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Re-enchanting the Text

Discovering the Bible as Sacred, Dangerous, and Mysterious

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In an age when the Bible has been stripped of its sacredness and functional biblical illiteracy reigns, this book makes the case that we must work to re-enchant the text in order to return the Bible to its rightful place in the lives of Christians.

Cheryl Bridges Johns explains how the Enlightenment's turn to the rational human subject made it possible to objectify the Bible and has distorted our interpretations of Scripture. This move generated a belief that studying the Bible was primarily a means of supporting facts and providing evidence of competing visions of reality. This "modern" version of the Bible does not trouble our nights with apocalyptic images. It has been stripped of its power. She also shows that both "liberal" and "fundamentalist" interpretation are failed forms of disenchanted readings.

Johns argues that we must rediscover the Bible as a sacred, dangerous, mysterious, and presence-filled wonderland to counteract biblical illiteracy in an increasingly post-Christian landscape.


"One can only voice a vigorous 'yes' to this wise and welcome book by Cheryl Bridges Johns. Johns sees clearly that the numbing impact of Enlightenment rationality on our view of the Bible has left us with the toxic options of progressive liberalism and reactionary fundamentalism, neither of which can allow the biblical text its proper work of wonder and deconstruction. Having identified these lamentable options of disenchantment, Johns applies her energy and courage to the work of re-enchantment of Scripture that defies both of these modernist options. Her rich Pentecostal legacy lets her see that it is the free, unfettered, unrestrained work of the Spirit that inhabits Scripture and that may also inhabit our reading of the text. Such a reading leads us into the holy mystery where the otherness of God may meet us and invite us to alternative living. Johns's work is at once breathtaking and breath-giving in its expansive hopefulness."

Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary

"We live in a world in which the taming and domestication of Scripture is prevalent. In response to this, Cheryl Bridges Johns--one of the leading Pentecostal scholars today--asserts in Re-enchanting the Text that 'we need a Bible that opens for us a world of real presence.' This world of real presence is an 'enchanted world' in which 'reason and imagination are joined together in creative harmony' and in which we are 'ravished with wonder by both the beauty and the terror' of Scripture. In this powerful and compelling analysis, Johns offers a way to 're-enchant' Scripture that refuses domestication; sees the text's power to disrupt, redescribe, and reorient; and embraces a pneumatic imagination. She extends to the reader an invitation to enter 'sacred scriptural space,' a space that is living, creating, and ultimately transforming. For those who want and yearn for more, this book is a must-read."

Lisa Bowens, associate professor of New Testament, Princeton Theological Seminary

"This book amounts to a bold Pentecostal intervention in current discussions about the theological interpretation of Scripture. With verve, rigor, and creativity, Cheryl Bridges Johns demonstrates how the Spirit's ongoing presence in the Bible-reading community makes the text come alive as a means of ongoing grace. Her vision for a Pentecostal ontology of Scripture is not just for Pentecostals--it is a gift to the church catholic, born at Pentecost."

James K. A. Smith, Calvin University; author of How (Not) to Be Secular, Thinking in Tongues, and You Are What You Love

"This book holds a timely invitation to come on a particular journey, one that asks the question how it is that sacred Scripture has become something less than a text through which the Spirit manifests and speaks. That is but one part of the journey, however, because the book also provides us a way forward from this predicament. This work demonstrates a certain verve and facility with the relevant issues, and it is at once both accessible and seasoned. Educators and church leaders who find such a journey important for those they serve would do well to start with this volume."

Daniel Castelo, William Kellon Quick Professor of Theology and Methodist Studies, Duke Divinity School

"I have been waiting on this book from Cheryl Bridges Johns since reading Pentecostal Formation. Her argument there that the Holy Spirit shapes human discipleship in the way of the anointed messiah and living Christ is here extended to show that the same Spirit does so through re-enchanting the human imagination to be curious about the strange and dangerous world of the Bible. Feast on this volume and open yourself up to God's mystery being unveiled in our daily lives, even in a late modern world."

Amos Yong, professor of theology and mission, Fuller Theological Seminary

"Cheryl Bridges Johns exposes the shallowness of current perceptions of Scripture in many Evangelical and Pentecostal contexts and then invites us to inhabit a new world--a liminal space where the Bible opens us to the beauty and mystery of the triune life of God. Johns's vision of and for Scripture in Re-enchanting the Text calls us into deeper, richer participation in God's revelation and presence. This vision is vital to engage the next generation, whose members long for true spirituality and value authenticity."

Rev. Jacqueline Grey, professor of biblical studies, Alphacrucis University College, Australia

"Under the rubric of re-enchantment, Cheryl Bridges Johns sounds a clarion call for rediscovering something that has been lost in the worldview bequeathed to us by the Western Enlightenment in all the regions and ecclesial traditions where its sway has prevailed. The domains of contemporary Evangelical Christianity have not escaped its influence--even and especially in the precincts of its reputedly 'high' view of Scripture. In terms of Scripture's own most-favored rubric, what has been lost is both the idea and the experience of 'the holy.' Johns traces the lineage of this loss in modern thought and Western Christendom, particularly in its ways of viewing and handling the biblical text. And for the household of faith, argues Johns, this has increasingly meant the loss of our own postmodern children, who are longing to inhabit a re-enchanted world and a re-enchanted text that would underwrite it. In the light of Pentecost, rather than the Enlightenment, Johns points the way to a re-envisioning and a re-experiencing of the biblical text as Holy Scripture in the presence of the Holy Spirit. In so doing, Johns has opened through this wide-ranging work an urgent, timely, and evocative discussion."

Rickie Moore, Lee University

The Author

  1. Cheryl Bridges Johns
    Carrie Workman Photography

    Cheryl Bridges Johns

    Cheryl Bridges Johns (PhD, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is a pastor and theologian who has taught college and seminary students for over forty years. She is visiting professor and director of the Pentecostal House of Studies at United Theological...

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