment.
All these capture the soul of paraleipomenon.

Or try this one on for size: rechauffe (French – ray-shoh-FAY). A scrumptious beauty of a word that could be readily applied to most current theatrical releases. Rechauffe so beautifully captures that “haven’t we seen this before?” sinking question that hits you five minutes into the film you just spent ten bucks to see (the fact that there is a 2 or 3 after the title should usually be the first clue). You must so use this word the next time you see a film that is just that is just the latest rip-off of previous films. “It’s just so rechauffe.” (And yes, employing a French accent will only enhance your overall pleasure in using the word.)

Rechauffe. Paraleipomenon. Rehash.

That was the ancient title applied to what modern Bible consumers know as 1-2 Chronicles – at least in the ancient Greek translation of the “Old Testament” we know as the Septuagint. (The original Hebrew title for these books is debere ha-yamim = the words of the days).

Peter Enns observes in his latest book The Bible Tells Me So:

what an invigorating, annoying read...

what an invigorating, annoying read…

Chronicles was originally placed toward the end, if not at the end of the Old Testament – where it remains to this day in the Jewish Bible. But early on some editors (who even back then got in the way of good writing) got the bright idea of sticking Chronicles right after Samuel/Kings – probably to group similar books together. The early Christians went with that order, and these poor books have been trying to get noticed ever since. The fact that Chronicles was known back then by the title “The Things Left Over” didn’t exactly encourage people to read it. (In Greek it’s paraleipomenon – pa-ra-lay-po-MEN-on. If you’re looking for a different kind of biblical-sounding name for your kids, look no further).

Placing Chronicles after Kings was an inexcusably dumb move, if you ask me, and I think God should give this editor some sort of temporary afterlife punishment before entering his glory – like make him read the entire Left Behind series nonstop for a year…out of order.

Forgive the rant, but the shame of it all is that Chronicles isn’t mopping up what’s left over from Samuel/Kings. It was intentionally crafted to give a very different take on Israel’s past. That poor book is jumping up and down, demanding to be read on its own terms, not treated like Samuel/Kings’ annoying little brother.

And that brings us to the point of this post – to what jumped out at me when I saw the word paraleipomenon.

None of us are tired rehashings.
None of us are warmed overs.
We are not paraleipomena.

Except perhaps when we trying to be someone we’re not – or when we’re trying to be someone else.

Each of us is a book jumping up and down, demanding to be read on its own terms, not treated like the annoying little brother to be dismissed into the shadow of more regal siblings.

But how rarely we give such dignity to one another. Particularly in comment threads.

You’re just another liberal.
You’re just another conservative.
You’re just another religious nut.
You’re just another irreligious extremist.
You’re just another…
You’re just another…

Perhaps that’s the best rendering of paraleipomenon after all: “You’re just another…”
Been there, done that, encountered that, heard that – you don’t even have to open your mouth.

And then instead of being the “word of the day” uniquely positioned as the latest or even the last because you and your story deserve to be heard, seen and valued, you are grouped, sorted, categorized, tupperwared with those you most resemble (at least at first glance).

You are dismissed. You are oh so rechauffe. So paraleipomenon.

We deserve better from one another.


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Posted by on October 11, 2014 in haverings


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Bible ennui

Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 12.12.07 PM

I actually get this question a lot.
The “why” and “how” of reading are huge. Especially when reading the best-selling book of all time.

Peter Enns’ latest book The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It is stretching, to say the least. But he’s spot on in his description of Holy Writ:

The Bible isn’t a cookbook – deviate from the recipe and the soufflé falls flat. It’s not an owner’s manual – with detailed instructions for using your brand-new all-in-one photocopier/FAX machine/scanner/microwave/DVR/home security system. It’s not a legal document – make sure you read the fine print and follow every word or get read to be cast into the dungeon. It’s not a manual of assembly – leave out a few bolts and the entire jungle gym collapses on your three-year-old.

When we open the Bible and read it, we are eavesdropping on an ancient spiritual journey.
That journey was recorded over a thousand-year span of time, by different writers, with
different personalities, at different times, under different circumstances, and for different reasons.

Eavesdropping on an ancient spiritual journey as we encounter Life in our own.
I can’t think of a better posture for the read.
Owner’s manual?
Legal document?
Manual of assembly?

Not so much.

And such methods will find us with Sheila, more often than not (if we’re lucky),
dealing with our own Bible ennui. Perhaps we should stop trying so hard.


Take a smaller bite as you eavesdrop on this ancient spiritual journey.
Suck on it a bit as you step out the door
embarking on your own.


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Posted by on September 20, 2014 in Bible Questions


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I need to be in community of some kind, and this is the community I know and am familiar with. But I am keeping my true self hidden for fear of being on the “outs” with nowhere else to go. What kind of community is that? I want the heritage, the security, the belonging – yet I’m secretly resentful that I need to keep so much of myself hidden in exchange for it. If I think about it too much, I realize that I’m trading a life lived out loud for approval and acceptance. That is the issue that won’t go away.

This is one of many responses to a recent post – “Why Do I Keep Believing?” The Biggest Obstacles to Staying Christian – on Peter Enns’ blog.

I like Enns’ blog for the simple reason he wrestles and he makes me wrestle.

In my former churched life I would have stayed away from his blog like the plague (okay, so when I left my former church life it was 1997 and I didn’t even know what a blog was, but that’s beside the point). And I certainly would have stayed away from a post like this that invites people to pour out their doubts, objections and obstacles. Or if I did read the post, I certainly wouldn’t have waded into that pool of swirling, toxic doubt. Surely it would consume or at the very least taint me.

where_am_iBut since it was posted, I’ve carefully read through each posted response, noting the common elements and themes, taking in the stories and emotions, and generally comparing notes.

Funny how we post anonymously before humanity’s critiquing eyes what is laid out on the table of our heart before the Divine that knows and loves.

Little is expressed in these responses that in thirty years of following Christ and pursuing vocational ministry I haven’t seen and felt in myself.
It was actually quite refreshing.

Before, I think I would have screamed, “Stop it or I’ll bury you alive in a box!” At myself as much as at anyone else.

Funny thing is that’s how all of these people posting feel or have felt: buried alive in a box.

I’ve felt that too. Still do at times.

Funny how we like our preachers, our mentors, our holy guides to have struggles…as long as they were all back then. Who doesn’t relish a juicy back story, the powerful testimony of past sins, moral flailings, doubts, searchings – all, now, of course, gloriously overcome and behind us. But present doubts? Present fears? Present suffocations? Not so much. For the most part acknowledging present suffocations leads to early terminations.

And so we stuff the angst and doubts and struggles and try not to make too much noise as we scratch at theboxes lid of the box we find ourselves in. This boxed God. This boxed religion. This boxed book. This boxed life.

Do you suppose the very fact that we can’t and don’t openly acknowledge the struggle and allow others to do the same is what makes it all a box in the first place?

Why is it that we ignore the namesake of the entire Old Testament narrative? Israel. The holy narcissistic scoundrel who spent all night literally wrestling with God until he got a blessing (and a new name…and a new limp). Israel. He who wrestles with God and prevails and lives to tell the tale.

Why is it that instead of wrestling we are more interested in telling each other to lie down or line up?

Why is it our Bible studies create blanks we’re supposed to fill when all study, all thought, all pursuit of God and truth and life and spirit must of necessity create more blanks (and more blanks and more blanks and more blanks) that by definition are unfillable except by wonder?

As Enns states at the end of his post, “For those on the Christian path, looking into the dark places, honestly and courageously, is part of the deal (see Psalms or Ecclesiastes).”

Imagine that.

Jacob wrestlingWhat if instead of being religious societies of anonymous posters/posers quietly writhing and wrestling in our boxes we became open, blank-making communities of fearlessly self-confessed wrestlers with God?

Imagine that…

Dare I say it?

I wrestle.

Dare any of us say with Sister Aloysius in the final line of Doubt:

“I have doubts. I have such doubts.”doubts_3

What remarkable faith might we find in choosing the wrestling of faith that embraces its (and others’) doubt?

What deepening wonder me might discover in resisting all supposed or suggested easy religious or irreligious three count pins? (After all, it’s not like the religious have cornered the market on pat answers to fill in life’s blanks or in demanding that we lie down or line up!)

What might we discover if we embraced the tension in the prayer, “I believe, help my unbelief,” rather than whitewashing over it with strident religious or irreligious assertions, suppressing the doubts that arise because we are living, growing human beings?

What might happen if we accepted that we are all Jacobs wrestling with God and life and truth, and that that’s what we are supposed to be doing? And what joy could it unleash if we actually caught a glimpse of a Jacob-wrestling God who isn’t scandalized by our questions and wrestling, but who loves it?

I wonder.



Posted by on June 1, 2013 in Faith, musings, Old Testament, Prayer, Religion


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One of my favorite verbal acquisitions from my forays to Scotland.

What other word so well captures what should be our response to the unfathomable realities of life, the world, the universe, and God revealed “in a thousand forms to be found along every road” than “gobsmacked”? In Hebrew it’s captured by David’s Mah enosh? in Psalm 8. “When I consider your heavens, the work of your hands…what is man that you are mindful of him?” Earth origins is another area of much domino playing by scientists and theologians alike, to be sure, but when all has been said that we can possibly say as we pry into the details of origins and the universe, we are still left as God believers with the simple affirmation of Hebrews 11:4

By faith we understand that the universe (literally the aeons) were created by God’s command so that what is seen wasn’t made from what is visible.

Yeah. That about covers it.

And I’m gobsmacked.

Peter Enns is too. If you aren’t familiar with Peter Enns, you might find it worth your while to check out his blog ( if you can handle one scholarly type’s perspective on the nature of Scripture and faith.

Loved his most recent post: Thinking About God Makes Me Just Want to Keep My Mouth Shut.

Enjoy. Or not. If you go to the post, the comments are fun too.

Smart people tell us that the universe is about 14 billion years old and about 46 billion light years across. Light travels about 5.87 trillion miles a year (you heard me). Multiply that by 46 billion. My calculator broke. I came up with 2.70231100992E23. According to my extensive 10 second Google research, the numbers before the E are to be multiplied by 10 to the 23rd power. I think this is what God laughing at us looks like.

It also seems that the universe is expanding at an increasing rate. And if that weren’t enough, now we are told there may be more than one of them.

Add to this the fact that there are billions upon billions of galaxies in our universe, each containing billions upon billions of stars. We cannot remotely comprehend these numbers. I also hear from reliable sources that stars within galaxies are millions, billions, trillions (what does it matter, really) of light years away from each other, and similar distances exist between the galaxies themselves.

If there is a God….a higher power, a supreme being, who is behind all this, I feel we should just stop talking for a minute and…well…just stop talking for a minute.

What kind of a God is this, who is capable of these sorts of things? What claim can we have to speak for him, to think his thoughts are our thoughts? Who do we think we are, anyway?

Here’s another thing that unsettles me into silence. According to the Christian tradition, this God who does literally incomprehensible things, is also willing to get very small – to line up next to us, to know us, even love us (as the Bible says again and again).

If there really is a God like this–a God who understands and controls things so big my calculator has to use a letter to get it across, who is also a God who walked among a tiny tribe of ancient people called Israelites, who allowed them to write about him in their tiny ancient ways, and who subjected himself to suffering and death (what we work so hard to avoid), well…

I think we’re talking mystery here, people.

A God who does both. There are no words for this sort of thing. Yeah, King David in the Psalms talked about praising God because of the wonders of the heavens (Ps 19), and wondered out loud how a God who put the moon and stars in their place could be bothered by puny people (Psalm 8). But David had a limited, quaint, view of “up there.” He did not, and could not, think of “heavens” as we now have to, what with our telescopes and such.

One God responsible for the unfathomably large, who is also near us. If there is such a God….

To take this all in, as far as I am concerned, is above our mortal pay grade. Those of us who believe this kind of God exists should feel put in our place, pretty much walking around with that “I can’t believe what I just saw” look in our eye.

The Bible calls this humility and awe, which, as hard as it is to pull off, is at least something we can understand.


Posted by on September 5, 2012 in Bible Questions, Doctrine & Heresies, musings


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