As a now-progressive Baptist, I have a love-hate relationship with the Bible.
Growing up, I took scripture to be infallible—THE word of God, no questions asked. I memorized textual order and proudly it at Sunday vespers. I lived for Bible drills and highlighted my leather-bound KJV Bible until it fell apart. I relied on the Word to sustain me through teen angst; it was my solace amid disappointment and rejection.
But then I enrolled in Duke Divinity School, where I learned to think critically about the text. As I took Old and New Testament, Greek, Hebrew, and Church History courses, a more nuanced, academic approach to scripture emerged. Questions surfaced: How and when were these ancient manuscripts written? How did they come together–over time–to form a canon? In what historical and cultural context did they unfurl?
In her latest book, Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again, Rachel Held Evans tackles these issues. She dives into scripture, parsing its lessons, violence, contradictions, and the ways in which it has historically—and is currently—a tool that uplifts and unsettles.
Evans’ work is always well-researched and written, but this book really demonstrates her Biblical scholar chops. She continues to be very impressive in this area for an author with no formal seminary training. Evans has the gift for digging deeply and Inspired does not disappoint. From her chapters on “War Stories” to “Gospel Stories,” readers learn or remember to fall in love and wrestle with scripture again—as a living, breathing narrative for God’s people.
What I love most about Inspired is where it lands. In the epilogue, Evans writes:
“We live inside an unfinished story, a story that began with the Spirit of God hovering over the primordial waters at the beginning of time and which took a dramatic, climatic turn two thousand years ago when that same God became human, lived among us, and beat death once and for all.” –Rachel Held Evans, #InspiredBook
In other words, the scripture is still unfolding with us–in all its mysticism and drama. The Bible is not an easy book to read, but Jacob’s (Israel) story reminds us that wrestling always yields a blessing. In Inspired, Evans unwraps this blessing: the gift of God’s willingness to teach God’s children about hurt, poverty, abandonment, and war—but also healing, forgiveness, abundance, justice, love, mercy, and miracles.
“If the biggest story we can imagine is about God’s loving and redemptive work in the world, then our lives will be shaped by that epic [scripture].” —Rachel Held Evans, #InspiredBook
May those of us who have shied away from tough texts—whether we are preachers, lay persons, or just scripture skeptics—be “inspired” to dust off our Bibles and dig deep.
Pre-order Inspired today so your copy arrives by Tuesday, June 12. Read, enjoy, and share your thoughts widely using the hashtag #InspiredBook.