149 of 162 people found the following review helpful
on June 25, 2006
Peter Enns' book Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament, is a vital contribution to the discussion about how Evangelicals should understand the Bible. I believe anyone with Evangelical commitments who is interested in relating the Bible to modern science and postmodern epistemology will benefit greatly from Enns' perspectives.
Enns is a Professor of Old Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary. Westminster is a Reformed seminary with a commitment to Biblical inerrancy. Thus, Enns writes from within a Warfieldian concept of Biblical authority and a Reformed epistemological stance.
Enns tackles several difficult questions for Evangelicals who take the Bible seriously but who also recognize that "all truth is God's truth." These include the stories of creation and the flood and their similarity to ancient near eastern (ANE) myths, the sometimes imprecise, non-linear nature of Biblical history, and the way in which the New Testament Apostolic authors often took Old Testament passages out of context and infused them with new, spiritualized meanings. Contrary to many popular efforts at addressing these problems, however, Enns avoids the temptation to propose strained harmonizations that purport to explain away tough questions.
Instead, Enns' central thesis is that we must approach the Biblical text as an incarnational text. Jesus, as God incarnate, is God's ultimate self-revelation to us. The church has long recognized the error of minimizing either Jesus' human or divine natures. We are not surprised that Jesus experienced human limitations such as tiredness, thirst, pain, and even fear, because he truly was fully human, even as he was fully God. This antinomy is known to us by the gift of faith and is not fully comprehensible to our human minds.
In similar fashion, Enns argues, we should not be surprised that the Biblical text reflects the human contexts in which it was created. The Bible is not a disembodied instruction manual; it is an incarnational text, by which God entered the world of his people and spoke to them in terms and through stories and symbols they could understand. Here Enns hearkens back to Calvin's view that in scripture, God accommodates the limitations of human reason and understanding, and presents Himself in language people can understand.
Enns' application of this concept to the creation and flood stories, I think, is particularly helpful. I'll quote his summary at length:
"Therefore, the question is not the degree to which Genesis conforms to what we would think is a proper description of origins. It is a fundamental misunderstanding of Genesis to expect it to answer questions generated by a modern worldview, such as whether the days were literal or figurative, or whether the days of creation can be lined up with modern science, or whether the flood was local or universal.... It is wholly incomprehensible to think that thousands of years ago God would have felt constrained to speak in a way that would be meaningful only to Westerners several thousand years later. To do so borders on modern, Western arrogance....To argue, as I am doing here, that such biblical stories as creation and the flood must be understood first and foremost in the ancient contexts, is nothing new. The point I would like to emphasize, however, is that such a firm grounding in ancient myth does not make Genesis less inspired; it is not a concession that we must put up with or an embarrassment to a sound doctrine of scripture. Quite to the contrary, such rootedness in the culture of the time is precisely what it means for God to speak to his people.... This is surely what it means for God to reveal himself to people - he accommodates, condescends, meets them where they are."
I think Enns is exactly right about this. Understanding the incarnational nature of the Biblical text is a fundamental step towards a more robust Evangelical intellectual commitment in light of our present scientific outlook.
In terms of postmodern epistemology, I do not believe Enns could strictly be described as a postmodern thinker. However, the Westminster tradition of presuppositionalism seems to underlie some of Enns' argument. It seems to me that there could be some potentially fruitful cross-polinization between presuppositionalism, Reformed Epistemology, and some postmodern epistemologies. Indeed, Enns provided a back-cover blurb for John Franke's The Character of Theology, which suggests to me that Enns' is sympathetic to the "postconservative" Evangelical commitment to move away from a modernist, "scientific" approach to the Biblical narratives.
This commitment on Enns' part shows through most clearly, I think, in his discussion of Apostolic hermeneutics. As Enns correctly notes, the Apostolic New Testament writers often used Old Testament texts in ways that would give Evangelical exegetes indigestion. The Apostles often incorporated methods and presuppositions indigenous to their Second Temple Jewish context, and sometimes borrowed concepts and phrases from apocryphal books popular at the time such as 1 Enoch. As a result, the Apostles often read Old Testament passages out of context and applied them in ways not suggested by historical-grammatical exegesis.
Evangelical commentators tend to explain these instances by arguing that the meaning found by the Apostles was inherent in the original text, or that the Apostles had special authority to reinterpret the texts. Instead of these strained approaches, Enns proposes that these are examples of the incarnational nature of the text. The text came to us through a human community, which included some of the presuppositions of Second Temple exegetical methods.
This suggests that the text is to be received and understood in community. As Enns states,
"But biblical interpretation is a true community activity. It is much more than individuals studying a passage for a week or so. It is about individuals who see themselves as a community that reaches far back into history and extends to the many cultures across the world today. Truly, we are not islands of interpretive wisdom. We rely on the witness of the church through time (with the hermeneutical trajectory set by the apostles as a central component), as well as the wisdom of the church in our time--both narrowly considered as a congregation, denomination, or larger tradition and more broadly considered as a global reality, all of which involves the direct involvement of the Spirit of God.... Such a journey is not always smooth. At times what is involved is a certain degree of risk and creativity: we may need to leave the main path from time to time to explore less traveled but promising tracks. To be sure, our job is also to communicate the gospel in all its simplicity, but that does not mean that biblical interpretation is an easy task--the history of the church's interpretive activity should put such notions to rest. Biblical interpretation always requires patience and humility lest we stumble."
Once again, I think Enns is exactly right here. Too much Evangelical theology is about mechanically drawing the "right" set of systematic propositions from the Biblical texts, as if they were scientific journal articles. Propositions and systematics can be helpful, but we must remember that the Biblical texts at their heart are narratives given to living communities, each guided by the Holy Spirit within their particular historical and cultural contexts, and each joined to the broader community of the Church throughout the ages.
In short, there are many riches to be mined from this book, and I recommend it heartily.
73 of 77 people found the following review helpful
on April 6, 2009
Enns covers three broad topics in what he calls "the problem of the Old Testament:" (1) the common features the Pentateuch shares with ancient Near Eastern creation myths and legal codes; (2) examples of theological diversity where different passages seem to say things contrary to one another; (3) the method by which New Testament writers cite and quote OT passages in their writings. Each of these is a challenge for students of the Bible because they have been taught to expect certain qualities of how the text should be. For example, we expect the Bible to be unique in its revelation of creation origins and moral laws, that the Bible's message ought to be unified and coherent, and that the NT writers did "good Bible interpretation" by citing the Old Testament in ways that represents what the OT passages were originally talking about. Because the Bible does not live up to any of these expectations many lose their confidence in it, and go directions that end up harming their faith.
Enns proposes a solution to this by utilizing what is called the "incarnational analogy" that makes the comparison between the nature of Christ and the nature of Scripture. We confess that Christ is both fully human and divine, not a fraction of one or the other. So too with the Bible it has a divine and human nature, neither of which can be eclipsed by the other. As Christ is sinless, the Bible is errorless, and as he was situated in a time and place, so were the biblical writers. For Enns, God's revelation necessarily entails accommodation to human modes of communication. Thus, we should not be surprised that the Bible behaves the way it does in that it reveals a God who uses the cultural and literary forms of the day to communicate its truth.
In the end, I must confess I am of two minds with regard to this book. The Bible student in me thinks what Enns has done is adequate and helpfully delineates a synthesis in which these problems can be addressed. Ideas about the "perfection" of the Bible and expectations of it can take a backseat to what the Bible actually is and who its ultimate author is like.
However, the philosopher in me was left disappointed on several accounts. The law of noncontradiction is foundational to the doctrine of inerrancy whether we think it is "extrabiblical" or not. Scripture's own self-attestation--its human form and marks of diversity--are not sufficient to demonstrate inerrancy in any meaningful sense without the law of noncontradition making the necessary distinctions between truth and error. By focusing more on the phenomena of Scripture than the doctrine of Scripture, we are not given any tools to avoid the conclusion that some of the cases he presents can easily be understood as contradictions. For example, what did Nathan actually say (2 Sam 7:16; 1 Chron 17:14)? Certainly both cannot claim to be "exactly what Nathan said." If revelation necessarily entails accommodation, the pressing question becomes at what point does God's revelation limit its accommodation to human behavior? Does God allow himself to accommodate the conflicting memories of his creatures? It certainly seems odd if this is so, and we certainly cannot know what exactly Nathan originally said.
With these criticisms in mind, though, one can thoroughly enjoy Enns's book. Biblical literacy includes raising our awareness at how the Bible behaves and how difficult some of its methods and texts can be for modern readers. Amazingly, the Bible is still a fairly easy book to understand if one is simply searching for the basic story (creation, fall, redemption, future judgment/blessing). This unity among the stunning diversity is something to be admired and treasured and motivates further research into the depths of the Bible's teaching and literature. I can only be thankful to Peter Enns for making me a more discerning reader of the Bible.
80 of 92 people found the following review helpful
on June 19, 2006
Inspired. Inerrant. Infallible. These and many other words are tossed around in discussions of the Scriptures' authority - discussions which can become quite vigorous. Battles over the Bible may be the source of more controversy among American Christians in the last century than anything else.
In "Inspiration and Incarnation," Peter Enns joins the debate, especially as it relates to the Hebrew Scriptures. He identifies three "problem" areas:
1. The Old Testament and Ancient Near Eastern Literature. In many ways, the Bible looks like the literature of the surrounding Gentiles. If the Bible is God's special revelation shouldn't it be unique?
2. Theological diversity in the Old Testament. Different authors seem to have different opinions on the same subject, at times even flatly contradicting each other. If God only has one opinion shouldn't the Scriptures always say the same thing?
3. New Testament interpretation of the Old Testament. The NT authors seem to quote the OT out of context, making it say something the author never intended. If we have to use the grammatical-historical method shouldn't they?
Enns shows that these issues are real; they are not simply cooked up by liberals who want to dismiss the Bible as hopelessly contradictory and irrelevant. What are we to do with this unexpected book? Enns provides an answer:
"The problems many of us feel regarding the Bible may have less to do with the Bible itself and more to do with our own preconceptions." (page 15)
The problem is not whether the Bible is God's Word; the problem is with our notion of how God's Word ought to behave. We're looking for something neat and clean. And, consistent with his modus operandi, God does something completely different.
Enns suggest we use the Incarnation as our way of understanding the nature of the Scriptures. (Lutheran theologian Hermann Sasse suggests a similar approach.) Christ, the true Word of God, is fully human and fully divine. In him the two natures subsist, neither diminishing the other. The Scriptures, also the Word of God, are fully human and fully divine. Christ came to us as a first century Jew, fully a part of that culture. The Bible comes to us over the span of hundreds of years and is a part of the culture in which it was written. Yet, supremely in Christ but also in the Scriptures, God reveals himself. This is not to say that the Bible merely "contains" the Word of God in some way. We do not say that of Christ. They are both the Word of God.
God came to the Biblical authors where they were. He did not zap them out of their context and dictate something to them for which they had no understanding. There is a progression in God's revelation throughout the OT leading to the final revelation in Jesus Christ. This certainly creates a problem for those who want a "flat Bible". But although it might require us to adjust our expectations of an inspired Bible it does not detract from Scriptural authority. The incarnational analogy allows us to hear the Bible speak in its own voice, which, mysteriously, is God's voice.
This is an excellent book for those who believe the Scriptures are the Word of God yet are uncomfortable with the definitions enforced by the battlers for the Bible. If you are like me it will challenge dearly held, if tenuous, views. In the end the Word of God may look messy, but it will be endlessly fascinating.
48 of 58 people found the following review helpful
on February 10, 2006
The issues that this book examines head on are the same ones that have caused some honest, intelligent people to reject lives of faith. Why does Genesis look so similar to pagan creation stories that predate the Bible by several centuries? Why do different books of the Old Testament seem to contradict themselves in historical accuracy and in theological implications? Why did the apostolic writers of the New Testament quote the Old Testament in ways that may be considered today to be irresponsible or inaccurate?
These questions are important for evangelical Christians to discuss openly and honestly. The reason why I gave this book 4 stars, however, is simply because this book is not for everyone. This is not a bad thing, but people should be aware that this was written specifically for evangelical Christians who already have a firm footing in their faith.
I personally found this book extremely challenging and humbling. I was excited to read such honest examinations of these very challenging topics from someone who is not only an evangelical Christian but is also a professor at Westminster who knows the potential trouble areas of biblical interpretation very intimately. I walked away from reading this book realizing that my definition of biblical interpretation has been too narrow and that learning about God through the bible can be an on-going, exciting journey that is much more than simpling studying alone with bible references and exegetical rules.
The one thing that would have been helpful in this book is an appendix with the author's thoughts on an apologetic approach to these issues. I know this is out of the scope of this book, and I know that a lot of the content in this book can indeed be presented with an apologetic spin. But after reading this book, I personally felt the need to process much of this information on my own in light of how it could be presented to people who are either not of the Christian faith or even may be struggling in their faith. Although the author makes it clear that he does not intend on providing final answers in his book as much as he strives to open honest discussions, in the end, I could have still used some guidance in knowing how to present the issues in a balanced way to those who do not share my views or my faith. (e.g. "Yes, Genesis looks a lot like the creation stories of the surrounding cultures, but that does not explain how the small, minority nation of Israel came up with radical ideas like monotheism." or "Yes, the Old Testament's criteria for historical accuracy may be different from our Western, scientific, 20th century criteria, but no matter what criteria we use, it is hard to dismiss their consistent view of a God whom theologian still marvel at today.")
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on May 17, 2010
Two views have dominated the discussion of the nature of Scripture for the last 150 years. The 19th century liberal view and the Fundamentalist view.
In the early church, there was a similar discussion on the nature of Christ. The Arian view denied the deity or divinity of Christ. The Docetist view denied the humanity of Christ. The orthodox view was and is, Christ is 100% human and 100% divine.
Peter Enns first discusses how the modern discussion on the nature of Scripture is ultimately an issue of one side claiming Scripture is 100% human but ignoring the divine, Arianism, and the other side claiming Scripture is 100% divine and ignoring the humanity, Docetism. Instead Scripture, like Christ, needs to be seen as both 100% human and 100% divine.
Enns' key contribution occurs in the first 20 pages or so where he outlines the basic problem. It is key, because he appears to be the first person to understand and state the problem. There is no other book on this subject. These first pages will prove timeless. Enns develops what should have always been the orthodox view of Scripture, Scripture is 100% human and 100% divine.
What follows adds to Enns' thesis, these are the ramifications of the various views. It is still very important but potentially subject to revision as the implications of the first 20 pages becomes lived, rather than just intellectually understood.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on February 1, 2008
This book will challenge all conservatives and evangelicals who read it. At the outset, Enns declairs that the conservative evangelical movement should not have agreed with the proposition that the Bible should look different than other books in antiquity if it is truly the Word of God. Why? Because, Enns argues, we have lost that battle. The liberal and critical scholors have indeed shown that the Bible is similar in style and structure to other antient works. They, therefore, dismiss it as uninspired, just another work of pre-scientific, myth believing, ancient man. We, the conservatives, are then left to try to explain away the mountains of evidence facing us.
What is Enns answer? In Christ, the Word made flesh, we hold to an incarnational theology. That is Christ who is 100% God came down to earth as a little baby and is, as a result, 100% man. As such we see both His divinity as well as His humanity, messy though it may be at times. Jesus looked like other Jews of His era. He spoke as they did; ate the same foods they did; was tempted as they were, and probably had a similar sandal size to other Jewish men of the time. Yet He was still God. Why can't we hold that the Bible, the Word of God in written form, is also, similarly incarnated? Being both 100% divine as well as 100% human, and, thus, looking somewhat similar to the other ancient works, yet retaining its divine nature?
I don't know if I can take Enns' analogy as far as he does. And, while the anaology solves certain conservative evangelical theological problems, it will undoubtedly raise many more. Still, this book should be read by all college and seminary students wishing to enter the ministry, as well as current pastors, and those wishing to engage the world around them in apologetic discourse. You may not agree with Enns fully, but you will not think the same way you did as before.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on November 18, 2007
When I first read this book I was a little disappointed because it seemed he hadn't really committed to writing it. The examples are all relevant, but he doesn't do as much analysis as I thought he needed and, worse, he didn't pick a lot of the examples that I thought would be even better (though probably less accessible). More importantly, he doesn't draw a lot of conclusions and may come off a bit wishy-washy.
But then I looked back at some of the notes I had taken, and figured out that I read the first few pages at 3 in the morning a few weeks before I read the rest of the book. The point of this book is not really to say much of anything. Instead, the point of this book is to get conversations going. Enns is basically pointing out that many of evangelicals' dearest commitments regarding Scripture are based in a strongly modernist worldview and then begging us to try to rethink Scripture in a non-modernist way. My original criticisms were based on the view that Enns was giving a bunch of answers, but he's just trying to get conversation going.
Well-written, says just enough to make his point, and offers a message that needs to be heard. Too many Christians are erroneously clinging to modernism, and we need to stop. What if the Bible doesn't fit in rationalistic boxes? What if the category of mystery finds its way back into our theological language? What if we're committed to a God and therefore a Bible that is more an abstract principle than a person, that would be at home in Platonic heaven but can't be sullied by the earthiness of real life? Let's start asking these questions.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on April 2, 2012
I realize I am three or four years behind the times in reading this book. That's fine. I'm more able to appreciate it now than I would have been in my apologist days. As readers will remember, this book caused a firestorm in the evangelical world, leading to Enns' dismissal from WTS, and causing all Reformed bloggers to cry out in unison, "The Gospel is at steak!" (since when is the gospel not at steak in Reformed circles?).
I didn't really see a problem with the book, though. Yes, I realize where Enns is out of bounds with traditional evangelical hermeneutics, and he should admit as much. Further, the implications of Enns' project will be troubling for many varieties of Evangelical biblical scholarship, but the reality is that these problems *will* arrive in one form or another (ask any young college student who lost their faith in an OT intro class because a professor who was not spiritually sensitive presented these problems. I saw it happen by the dozen--and that's a conservative number--at Louisiana College. Cheap, pat answers will not work and insult the intelligence of young men and women. We need to deal with these issues and Enns is to be commended for dealing with it in a pastorally sensitive and academically sterilized environment, his colleagues' hysterical reactions to it notwithstanding).
Enns, faithful to good Christology, suggests an incarnational parallel between the Person of Christ and the "bible." As Christ has a human dimension (at this point I don't care what connotation you give to that phrase), so also the Bible has a human dimension to it. Most conservatives are fine with this and a few smart ones will say, "yeah, didn't Calvin say that God lisps to us?" And that's true, though it's doubtful Calvin would have approved of Enns' suggestions!
Contrary to popular fear, most of Enns' book is unremarkable. If the reader is familiar with John Frame's works, then Enns' interpretation of Proverbs and Torah in a situational perspective will sound old-hat. Enns also spends much time noting the differences between Kings and Chronicles, of which I assume many Evangelicals are familiar. Enns asks an important question, though: How do we continue to affirm "inspiration" and "revelation" given these differences represent different goals? Personally, I don't have a problem with that question.
The real rub, though, is Enns' treatment of Genesis 1-11. In short, his argument goes: it is indisputable that the Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) mythologies were written prior to Genesis.i Secondly, since Abraham came from Ur of the Chaldees and would no doubt have bee familiar with these stories, and given that these stories are very similar to Genesis 1-11, one is hard-pressed to avoid the conclusion that Genesis 1-11 is somewhat dependent on the ANE mythologies.
This leads to the next problem: what do we mean by "myth?" Enns defines myth as a pre-scientific form of answering the question of origins in the form of stories (50).ii So one could advance the next conclusion that Abraham did adapt these mythological categories but at the same time radically deconstructed them. This makes Abraham's faith all the more radical: his God is not like the pagan deities, and this is how his God wants you to live.
Enns has other chapters on the anthropomorphic uses of language about God. While it is true Yahweh doesn't act passionately like Zeus, and if one wants to be theologically proper, the essence of God is impassionate, it's equally difficult to read the prophetic literature and Yahweh's interaction with his people and come to a hard doctrine of divine impassibility (yes, I affirm divine impassibility, though not without qualifications). However, much literature has been written on that point and I won't say more.
Enns' last chapter will also cause some problems with conservative readers. While the grammatical-historical method is a respected method and is generally preferred in how to interpret texts, the fact remains that the New Testament authors routinely violated this principle. Not only did they interpret OT texts (seemingly) out of contexts, it appears they even read into the passage elements from 2nd Temple Judaism, and even most strikingly, changed the text of some passages to make a point "fit." Consider the following examples:
Matthew 2:15/Hosea 11:1
Hosea is not talking about the boy Jesus, nor even about a future Messiah, but is alluding to Israel's past (133).
2 Corinthians 6:2/Isaiah 49:8
Isaiah is speaking of Israel's deliverance from Babylon, which Paul interprets to mean the deliverance in Christ (135; for those schooled in the Redemptive Historical model, this isn't so wild an interpretation; still, it's not what Isaiah's contemporaries, to whom it first meant something--remember what you learned in reading Fee and Kaiser?--which must also be determinative for us.
Romans 11:26-27/Isaiah 59:20
Paul says the deliver will come from Zion, but Isaiah says the deliver will come to Zion. Secondly, Paul applies to Christ what Isaiah applied to God (yes, that is a wonderful truth in which I rejoice, but one must also point out the diversity in the passage). Isaiah talks about those who will be delivered, but Paul talks about the Messiah's point of origin (139).
Hebrews 3:7-11/Psalm 95:9-10
The writer of Hebrews, whom I will call "Paul" simply to irk New Testament intro classes, adds a word, dio (therefore, for the sake of). On first glance it doesn't seem to change much, but Enns makes the argument, "Whereas Psalm 95 equates forty years with the period of God's wrath, Hebrews, by inserting dio, equates the forty years with the duration of God's works...The forty year period is not defined by wrath, but by God's activity. Anger is what follows this forty year period if his readers do not rid themselves of "a sinful, unbelieving heart"" (Enns, 140-141).
Now, if one simply wanted to make the above argument as a pastoral illustration and application of Psalm 95, nobody would bat an eye. But this is Holy Scripture, of which every word is inerrant.iii
Enns' point in all of this is that the New Testament writers inherited a hermeneutical framework from 2 Temple Judaism, with much input from Wisdom of Solomon.iv They did not think they were playing fast and loose with Scripture, and presumably neither did their hearers. The unbelieving Jews might not have agreed with St Matthew's conclusion with Hosea 11, but they (presumably) didn't challenge his method.
I enjoyed the book and the sections on the law, the history, and proverbs were fantastic. While I have no qualms praising the book, I understand why it started a controversy. If Enns' is correct on many of his points, Evangelicals--shucks, conservatives of all traditions--will have to rethink much conventional wisdom, or at least think harder on sensitive issues. Some good answers will have to be given on how the Bible can be revealed and inspired, yet Genesis 1-11 appears dependent on Babylonian and Sumerian myths. In other words, does the dependency thesis negate inerrancy? I don't know.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 25, 2012
Enns has written a book for Bible students and theologians concerning numerous apparent irreconcilable difficulties in meaning and interpretation. It can be especially illuminating and helpful for readers who may feel conflicted about claims for the Bible's infallible divine authorship. Those who cling to biblical literal inerrancy may be challenged to explore a wider perspective.
Orthodox Christianity declares that Jesus Christ was uniquely 100% human but also 100% divine. On the same premise, Enns asserts that we should also consider Scripture as being equally human and divine. The Holy Spirit inspired the essence of the message but each biblical author was influenced by tradition, culture and historical events--his worldview--in how it was stated and referenced. Enns provides multiple examples of how writers were influenced by extraneous, non-canonical, sources, and occasionally included their own interpretations which were (at least in terms of traditional scholarship) canonically noncompliant. It seems that the message--from both the divine and the human intention--was tailored to fit the receptivity and understanding of designated audiences, a fact which may not be grasped by audiences many centuries later. Enns states: "That God willingly and enthusiastically participates in our humanity should give us pause. If even God expresses himself in the Bible through particular human circumstances, we must be very ready to see the necessarily culturally limited nature of our own theological expressions today....there is no absolute point of reference to which we have access that will allow us to interpret the Bible stripped of our own cultural context. We must avoid the extremes of (1) jettisoning our context and (2) becoming slaves to our context." pp 168-9
For me it is ironic that the author writes the book to convince the readers of the Bible's relevance and validity (at least in a general sense, if not in every particular) but that his well documented examples of textual inconsistencies, conflicts and seeming biases add up to expose the book's academic/intellectual challenges that may threaten faith because not all these challenges have reconcilable solutions. But Christian faith should not be based on the false god of bibliolatry (idolizing a book) but on the foundation of the Trinity's intimate relevance in our lives. The dynamic of Christ's power within, the presence of the Holy Spirit's unfailing guidance and the Creator's unconditional love for us, his creation, are all amply confirmed in the Bible and are not diminished or in dispute. Enns' book is based on great scholarship and deserves to be taken seriously by every Christian who seeks God's truth as expressed by the authors of the Bible as well as through other witnesses.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 16, 2012
This was the first book I picked up on my journey in search of an intellectually honest view of scripture. These days you see many conservatives trying to cover up the human aspects of scripture using series of mental gymnastics. I grew tired of watching these Christians adhere to a view of scripture that was intellectually dishonest. So, I decided to order Peter Enns' book, and I was not disappointed.
Enns starts off by making the incarnation analogy between Jesus and the Bible. The incarnation means that Jesus was both divine and human, and in the same way the Bible has both divine and human aspects. In the same way that Jesus accommodated himself to the cultural customs of His times, the Bible also reflects adherence to the customs of its times. He shows examples of this in Genesis, in the fact that many of the descriptions in the first chapters reflect similar beliefs in the surrounding cultures of the Ancient Near East. This does not mean that the Bible cannot be trusted, unless one wants to affirm the same towards Jesus for accommodating himself to the people of His time (an example would be Jesus saying the mustard seed was the smallest seed when it wasn't). Enns uses countless other examples throughout the book to state his case such as the theological diversity and sometimes outright contradictions in the OT, other similarities between Israel and ANE cultures, and the NT interpretation of the OT.
Enns' book doesn't give as comprehensive a view of scripture as one would hope for, but it definitely takes the conversation in the right direction and for that I am very thankful for Peter. Many conservatives will be put off by this book because in many ways it undermines some aspects of strict inerrancy. However, in my opinion, this is the only way to view scripture as a mature Christian. I think believers in strict inerrancy are still in adolescence when it comes to viewing scripture. I advise anyone seeking to gain an intellectually honest view of scripture to read this book.