The Enns Hermeneutic

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.

Beale & McAtee on the unity of Scripture

Matthew 21:41 They said to Him, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.”

41 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:

‘The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.
This was the Lord’s doing,
And it is marvelous in our eyes’?[j]

43 “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. 44 And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.”

Some commentators have rightly noticed that this second statement about a stone also has an OT background, this time from Daniel 2:34-35: “A stone was cut out without hands, and it struck the statue … and crushed [it],” and it “became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away.” The statue in Daniel represented the evil world empires that oppress God’s people, and the stone symbolized God’s Kingdom of Israel that would destroy and judge these unbelieving Kingdoms. Now, unbelieving Israel as become identified with pagan Kingdoms and is portrayed as being judged along with them by also being ‘broken to pieces’ and ‘scattered like dust.’

Thus Jesus sees Israel as becoming indistinguishable from the ungodly nations and accordingly judged in the very same way. That is, Israel as a nation will no longer exist as God’s true covenant people, just as the pagan nations to be judged at the eschaton will no loner exist. Remember also that the ‘stone’ of Daniel, after smashing the colossus, representing the evil kingdoms, ‘became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.’ Jesus identifies himself with Daniel’s stone that smashes the ungodly nations, which also includes here Israel, which is seen as being allied with these nations. That an aspect of the new form of the kingdom in this passage is the temple, centered in both Jesus and a new ‘people producing fruit,’ is further indicated by the fact that the parable of the vineyard in Is. 57, to which Jesus alludes in the directly preceding context, was interpreted by early Judaism to represent Israel’s temple.

That Jesus identifies himself with the cornerstone of the new temple is pointed to further by how in Dan. 2 the stone that struck the statue and then ‘filled the earth’ represented the foundation stone of the temple. That foundation stone grew and grew until it expanded to cover the entire the earth. A further indication that Israel identified itself with the nations instead of God’s true Israel, Jesus, is seen in Pilate’s question to the Jews, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ to which the chief priests responded, ‘We have no King but Caesar’ [John 19:15]. This develops the earlier statement by the Jewish crowd addressing Pilate, ‘if you release this man [Jesus], you are no friend of Caesar’ (John 19:12). In the parallel in Mt. 27:25 the Jews responded to Caesar saying, ‘ His blood be on us and our children,’ another radical expression of disassociating themselves from Jesus as the center of the newly emerging Israel, kingdom, and temple.

G. K. Beale
A New Testament Theology — 682

How can Beale remain amillennial and write material like this? Like Vos before him, Beale recognizes the “now, not yet” hermeneutic and constantly properly refers to the distinction between the Kingdom inaugurated and the Kingdom consummated. Yet, for Beale, again, like Vos before him always tends to front load the “not yet” in his hermeneutic over the “now.” I think this amillennial front loading of the “now” over the “not yet” is a Redemptive historical mistake. It was in the Old Testament where we find the front loading of the “not yet” over the “now,” in the coming of the Kingdom. However, with the coming of Christ who Himself is the Kingdom, the Redemptive-Historical anticipation has been realized so that with the new and better covenant the “now” of the “already, now, not-yet” Redemptive-Historical hermeneutic is front-loaded so that we anticipate that the inaugurated Kingdom that came with Christ goes from nowness unto nowness. This is the hermeneutical basis for postmillennialism. The front loading of the “not yet” has passed with the coming of Christ and with Christ’s victory we read the Scripture with the “now,” not consummated but indeed front loaded.

Also note that geo-political Israel is of no eschatological import to God as it has been overthrown, never to rise again. Geo-political Israel has absolutely zero claims to God’s promises of the OT. God has crushed Israel, divorced Israel, and served Israel divorce papers in the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Indeed, I might go so far as to say that those who see Israel as remaining God’s chosen people, are trying to reverse God’s judgment and so are enemies of God and His people.

Galatians 3:28 & Egalitarianism

‎26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Here St. Paul DOES affirm the distinctions of class, race, and gender. Paul is saying that despite these very real distinctions that exist that when it come to Justification the ground at the cross is even. The very real distinctions that exist don’t prohibit one from being justified in Christ.

Indeed, I would insist that unless these distinctions are assumed as true this verse makes no sense. Further, I would insist that the distinctions are so limited only to the question of justification, that the Church, composed of all these justified people as it is, still expects men to use the “Men’s Restroom,” and women to use the “Women’s Restroom,” while at Church. Something that would be altogether unnatural if it really were the case that Christians supported the idea of “No male or female categories or roles exist after conversion.” The fact that we still label our Restrooms suggest that we don’t really believe men and women are identically the same. Also, if no category of male or female, because of the putative egalitarianism that Christ brings, there would be therefore no reason whatsoever to object to sodomite marriage and if the implications of this passage were to be fairly traced out consistently according to the egalitarian Hermeneutic there would be no reason to object to pedophilia since the egalitarian Hermeneutic implication of this passage is that in Christ Jesus there is neither child or adult.

So, I believe that Galatians 3:26f can and should be used to refute egalitarianism in the Church and in Christian culture.

The Relationship Between Theology And Language

‎”How do you get your systematic theology if it is not at first driven by understanding the language? In order to get your systematic theology, you first have to get to the meaning of the words. It cannot be the other way round for the obvious reason: it would imply that systematic theology is developed before you understand the meaning of the words in Scripture.”

Dr. Ian Hodge
Australian Theonomist and all round great guy

Dr. Hodge’s formulation is lacking my estimation. Language doesn’t come to us disassociated from a meaning that is driven by theology. Language is not a free floating independent category that can be worked out in terms of meaning without that meaning of the language being informed a-priori by some theology. What I am insisting here is that the search for meaningful language requires a theology of language, and if we must have a theology of language before we can rightly understand language then clearly there is some sense in which theology is prior to language.

In terms of the “meaning of the words in Scripture,” it seems fairly obvious that the different conclusions (and so different translations) that people come up with in terms of word meanings reveals that language is theology (worldview) dependent. People will have disagreement regarding the meaning of language and at that point we begin to see that theology is the reason for that disagreement on the language.

I would argue that the particulars (language) and the wholes (theology) condition one another at every step of the way. I do agree with you however that paying attention to the language is key.

We might say that language without theology is blind while theology without language is empty. They need each other and are equally ultimate.