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Embarking Blog

...on the journey towards restoration of all things

Filtering by Tag: Peter Enns

Odds & Enns

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On his blog, Peter Enns has been sharing portions of a paper he delivered to the faculty at Westminster Theological Seminary in response to his book, Incarnation and Inspiration that got him into trouble and now into suspension.  In a recent post on the authority and cultural expressions of Scripture, first speaks of the mixing of Jesus divinity and humanity in his person.  Enns says that these are "essential" to who Jesus is, and that the combination is important.  I would be wrong to try to pit the humanity against the divinity or to raise one above the other.  Interesting, I was just relistening to a podcast recently by Seattle's Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Seattle  entitled "The Supremacy of Christ and the Church in a Postmodern World."  Driscoll was making a similar argument, accusing the Emergents of raising the immanence and incarnation of Jesus too high and accusing the New Reformers of raising the transcendence and exalted Jesus too much.  In any case, Enns argues that the authority of Scripture comes from its divine origin, in other words - in God's words, but that it is encased unescapably in humanity, or cultural expression.  Here is a short passage from his post:

What I argue in I&I is that Scripture works in an analogous (not identical) way. Scripture is God’s word because it is of divine origin. That is the locus of authority, and no discussion of its humanity in any way compromises that authority. What a study of Scripture’s humanity does do is help us see the manner in which the divine author speaks authoritatively into particular ancient cultures. How this authoritative Scripture translates to different times and places, in both its timeless affirmations and contextualized particularity is (I trust this is not too reductionistic) the task of theological study. It is my firm experience, however, that evangelical lay readers, those to whom the book is addressed, are not accustomed to understanding the nature of Scripture this way.

This is one of the issues that I find so fascinating about how we understand Scripture, and one that I've mentioned in various ways here on my blog.  One of the ways it has been raised among some like myself is how much we can "purge" the human side, the cultural side, and get to pure propositional truths.  Again, don't read what I'm not saying, and from what I'm reading of Enns, he's not saying either but being accused of.  I'm not saying there isn't truth, or objective truth for that matter or that God's truth isn't propositional in any way.  What I am saying is that our access too it is always enculturated, always incarnated, always spoken through word and cultural and interpretation from God into human cultures and persons.  God communicates, he doesn't philosophize.  God relates, speaks, and loves rather than providing pure platonic visions of himself.  God is God, "I am who I am" and not philosophical categories and platonic idealism or Kantian pure reason.  God is interactional and in his divine goodness has chosen to speak, act, and even come incarnationally.

God is still who he is.  He is still the King and the authority.  What he says goes.  What he wants, will be.  There is no other name under haven by which we can be saved.  But let us be careful not to turn scripture - or God for that matter - into pure philosophical Kantian metaphysics.  We need to find a way to accept the way God has communicated with us - not through theological treatise, but through narrative of his relationship with his people - and then figure out how it speaks to us today, and what God really intends and who he is.  That's much harder work than black and white propositions, I know, but that's the work.  Driscoll is right (although I don't like saying that) that we need to balance the transcendent and immanent God as he is.


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"Lining Up" at Westminster

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I've been writing a bit lately about the issues of "who's in" and "who's out" and drawing firm boundary lines within evangelicalism. There are some these days who are tightening up the theological borders, while others are in favor of open borders and new cultural expressons of our faith so long as we maintain our core identity (see posts on The Future of Evangelicalism). In the midst of this has come the controversy surrounding Westminster Theological Seminary and Peter Enn's. Apparently, Enn's published a book (which I have not read) called Inspiration and Incarnation, using an incarnational analogy to describe inspiration and Scripture. He was recently suspended by the board from his position for this book because it apparently went against the Westminster Confession of Faith.  What I'm gathering Enns means by incarnational analogy (again, without having read the book), is that there is a co-mingling (as in Jesus' incarnation... the human and the divine) of humanity and divinity in the project and development of the Scriptures. My hunch is that the rub here is around inerrancy and defining what "God-breathed" means. If there is too much "humanity" and culture in the Scriptures, then that might soften our understanding of it's authority, it's special nature, and inevitably create a slippery slope away from inerrancy. Again... I haven't read it, but if that's what it's about, I can see the issues here. The interesting thing to me just on first blush is that even though Jesus was human, even though Jesus was "enculturated" as a Jewish man in first century Palestine, born into the home of a carpenter - we don't tend to worry that Jesus is somehow tainted or less than perfect, or diminished in his God-hood. So, why would we worry about an incarnational theology of inspiration? Maybe there's a lot more too it.

In any case, what bothered me were a couple of things (you can find this info at Christianity Today in an article entitled "Westminster Theological Suspension." There's also a good deal of discussion on Scot McKnight's blog). 

First, it was interesting how split both the faculty (12 for 8 against) and the board (9 for 18 against) were on their decisions to support Enns or not.  Clearly, this is not a cut and dried issue, and one that took 2 years to get through.  Apparently there were not "personal" issues involved.  I guess this was theological.  And yet it came down to such a split vote in both places within Westminster?  Just ask yourself this question... "What does this tell us about the state of evangelicalism?"  I won't answer that for you.

Second, even though this was supposedly a theological issue, CT said this, "...the board failed to give Enns an opportunity to be heard" and that that boards staement said, "while theological ocncerns were mentioned, there was little board discussion of theological specifics."  Hmmm.   That's a head scratcher.

Well, obviously I don't know enough about the story, but it's disturbing none-the-less.


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