Matthew Mullins. Enjoying the Bible: Literary Approaches to Loving the Scriptures. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2021. 224 pages. $20.99 (Paperback).
“Read the Bible like any other book so it may affect you like no other book,” is a phrase that may raise many eyebrows. It is a phrase that illuminates the truth that the Bible is a book that is truly like no other book. But what does it mean to read the Bible like any other book? Matthew Mullins, associate professor of English and history of ideas at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, seeks to guide us in this old-new, fuller understanding of reading and loving the Scriptures.
Mullins commences with an assessment of why the modern trend of disliking poetry has wreaked havoc on reading and loving the Bible: We see the Bible as primarily a book of information and simple instruction. This is not to say that are not instructions given in the Bible, but that there is much more to the Bible than such a flat reading provides. From this launch pad, Mullins goes on to explore how literature and poetry seek to “make effable the ineffable” (3), how we are to read literature and poetry with our affections, and how to apply these methods of reading to the way we engage with the Scriptures.
To accomplish this task Mullins provides guided readings through a few great English poems and a short story to illustrate this type of embodied reading that truly affects the reader rather than merely filling his head. Mullins also looks to the Psalms and other biblical narratives to provide snapshots of what this type of reading looks like when we engage the Scriptures with a literary approach. One further strength of the book is the collection of exercises at the end of each chapter. These exercises seek to stretch the reader to practice what is being taught in each chapter.
Mullins interrupts the flow of his work to discuss the practice of worship. He purports that singing, praying, and preaching the Bible and the sacraments are living examples of feeling and embodying the Bible that (1) are ways we already read the Bible in a literary way to affect our hearts; and (2) can be incorporated into personal Bible reading. This chapter would have made a better appendix or afterword to demonstrate to the reader that there are already ways in which he engages with Scripture in the way Mullins teaches. But as it stands, the chapter seemingly changes the focus of the book and makes the second half of the book seem disjointed and clunky.
Enjoying the Bible is a helpful, enriching guide to reading the Bible not merely for information but to experience a changing of the affections. This book will stretch the scholar and layperson alike, who may be tempted toward reading the Bible in a stale manner, to see that the Bible is truly the living and active Word of God in which we cultivate a love for the God who spoke the Word.
Aaron V. Day is a Master of Divinity student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He serves as a research assistant for the Spurgeon Library.