Why the Scripture Debate?

I recently announced a shift in this blog’s emphasis from the material principle of the Reformation (justification by faith alone) to the formal principle of the Reformation (Scripture alone). The reason I have done this is not difficult to assess. A denial of the one will eventually result in a denial of the other. The two doctrines are inextricably intertwined. For how will we know about salvation unless God tells us? And what has God told us but Jesus’ Person and Work, which comes to us via justification? It is no accident that the attack on justification characteristic of our times has come lock-step with an attack on the doctrine of Scripture. No doubt, the people who are advancing these views think that they are being more faithful to Scripture, not less. Genuine questions that arise in the study of Scripture make these men uncomfortable with the older explanations, and so they seek to find more up-to-date answers.

Take Dr. Peter Enns, for example (who is listed as a visiting scholar at Rev. Craig Higgins’s church in New York). He has recently come to the conclusion that Adam is not the father of the entire human race. Why is that? He has difficulty with the traditional explanation of where Cain got his wife. He argues that Genesis does not support the reading that Adam is the father of the whole human race. One wonders why Eve is explicitly named “Eve” because she was the mother of all living. Notice that the syntax shows that the reasoning is not said to be Adam’s explicitly, but the author’s. The author reflects what Adam thought, namely, that Eve was the mother of all living beings. Of course, vitally important in this discussion is the Adam-Christ typology that works itself out in Romans 5. I’m not sure how Enns would deal with this question, other than to say that Romans 5 should not impact how we read Genesis 2-3.

Other issues with Enns revolve around his book Inspiration and Incarnation, upon which see the outstanding critique that Dr. Richard Gaffin made of it. I cannot really improve upon it, and so I will not even try.

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7 Comments

  1. Tim Prussic said,

    May 25, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    I’m happy you are making this shift and I think it will be of great benefit. I’ve been doing a little thinking (and even less writing) about the Reformed notion of Scripture being the first of the principia theologiae. Give ‘er a look:

    http://prussic.wordpress.com/2010/05/25/early-reformed-systematization/

  2. Tim Prussic said,

    May 25, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    I’ve also just posted an initial response to Tim A. Troutman’s post on Holy Orders (from Called to Communion). That ought to be interesting and in the vein of dealing with the authority of Scripture. I hope it generates useful and edifying conversation, too.

  3. David said,

    May 26, 2010 at 7:29 am

    So, Enns has a problem with Genesis 5:4? “Then the days of Adam after he became the father of Seth were eight hundred years, and he had other sons and daughters.”
    I suppose this is the root of the traditional explanation that he finds problematic.
    Also, just on the basis of reproductive numbers, there’s nothing improbable with A&E giving rise to the whole of humanity (via Noah) in a few thousand years. See here, for example: http://creation.com/human-population-growth

  4. steve hays said,

    May 26, 2010 at 9:18 am

    For the record, scholars who have written critiques of Enns from various aspects include Gregory Beale, D. A. Carson, John Currid, John Frame, and Bruce Waltke.

    For a specific critique of Enns on Adam, see:

    http://fontwords.com/2010/03/02/is-adam-israel-maybe-but-peter-enns-of-biologos-doesnt-do-a-favor-to-the-theory

  5. David Waltz said,

    May 31, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    Hello Lane,

    I returned from a vacation to Southern Cal last night, and read the following you posted just moments ago:

    >>I recently announced a shift in this blog’s emphasis from the material principle of the Reformation (justification by faith alone) to the formal principle of the Reformation (Scripture alone). The reason I have done this is not difficult to assess. A denial of the one will eventually result in a denial of the other.>>

    Me: William B. Evans in his, “DÈJÁ VU ALL OVER AGAIN? THE CONTEMPORARY REFORMED SOTERIOLOGICAL CONTROVERSY IN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE” (The Westminster Theological Journal – Spring 2010 (Vol. 72.1), presents some solid evidence which argues against the above assessment.

    I have provided numerous selections from Evans’ essay HERE.

    Grace and peace,

    David

  6. greenbaggins said,

    May 31, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    David, thanks for your comment. I read Evans’s article and didn’t get any inkling whatsoever that he was even addressing the link between the doctrine of Scripture and the doctrine of justification.

  7. David Waltz said,

    May 31, 2010 at 11:48 pm

    Hi Lane,

    Thanks much for responding; you wrote:

    >>David, thanks for your comment. I read Evans’s article and didn’t get any inkling whatsoever that he was even addressing the link between the doctrine of Scripture and the doctrine of justification.>>

    Me: IMHO, I think he does—indirectly. Evans wrote:

    “Second, this controversy poses important questions as to how conservative Reformed systematic theology ought to be done…Are Reformed churches defined primarily, as some today seem to argue, by adherence to confessional documents? If so, is the role of Scripture, practically speaking, simply to provide prooftexts for the confessional tradition?” (Page 148)

    His section on what he terms “The Biblical Theological Trajectory” raises questions on the role that the “federal theology” tradition has played on the issue(s) concerning the doctrine of justification. My read of Evans suggests that tradition has taken priority over Scripture (practically speaking) when it comes to the doctrine of justification. If you get a chance, and have the desire, take a gander at my comments on Evans’ essay via the link I provided in my earlier post.

    Grace and peace,

    David


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