Some Questions for Pete Enns

Pete Enns has started to release a sort of summary, or “series of distillations” of his 38 page response. This first installment’s main point seems to be that Pete Enns holds to the authority of Scripture, and that the authority of Scripture was not really the main point of his book (though he affirms the authority of Scripture in that post). He says that the humanity of Scripture was his main point, affirmed in the face of what he believes is a practical downplaying or denial of Scripture’s humanity. It seems to me that the main point of criticism about Pete Enns’s book is his Christology. Pete says this:

Where some have stumbled, I feel, is in thinking that an emphasis on Scripture’s humanity seems to represent an irrevocable “methodological” failure to give due weight to Scripture’s divinity, indeed to the supremacy of the divine element of Scripture. As some have asserted, the book is to be faulted for failing to recognize that Scripture, like Jesus himself, is “essentially” divine while only “contingently” human (see the “HTFC Response” on the WTS website).

Frankly, I am bit perplexed, even concerned (theologically), about this criticism. If we understand the word “essential” to mean “a property without which something ceases being what it is,” Christ ceases being who he is if either element is subordinated. It is essential that Jesus of Nazareth, our Savior, be both divine and human. So, too, Scripture is not simply “contingently human”(precisely what that means is not clear to me at any rate) but essentially so, i.e., there is no Scripture apart from the human—Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek—words that the Spirit inspired biblical writers to write. To put it another way, we are not required to consider how to place one over the other, but to accept that they co-exist (if I may speak this way for sake of discussion) by God’s wise and gracious decree.

An author certainly cannot say everything in a book. And to emphasize one aspect of truth without denying another aspect of truth can certainly be done. But that is not really what I would like to know. What I would like to know is this: would Pete affirm that the human nature which Christ assumed only exists in hypostatic union with the divine? This is what I think the field committee meant by saying “contingently human.” See Lane Tipton’s excellent discussion of Chalcedonian orthodoxy in the previous post. In other words, there was not some human out there that the Second Person of the Trinity joined to Himself. We say that Christ is fully divine. But the humanity of Christ does not exist in and of itself, nor can it be abstracted from Christ’s divinity. It only exists in hypostatic union with the divine. There is only one person. This is why the statement “Christ ceases being who He is if either element is subordinated” makes me uncomfortable. Why should subordination of the human to the divine be an attack on the full humanity of Christ? If a wife is subordinated to her husband, does that make her less human? Of course, that analogy can go only a very little ways toward solving the problem. But subordination of humanity does not imply denial of humanity. Which has more fundamental importance: the fact that Scripture is divine, or the fact that Scripture is human? Both are true. But lots of OTHER writings out there are human (this is disgustingly to understate the truth). What distinguishes Scripture from other writings? That it is divine.

What I thought when I read I&I was that Pete was fighting the wrong battle. I know of no major theologians today who deny the full humanity of Scripture or Christ. I know of hardly any Christians out there who will say that Paul sounds just like Moses. I know of very few Christians who will deny the importance of studying history and literary genre (and even Second-Temple Judaism!) in order to understand some of the more obscure texts of Scripture (another question for Pete: would he acknowledge that there are parts of Scripture requiring absolutely NO study of any outside sources to understand? In other words, would he affirm that, for salvation, all that is needed is the Holy Spirit working in the Word?) I only know of the vast majority of people out there who believe that the Bible is not inspired, not inerrant, and not divine in origin. To many critics, I think what they are feeling is that Scripture is starting to come under attack again (even though, in another sense, it is always under attack), and instead of helping to blast liberalism and post-modernism’s denial of Scripture’s divinity, Pete has turned his guns on Christians who are gung-ho about defending the divinity of Scripture. I am seeking for light here, not heat. As I have said before, I respect Pete Enns, and consider myself a friend, and have learned a lot from him. I hope that he still considers me one.   

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On a Proper View of Incarnational Christology

My good friend Lane Tipton (professor of Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia) has written a very fine piece on Incarnational Christology. If you read footnote 4 carefully, you will find some counterpoint to Bruce McCormack’s attack on the Field Committee Report at WTS.