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Thursday, January 27, 2011

not a review: Peter Enns Inspiration and incarnation

Inspiration and incarnation : evangelicals and the problem of the Old Testament / Peter Enns. Baker Academic, c2005.

This book has had plenty of reviews and some really detailed critical evaluations. I do not intend to add yet another review. However, Enns' has leveled criticism at  “evangelical” biblical scholarship which does not reflect my personal experience. Enns is constantly attaching hedging qualifiers like "some" to his portrait of these poor misguided souls whom he would like to lead by the hand out of their constrained backward reactionary stances in regard to ANE culture and the OT.

I suspect that Enns' understanding of “the problem” is a cultural issue, his early training at Westminster Philadelphia where he was no doubt surround by what Frame has referred to as Machen's Warrior Children followed by a baptism of fire at Harvard for his PhD.

I studied under conservative “evangelical” old testament professors eons ago who forced us against-our-will to take a long hard look at the extrabiblical ANE texts and to think critically about their implications for OT exegesis. There was no defensive, reactionary posture what so ever. We read the standard ANE texts (e.g., Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts), we read Kitchen, Mowinckel, Gunkel ... whatever. Kitchen was blasted by J. Barr as a type of “the problem” Enns is defining but we did not read Kitchen or Harrison (Intro OT) exclusively, we were required to engage with the ANE primary sources, not selectively, as Enns claims but anything and everything that could shed light on the OT text. The general attitude toward ANE texts was positive. We were excited about the parallels to the creation account, flood stories, legal texts. There was nothing defensive about the stance taken by our OT professors. All this at a school where the president was one of the leading voices in the late great battle for the bible.

So I think Enns view of “the problem” is  a reflection of his personal history. I would agree that what was taught in the biblical literature classes at times created tension with what was being taught in theology classes. I would admit that the official doctrine of scripture didn't address the hermeneutical issues raised by the ANE texts. I would agree that there was tension between what later became the Chicago Statement and what we were doing in exegesis[1]. I would agree that the Chicago Statement is flawed and it needs to be revisited in light, not of ANE texts which have been around for 150 years, but the whole question of culture and language raised by cognitive approaches to linguistics.

These are just a few idle musings on the book that made Peter Enns news.

[1] The supplemental essays published in books after the Chicago Statement did address many difficult issues in hermeneutics.


Anonymous Mike Aubrey said...

I'm totally with you on what you're saying. When I attended Moody Bible Institute (pre-Enns), there was a distinct split where the Bible Department was open and interested and eager to deal with ANE texts and other issues that Enns discusses in his book, but the Theology department was far, far more conservative and more accurately represent the portrait described by Enns with their reactionary stances.

4:56 PM  
Blogger C. Stirling Bartholomew said...

Hi Mike,

Things were kind of crazy when I was in school. The president of the seminary had been working the lecture circuit at all west coast universities and at Arrow Head Springs. Then enrollment was up an order of magnitude, they were turning away students in droves. Even with a large new building things were so tight that for night classes there were students sitting on chairs in halls looking through the door to listen to the lectures. The president was a captivating public speaker and somewhat of a radical. I think his main goal was to show the west coast student culture that his school was not DTS. This was an era when going to the city Dallas to attend school was viewed by urban west coast college graduates as totally out of the question. Like a descent into Dante's Inferno.

Lots of new faculty and things were kind of chaotic. You could walk out of a class where an adjunct lecturer was advocating Ushers six thousand year chronology and walk straight into another class where Ron Allen was talking about a dig at Jericho and passing around pottery from a city older than Ushers earth.

We had three or four full time theology professors. I looked at their web page last night. They now have one (uno) full time theology professors.

All this is sort of irrelevant but it is important to historical cultural framework for the comments about school.

thanks for the comment.

7:43 PM  
Blogger C. Stirling Bartholomew said...


I said "they now have one (uno) full time theology professor."

This is incorrect.

I must have mixed them up with a different school's faculty. They have three systematic theology profs., hard to tell if they are all full time.

7:56 PM  

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