Inspired, by Rachel Held Evans

inspiredThis is one of those books I’ve been waiting awhile to read. Having followed Rachel Held Evans’s spiritual journey through her other books and her online writing, I knew that in writing a book about the Bible, she was grappling with many of the same issues that I’ve wrestled with when reading Scripture. When you’ve come from a literalist background that teaches that in order to take the Bible seriously you have to believe every word, and you’ve moved through a more critical perspective in which it’s difficult to accept everything in the Bible literally — how do you relate to it? If you’re still a deeply committed Christian — as Evans and I both are — how do you reconcile a more complicated view of Scripture with the need to be spiritually fed by your the sacred texts of your faith?

Inspired is Evans’s attempt to answer that question, or more accurately, perhaps, to share with us some of the answers she has found. It does not attack, head on, the more intellectual side of this question — what to believe about inspiration, which texts to read literally and which figuratively, the value of applying historical-critical method to the gospel stories. Rather, she looks at the heart of the various Biblical texts, dividing the book into sections that roughly parallel the divisions of Scripture itself (Torah, History, Writings/Wisdom, Prophets, Gospels, Epistles) and examines the meaning and lessons we can draw from reading these books in their historical context. She doesn’t shy away from the difficult passages and frequently returns to the theme that Scripture is not a single, infallible source of wisdom so much as a collection of diverse texts with which we are encouraged to wrestle throughout our spiritual journey.

As if to illustrate this point, I finished Inspired and was … inspired … to try to get back to more regular Bible reading (which has been a struggle for me since I read through the whole Bible in 2012). Picked up a devotional book based on the lectionary and found that today’s Old Testament reading was the lovely passage about Ehud killing the Moabite king Eglon by burying his dagger up to the hilt in Eglon’s massively fat belly. I wasn’t sure what lesson to take away from that.

The Bible. It’s awe-inspiring, challenging, and sometimes just plain weird. If you love it but also struggle with it, check out Rachel Held Evans’ Inspired — notes from a fellow struggler.

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