For a few years now Peter Enns and his “doctrine of inspiration” has been making waves in the Reformed / Evangelical community. Of course the fact that Enns could, with this “doctrine of inspiration” spend years at Westminster East should wave red flags for Christians in terms of supporting these institutions. I wish I could say that Westminster East was some kind of exception in regards to putatively White Hat Seminaries harboring significant error.
Anyway, I thought I would dip into the controversy and read something that explained a little bit what it was all about. Imagine my surprise when I picked up G. K. Beale’s, “The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism,” and discovered that all Enns is pushing is a variant of neo-orthodoxy with a “History of Religions” school twist. There is nothing new in what Enns is thumping. This drivel has been pushed for decades. The fact that somehow this is seen as “new,” or, “innovative,” by some people speaks more of those people’s collective historical unawareness then it does to the fact that Enns has discovered a new and innovative Hermeneutic.
Beale, at least, recognizes that Enns has hardly come up with something new under the sun. In a trenchant critique Beale has this to say about the failure of Enns “Myth Hermeneutic.”
1.) Enns affirms that some of the narratives in Genesis, e.g. of creation and flood, are shot through with myth, much of which the biblical narrator did not know lacked correspondence to actual past reality.
2.) Enns appears to assume that since biblical writers, especially, for example, the Genesis narrator, were not objective in narrating history, then their presuppositions distorted significantly the events that they reported. He too often appears to assume that the socially constructed reality of these ancient biblical writers, e.g., their purported mythical mindsets, prevented them from being able to describe past events in a way that had significant correspondence with how a person in the modern world would observe and report events.
3.) Enns never spells out the model of Jesus’ incarnation with which he is drawing analogies for his view of Scripture.
4.) Enns affirms that one cannot use modern definitions of truth and error in order to perceive whether Scripture contains truth or error. However, this is non-falsifiable, since Enns never says what would count as an error according to ancient standards. This is also reductionistic, since there were some rational and even scientific categories as the disposal of ancient people for evaluating the observable world that are in some important ways commensurable to our own.
5.) Enns does not follow at significant points his own excellent proposal of guidelines for evaluating the views of others with whom one disagrees.
6.) Enns’s book is marked by ambiguities at important junctures of his discussion.
7.) Enns does not attempt to present to and discuss for the reader significant alternative viewpoints besides his own, which is needed in a book dealing with crucial issues.
8.) Enns appears to caricature the views of past evangelical scholarship by not distinguishing the views of so called fundamentalists from that of good conservative scholarly work.
Enns’s hermeneutic is basically a hermeneutic of post-modern tolerance. When embraced the consequence is that the reader of Scripture is the one judging Scripture (what is myth and what isn’t) as opposed to being the one who is under the judgment of Scripture. Enns himself might be comparatively “conservative,” but allow his hermeneutic to be officially sanctioned in the Church (and it already is sanctioned in a defacto way in most churches … for Pete’s sake if it could live for years and years at Westminster East, clearly it is hard to see how it wouldn’t already be ensconced in the Church now) and the consequence will be all kinds of novel postmodern conclusions as putatively drawn from Scripture.