Friday, August 24, 2012

Monday, August 6, 2012

Peter, Paul, and Inspiration

Peter Enns has a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from Harvard University, has taught at Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia) for 14 years, was a Senior Fellow of Biblical Studies for The BioLogos Foundation, and is currently on faculty at Eastern University teaching courses in Old and New Testaments.

In other words, Enns is no slouch. In fact, I have appreciated the limited interaction I have had with him. He is cordial and helpful, as well as intellectually honest (which has left me asking many questions). To be sure, the depth and intensity of these recent questions have been rivaled only by my introduction to Calvinism many years ago, and my (sort of) recent interactions with hell (if so inclined, you can also read my review of Rob Bell’s Love Wins).

Part of the recent din surrounding Enns is the discussion over the historicity of Adam. This discussion has undoubtedly held a prominent place within the blogosphere over the last few months (not least by Enns, Scot McKnight, and Kevin DeYoung). And yet, amongst these various discussions, I have not yet read anything on the doctrine of inspiration as it relates to Pauline and Adamic studies (which I know could simply be my own oversight).

What might be most helpful is to define inspiration:

By inspiration of Scripture we mean that supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit on the Scripture writers which rendered their writings an accurate record of the revelation or which resulted in what they wrote actually being the Word of God.[1]

And, of course, inspiration is a consequent of revelation:

God created thoughts in the mind of the writer as he wrote.[2]


While revelation is the communication of truth from God to humans, inspiration relates more to the relaying of that truth from the first recipient(s) of it to other persons, whether then or later. Thus, revelation might be thought of as a vertical action, and inspiration as a horizontal matter.[3]

And, herein lies a critical question: If we believe Paul’s writings were inspired (2 Tim 3:10), that they were supernaturally influenced, are we not attributing error to God if we attribute error to Paul? This question stems from Enns’s assertion in The Evolution of Adam that Paul’s assumptions about human origins might not necessarily display a unique level of scientific accuracy (95). Simply put, if Enns thinks Paul was wrong about the historicity of Adam, is this not also an affirmation that man’s error can supplant God’s sovereignty in revelation and inspiration?[4]

It seems that this is where Enns is headed. In his writings on inspiration, a major theme is accounting for the incarnational aspect(s) of inspiration (i.e., the human-ness of the authors). Accounting for the human element is necessary (God is not a puppet-master), and yet, I feel a sense of unease focusing too much on the humanity of scripture (although we must understand that the text was written in a specific historical and cultural context). For instance, it seems most appropriate to affirm that God himself took on human form rather than a man becoming divine.

Paul Helm puts it nicely:

[I]f the account of his deity is controlled by data about his humanity – including his physical and mental growth, his bodily weakness, his ignorance, his emotional life – the result may be a Christ who is very different from a Christ whose divine nature is given priority.[5]

This is also, at least for me, the appropriate interpretive process for the Bible; namely, the Bible is breathed by God and authored my humans. Bruce Waltke, in his review of Enns’s Inspiration and Incarnation, states, “To be sure, the Scripture is fully human, but it is just as fully the Word of God, with whom there is no shadow of turning and who will not lie to or mislead his elect”.[6]

So, what are we to think?

Is Paul wrong?

Is Enns Wrong?

What do we have the right to conclude about the nature of revelation and inspiration?

How should revelation and inspiration affect our interpretive process?

These are some of the questions I am currently working through…

[1] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983), 225.
[2] Ibid., 213.
[3] Ibid., 225-226.
[4] Enns has appropriately pointed out that this syllogism only works if the above definition of inspiration is affirmed. But, converesely, Enns’s affirmation that God’s purposes in revelation and inspiration will not be supplanted by the human element is only true if we accept his definition of inspiration. 
[6] Bruce K. Waltke, “Revisiting Inspiration and Incarnation,” The Westminster Theological Journal 71, no. 1 (2009): 94.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Friday's Funny

When you see a John 3:16 sign at a sporting event, now you know how it started...

**credit goes to James McGrath