The key text for us to explore in this section will come from Jesus’ inaugural sermon at his hometown synagogue in Nazareth found in the Gospel of Luke (4:16-30).
To be fair, many critical scholars see the hand of the Gospel editor all over this text, noting that many phrases are typical of Luke. Nevertheless, I suspect that there is an authentic story underlying this text inasmuch as Jesus’ first sermon almost gets him killed.
There is also a tremendous congruity with how Jesus interprets the Scripture in this text and his way of understanding both theology and ethics that we find in his teaching, e.g., in the Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6).
Most scholars trace the rise of the evangelical purity movement to the cultural shifts of the 1960s, with the purity movement originating in response to the loosened sexual mores of that time.
.. Moslener’s sense is that evangelical purity culture (as opposed to traditional Christian emphasis on the reservation of sexual expression to the marital relationship) got its start in the late 19th century, as white evangelicals began to lose their hitherto unquestioned grip on mainstream American culture.
Waves of immigration of non-white, non-Anglo Saxon, non-Protestants threatened to overturn the prior status quo, and white evangelicals responded with a range of social reform movements that privileged bourgeois (read: white, middle-class, Protestant) respectability. Temperance was one such movement; purity was another.
.. My sense is that non-evangelicals tend to be appalled by purity culture, so it’s doubtful they’re going to want to know more about it.
. . . sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence. . . (1 Peter 3:15)
Not, “Be ready to out-debate those who disagree with you.”
But, “Give an gentle account for what drives you, for why you do what you do.”
A faith that acts fearlessly well toward the other–regardless of who that other is–is the best apologetic.
So, for instance, he shows us differences between sacrificial laws in Exodus and Deuteronomy and calls them contradictions, without acknowledging that the former are given for life in the wilderness, and the latter for life in the Promised Land.
.. Even more problematic, Enns describes stories where God kills people, like the Flood, as “hard to defend as the Word of God in civil adult conversation.” He spends many pages stressing what a problem divine violence is. Yet he never mentions that Jesus himself not only quoted events like this—all-destroying floods, fire and sulphur from heaven, pillars of salt, the whole caboodle—but used them to explain what his own coming would be like (Luke 17:22-37). Jesus even tells stories about people being handed over to torturers (Matt. 18:34) and eternal punishment (Matt. 25:41-46).
So yes, the picture of Jesus painted in the Gospels should unsettle fundamentalists and flat literalists. But it also should also unsettle progressives, peaceniks, and professors—especially those who think that Jesus would join them in rejecting the accuracy of the Bible’s violent narratives.
.. In short, if I were trying to write a book about the Bible that allowed progressive moderns to ditch all the bits they don’t like, this is exactly how I would have done it.