Hugely Important Journal Issue

The newest issue of the Westminster Theological Journal should be purchased by all pastors and seminary students. The reason for this is that the issue in question is almost entirely devoted to the issue of inerrancy, particularly the recent challenges to the confessional position in the work of Peter Enns and A.T.B. McGowan.

I find extremely telling what Enns, for instance, chose to respond to. Two main criticisms were leveled at him in this journal, one by Bruce Waltke, which was a very exegetically based challenge, and one by James Scott, which is far more theologically driven. Enns chose to respond to Waltke, but not to Scott. There is a certain irony to this, since Enns notes that the disagreement with Waltke is in fact on the level of methodology, not just on the level of exegesis (p. 97). In other words, there are more systematic concerns that Enns wants to address in Waltke’s critique. However, he responded only cursorily to Scott’s part 1, and not at all to Scott’s part 2, which does not appear in this edition of the journal. I assume it will be published in the Fall issue. Scott’s critique is massive, extending to 54 pages. His critique of McGowan is also extensive (24 pages). In short, in this edition of the journal, there are over 120 pages devoted to the issue of Scripture, particularly the Enns controversy (and related scholars).


  1. Clark H. Brooking said,

    April 25, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    I dropped my subscription after Silva. It really went downhill for a while. Thanks for the heads up. I’ll have to check it out. Who’s editing now?

  2. Clark H. Brooking said,

    April 25, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    I meant to say that I dropped it after Silva left — don’t know if my comment was ambiguous or not, but wanted to clarify.

  3. James Vandenberg said,

    April 25, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    Who is James Scott?

  4. April 25, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    The articles were very good. Waltke absolutely destroys Enns. I was going to blog about it myself.

  5. GLW Johnson said,

    April 26, 2009 at 7:13 am

    In due time one of Enns’s pitbulls ( the most likely candidate will be Art Boulet) will go after Scott and try to shread him to pieces on a personal level.

  6. Reed Here said,

    April 26, 2009 at 7:31 am

    Let’s pray not :)

  7. GLW Johnson said,

    April 26, 2009 at 7:35 am

    Take a look at how other Enns critics ( most recently Greg Beale) have been dealt with by Boulet.

  8. Tony said,

    April 26, 2009 at 9:18 am

    GLW Johnson – that’s a charming personal attack that you make on Art Boulet. Anyone who disagrees with Greg Beale or James Scott must, of course, be making a personal attack on Beale or Scott.

  9. GLW Johnson said,

    April 26, 2009 at 9:24 am

    Go see for yourself. Art is quick to link any criticism of any of Enns critics on his blog.

  10. Tony said,

    April 26, 2009 at 9:33 am

    GLW Johnson – Do links to articles, reviews, etc. (on both sides of the debate) constitute personal attacks on those who disagreed with Enns?

  11. GLW Johnson said,

    April 26, 2009 at 9:43 am

    Take a look at the kind of remarks Art has made on his blog about Westminster theoloical seminary, president Peter Lillback, academic dean Carl Trueman, and the faculty members who opposed Enns as well as his skewed assessment of the work of scholars critic of Enns, i.e. D.A.Carson, Paul Helm, Greg Beale. I know first hand, having been on the receiving end of Art’s barbs.

  12. Tony said,

    April 26, 2009 at 9:55 am

    GLW Johnson,
    I think it’s astonishing that, on the one hand, you are so disturbed by personal attacks, while, on the other hand, you go out of your way to make a personal attack on Art, who wasn’t even mentioned in this blog post.

    If you want to revisit some of your interactions with Art on his blog or elsewhere, why don’t you make your case, i.e. pull some quotations from Art and have a real argument with him and the quotations you pick out?

  13. GLW Johnson said,

    April 26, 2009 at 9:59 am

    Let me guess-you’re a big fan of Peter Enns,aren’t you? Which would make you a defender of Boulet.

  14. Tony said,

    April 26, 2009 at 10:23 am

    GLW Johnson,
    Sorry to complicate your world. I’m not a “big fan” of Enns. I do, however, believe he has arguments worth engaging. Apparently, the editor of the WTJ also thought Enns was worth engaging. If you’d like to shed some light on the discussion, why not engage the articles instead of attacking someone who – at the time of your posting – has not even publicly commented on the contents of the new journal issue? As for myself, I haven’t seen the journal yet, so I’ll refrain from commenting on what I haven’t read.

  15. GLW Johnson said,

    April 26, 2009 at 10:53 am

    Actually, I have done that. I edited the book ‘B.B.Warfield:Essays on His Life and Thought’ (P&R, 2007) which contained a chapter I did on Warfield and Briggs in which I sought to demonstrate that Enns was following Briggs and not Warfield as he claimed. Oh,and like James Scott discovered, Enns did not respond to me even thought I gave him a heads up months before the book came out. Needless to say, Art did not like my assessment of Enns.

  16. Tony said,

    April 26, 2009 at 11:01 am

    Aha. Now I get it. It’s about a grudge.

    You mentioned Art because, apparently, he reviewed your essay critically. If you’d just said at the outset that you are holding a grudge against Art, and that this was the reason you were bringing him up in comments on this post which has nothing to do with Art, I would have followed you better.

  17. GLW Johnson said,

    April 26, 2009 at 11:08 am

    No, Art didn’t bother to read it, just like he dismissed Beale’s book before reading it. That’s just Art being Art.

  18. Tony said,

    April 26, 2009 at 11:38 am

    GLW Johnosn,
    So I take it that, before you criticized Art here, you read his comments on this most recent WTJ? :) Life’s funny, isn’t it?

  19. Richard said,

    April 26, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    I think I will stick with Enns and Bavinck, the latter pointing out that

    …the organic view of inspiration does furnish us with many means to meet the objections advanced against it. It implies the idea that the Holy Spirit, in the inscripturation of the word of God, did not spurn anything human to serve as an organ of the divine. The revelation of God is not abstractly supernatural but has entered into the human fabric, into persons and states of beings, into forms and usages, into history and life. It does not fly high about us but descends into our situation; it has become flesh and blood, like us in all things except sin. Divine revelation is now an ineradicable constituent of this cosmos in which we live and, effecting renewal and restoration, continues its operation. The human has become an instrument of the divine; the natural has become a revelation of the supernatural; the visible has become a sign and seal of the invisible. In the process of inspiration, use has been made of all the gifts and forces resident in human nature.

    Consequently, and in the first place, the different in language and style, in character and individuality, that can be discerned in the books of the Bible has become perfectly explicable. In the past, when a deeper understanding was lacking, this difference was explained in terms of the will of the Holy Spirit. Given the organic view, however, this difference is perfectly natural. Similarly, the use of sources, the authors’ familiarity with earlier writings, their own inquiries, memory, reflection, and life experience are all included, not excluded, by the organic view. The Holy Spirit himself prepared his writers in that fashion. He did not suddenly descend on them from above but employed their whole personality as his instrument. Here too the saying “grace does not cancel out nature but perfects it” is applicable. The personality of the authors is not erased but maintained and sanctified.

  20. GLW Johnson said,

    April 26, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    Enns and Bavinck?! Richard you especially need to read the two articles by Scott.

  21. GLW Johnson said,

    April 26, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    Art’s reputation precedes him. Again, go read what he has said on his blog about WTS, Lillback, Trueman, Beale, etc.,etc., etc .One gets the distinct impression that the only kind of inerrancy Art supports is the inerrancy of Enns.

  22. April 26, 2009 at 3:27 pm


    You’ve persuaded me to subscribe.

  23. Tony said,

    April 26, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    GLW Johnson,

    You must feel pretty threatened by this MAR or MDiv student – his name wasn’t even mentioned; unlike you, he hasn’t published an article in P&R book edited by himself; and yet you take up arms against him. He must be a pretty sharp guy if you’re so keen on attacking him. After all, the best way to argue is to argue against the strongest arguments of the opposing side, right?

  24. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 26, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    The difficulty is that Enns appears to go one more than Bavinck, saying that not only did God organically work with the personalities of the authors, but also their background knowledge. This difference may be the toe in the water, in that it appears to open the door for Scriptural errancy: the teaching of Genesis 1 – 11 is limited or conditioned by what Moses knew about the universe.

    Obviously, Enns thinks otherwise — hence the WJT articles.

    Jeff Cagle

  25. GLW Johnson said,

    April 26, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    Art, a sharp guy? No, not at all.But he thinks he is…but then read his blog and it becomes obvious that Art is a legend in his own mind. After all, like you said, he is a M.A.R. student

  26. jared said,

    April 26, 2009 at 4:25 pm

    Why would including background knowledge be a problem? That is, how does it open the door for errancy? Feather out your example of Genesis 1-11 because I don’t see how errancy plays out there. The teaching of this passage certainly isn’t limited by what Moses knew, but what problems arise by affirming that the passage is conditioned by what he knew?

  27. Tony said,

    April 26, 2009 at 6:21 pm

    Comment #5: <>

    I guess that describing someone here as … “a sharp guy? No, not all… but … Art is a legend in his own mind” … somehow stands above the fray on this blog as objective analysis of a different viewpoint. Right?

  28. Tony said,

    April 26, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    The irony here is kinda hard to miss:

    From above: “In due time one of Enns’s pitbulls ( the most likely candidate will be Art Boulet) will go after Scott and try to shread [sic] him to pieces on a personal level.”

  29. GLW Johnson said,

    April 26, 2009 at 6:46 pm

    Once again, I will direct you to Art’s blog.What he has written is testimony enough. Art has behaved in a most reprehensible fashion in his treatment of WTS in general and Lillback and Trueman in particular. Shameful is the best way to describe it. And ,yes this does have to do with Enns.

  30. Tony said,

    April 26, 2009 at 6:58 pm

    GLW Johnson,

    If the evidence is so easy to find, would you please visit his blog, copy a few of the “reprehensible” and “shameful” remarks and paste them in this space? Perhaps particular quotations on Lillback and Trueman would be easiest to find, as you mentioned these specifically.

    If you’re going to pursue someone with this much energy and animus, a smidgeon of evidence in support of your assertions is not much to ask.

  31. GLW Johnson said,

    April 26, 2009 at 7:30 pm

    Art’s blog is available to anyone who wishes to see for themselves. Simply go see for yourself- but you obviously are of a mind to do that, so I’ll drop the matter for the sake of not repeating myself over and over again.

  32. Reed Here said,

    April 26, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    Gary, Tony:

    May I suggest enough?

    Gary, Tony is not so much defending Enns as he is Art. As such, Tony is not dealing with the substance of either Lane’s post or the articles in WTJ. Unless, until he does, maybe it would be good to just let it lie.

    Tony, Gary’s original concern grows out of previous discussions here that proved to have less substantiveness, more diatribe from Enn’s supporters. Maybe you’ll forgive Gary his expression of frustration and leave it at that.

  33. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 27, 2009 at 6:20 am

    It’s the limited that could become the problem.

  34. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 27, 2009 at 7:01 am

    Let me expand. Suppose we go with the hypothesis that Moses believed in a “Near Eastern” model of the world: flat earth, with sky above and firmament of waters above that.

    In that case, we might say therefore that Moses intended Gen 1 as a literal, but factually wrong, description of the creation of the world. Errancy is entailed by authorial intent: Moses’ background knowledge was errant (cf. Hodge), and it directly shaped the meaning of the text because God accommodated Himself to Moses’ knowledge.

    Jeff Cagle

  35. greenbaggins said,

    April 27, 2009 at 8:35 am

    Poythress and Jue are editing it. McCartney and Tipton are the book review editors. I will say this: about three years ago I was pretty frustrated with the journal, publishing stuff about “the ethics of parsimony.” They were highly philosophical, and did not help me understand the Bible much. However, they have moved recently to a lot more historical articles, and also more exegetical articles, which I think is a positive trend.

  36. greenbaggins said,

    April 27, 2009 at 8:36 am

    Martin, you will definitely not be disappointed with the spring 2009 issue.

  37. greenbaggins said,

    April 27, 2009 at 8:36 am

    I agree with Reed.

  38. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 27, 2009 at 9:24 am

    Poythress and Jue are editing it…they have moved recently to a lot more historical articles, and also more exegetical articles…

    Yep, that would do it. :)

  39. April 27, 2009 at 11:09 am

    Hmmm…if I were a pastor or still a seminary student, I think I would rate many things as better, more edifying, and more pleasurable uses of my time than reading this journal issue…such as inserting a long and sharp object into my eye or seeing how it feels to get run over by a bus.

  40. Reed Here said,

    April 27, 2009 at 11:30 am

    Well Stephen, why don’t you tell us how you feel about this? ;-)

  41. April 27, 2009 at 11:36 am

    Well Reed, since I cannot even predicate that will be difficult : )…

  42. April 27, 2009 at 11:40 am

    Thanks for seeing my comment as the tongue-in-cheek semi-friendly joking I meant it to be. I felt bad after posting it for not making that a bit clearer!

    …of course, it can only be SEMI friendly since, after all, we are mortal enemies!

  43. Reed Here said,

    April 27, 2009 at 11:43 am

    Thhhppttt (friendly right back – I always spray at friends :) )

  44. Richard said,

    April 27, 2009 at 11:56 am

    Jeff, I think you are positing a false dichotomy, i.e. either you accept a literalist reading of the text or you are an errantist. Surely it is common sense that God, in speaking to Moses, would have presented the creation account in terms he would have understood. See Walton’s “The Creation of Humankind in the Ancient Near East”. Reading the text in this way, recognising that the Scripture “descends into our situation” and therefore “The human has become an instrument of the divine”. Such a reading does not demand one adhere to an errant Scripture.

  45. Richard said,

    April 27, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    Jeff, we might also say that Moses intended Gen 1 as a description of the creation of the world but the account was never meant to be read in the way that you read it; the truth of the account is unchanging (Yahweh is creator) but each generation reads it is a particular way.

  46. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 27, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    Richard, I can understand why my post looks like an “either/or”, but that wasn’t quite my point.

    Rather, I was saying that *if* one accepts the idea that the authors’ background knowledge (ANE view of the world, e.g.) becomes a limiting factor on the text, or a point to which God incarnationally condescends, then it becomes possible to affirm actually errantist views of Scripture (in addition to several inerrantist views, of which the literal 6-day is one).

    There wasn’t any attempt here to equate “inerrant” with “6-day-literal”, though that latter view is the most obviously at odds with errantist views.

    Jeff Cagle

  47. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 27, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    So for example (in re the Walton article), I think it makes sense to distinguish between anthropocentric language (“four corners of the earth”) as metaphor, much as “the breath of God” might be read out as a metaphor — and actual errors, such as “the Bible teaches that there are waters up there above the sky.”

    Jeff Cagle

  48. April 27, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    […] ‘The newest issue of the Westminster Theological Journal should be purchased by all pastors and seminary students’ Green Baggins tells why […]

  49. jared said,

    April 27, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    Except we presume inerrancy given fact of inspiration. God would not allow Moses to pen a factually wrong description if not only because He is the ultimate Author and He doesn’t dispense falsehood. Unless God is somehow incapable of using Moses’s background knowledge to construct an inerrant account of creation, I don’t see what the problem is.

    I should note that I am very much so a fan of James Jordan when it comes to Genesis (and biblical worldview in general): the creation account isn’t so much scientific (though it does not contain scientific error) as it is pedagogic.

  50. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 28, 2009 at 7:24 am


    No problem with the idea that God can use Moses’ background knowledge to create an inerrant account.

    The difficulty would occur if (as I was once taught) we pointed to apparent discrepancies between the Genesis text and our current scientific knowledge, and accounted for them by saying that the author was limited by his background knowledge: that Moses’ authorial intent really was a firmament of waters above the sky.

    Jeff Cagle

  51. April 28, 2009 at 8:02 am

    It seems this thread has degenerated into the pretty typical: “So and so is a jerk!” “Well you are a jerk for calling so and so a jerk!” “Well, YOU are a jerk for calling ME a jerk!” Etc. There hasn’t been a great deal of discussion regarding the journal articles themselves.

    Consider the following, rather self-damning, quotes by Enns:

    “It is a bizarre fantasy to suggest that the Bible can be understood by wholly internal means.” (P. 105)

    And, “Not only is the extra-biblical world ‘relevant’ for understanding Scripture, Scripture is incomprehensible without it…the [i]absolute[/i] sufficiency of the Scripture to ‘interpret itself’ cannot be reasonably defended.” (Footnote, 6, p. 105)

    I could go on, but that’s more than enough for me. In theology you are free to believe what you will. But if you deny the cardinal doctrines as set forth in, say, the Nicene Creed, you may be a theologian, but you are not a Christian. In academia, you can write and teach what you wish. But if you set aside a high view of Scripture, if you discount the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit, if you diss the Analogy of Faith principle and embrace instead a Barthian, almost gnostic view of the Scriptures, you may be a scholar, but you are not a Reformed scholar. That was essentially Trueman’s point when he explained the school’s decision to dismiss Enns. He did not discount Enns as a scholar, he just set him outside the Reformed camp.

    Listen, folks, if you jab your hand in a hornet’s nest, don’t act surprised when you get stung.

  52. April 28, 2009 at 9:37 am

    Ah Kevin, I guess you take issue with me positing your inability to read the Bible without “recourse to” Hellenistic Greek (something not internal to the Bible)? I guess you take issue with the necessity of reading the writings of the Bible (and anything else, for that matter) in historical and social contexts?

    I completely agree with those statement from Enns, though not because Enns says them. This is hermeneutics 101. Enns is after the way people in the Evangelical-Reformed world use rhetorical tropes such as “the sufficiency” and “clarity” of Scripture to shut down basic historical methodology for studying the Bible when it produces readings they do not like and/or they cannot control from their theological fortresses. Humorously the same people employ the same historical methodologies for readings of the Bible they like. If anyone is being unChristian here I would say it is those who consciously engage in such selective dishonest and arbitrary scholarship on the Bible…especially the ones who SHOULD know better. That said, I am not here necessarily labeling them non-Christians, just playing with the logic of your post.

    …but this is why I generally ignore most Evangelical-Reformed scholarship on the Bible…because I (ironically) find it less Christian than the scholarship of people who do not profess any faith at all or profess a faith you would consider “Liberal.”

  53. April 28, 2009 at 9:54 am

    …also, Kevin, I find your method here incredibly problematic and, for that matter, dishonest. Similarly to Lillback’s notorious essay against Enns and how much of the attack on Enns has been carried out by Evangelical-Reformed folk (especially on this blog!), you are sound-biting. You have excerpted juicy-sounding sentences out of context and recontextualized them (here) where they take on a meaning somewhat foreign to how Enns meant them. If you, in fact, read Enns carefully you will find that he is simply trying to unpack the basic hermeneutical dictum that you read and study thing IN CONTEXT (historical, grammatical, social, literary, etc.). Now, you may disagree with how he understands that working out, but that is an entirely different matter than HOW you present him denying a “High View of Scripture” and what you imply by that here. Perhaps I am being to harsh on you and simply channeling my years of experiencing this frustration from others. If so, I apologize…

    Frankly, this disgusts me about much of the Evangelical-Reformed world. Sure, scholars do this somewhat elsewhere. But, in general, this type of dishonest pseudo-engagement is not tolerated in the mainstream academic world. But, here and in the evangelical world, it seems to be a virtue and standard operating procedure. We even come up with justifications for it! It is even more fun to examine the plausible sociological-power reasons for this. But, we also have another word for such dishonest manipulative pseudo-engagements for the purpose of winning-arguments at the expense of truth and humility: Sin.

    As an aside, I discuss and fully explain why I so analyze Peter Lillback’s atrocious essay here:

    Again, it deeply pains me that I tend to experience the most rankly unChristian behavior from the people who trumpet loudest their zeal to follow Christ. This, more than anything else, accounts for why so many Evangelicals jettison North American Evangelical-Reformed social formations. We do not so much have changes in our theological commitments as we see how morally and intellectually bankrupt are the people controlling the fields within Evangelical-Reformed social formations.

    Now, I await being labeled as one of the Enns supporters who vilifies those who disagree with him!

  54. greenbaggins said,

    April 28, 2009 at 10:03 am

    FTH, calling someone dishonest is a bit over the top. Do you really think Kevin is intending to be dishonest in his assessment of Enns? Why can’t you just say “I think you’ve taken him out of context,” rather than calling him dishonest?

  55. greenbaggins said,

    April 28, 2009 at 10:06 am

    But this is not the issue, FTH. No one disputes the necessity of scholars examining the historical background for understanding the text. What we do dispute is whether this is required to have an *adequate* understanding of Scripture. In effect, this would create a new priesthood of scholars, since the average pew-sitter could not have access to what Scripture says. And the other issue at stake here is where the authority of Scripture comes from. Is Scripture self-attesting, or is Scripture dependent for its very authority on the ANE?

  56. April 28, 2009 at 10:12 am

    Perhaps you are right. As I said above, “Perhaps I am being to harsh on you and simply channeling my years of experiencing this frustration from others. If so, I apologize…”

    At the same time, even if Kevin is not being intentionally dishonest, I see what he does as a species of a cultivated ethos of dishonesty among many Evangelical-Reformed folk in dealing with others (as I explain in my comment above). Such “taking out of context” has become almost excusable and, at worst, a consciously utilized strategy (which I do consider dishonesty…see the HTFC report!).

  57. greenbaggins said,

    April 28, 2009 at 10:17 am

    FTH, it seems to me, however, that supporters of Enns use this defense in much the same way that they say that the Bible cannot be read without its historical context. It is as if no one can understand them unless they agree with them, because any disagreement indicates reading someone out of context. The charge of Kevin reading Enns out of context needs to be demonstrated rather than merely asserted, or else it is useless. You have not proven this. Keep in mind that Enns’s book was intended for lay readers. Does it take an advanced degree then to understand Enns? Would you say that Gaffin’s piece misinterprets Enns as well?

  58. April 28, 2009 at 10:30 am

    You did not skip a beat, Lane. I almost inserted a paragraph in my comment anticipating your first point. But I thought it better to wait so as to have something more resembling a conversation : ). I suspect you also can quite easily anticipate many of my moves…

    I think people do dispute “the necessity of scholars examining the historical background for understanding the text.” They move from the theological ideals of Scripture’s clarity for “everyday” Christians to placing delegitimating the readings of specialists with whom they disagree (i.e., Enns). I find this to be a brilliant strategic move, yet also obscuring and unhelpful. For one, this same sword strikes down the theologians who use it against Enns. I dare say the PCA consciously cultivates a “priesthood of scholars” and specialists for reading the Bible, we just call them theologians and pastors. If I were to propose a reading of, say, Matt 16.27, to support works-based salvation, you would immediately counter with how I have not read that passage in the context of a larger theological framework of grace. You would also probably counter with a string of passages from elsewhere, the significance of which in your counter is bound up with a whole host of (usually unstated) Reformed interpretive traditions (this is Muller’s argument for why we should not see the Divines as simply “prooftexting,” BTW). Everything about your counter would be indicative of your ACTUAL posture of the necessity of a “priesthood of theologians” for the church and everyday Christian to read the Bible. Indeed, we put would-be specialist/theologians through 3-4 years of expensive theology courses at seminaries before we let them guide the everyday Christians in reading the Bible. Are you telling me that this is not reflective of the PCA/OPC/etc. having cultivated a priesthood of theologians?! Your argument cuts right back at you.

    Our network of PCA/OPC social formations has consciously cultivated and constructed places for intellectualist specialists, especially in leadership positions. My problem, getting back to my initial comment and your reply, is how we arbitrarily use doctrines like the perspicuity of Scripture against the specialists and methodologies we don’t like, but not against the ones we do. What your move in reality amounts to is saying that you are ok with a priesthood of theologians who agree with your theology being necessary for the church, but you are not ok with a priest-hood of historical-critical specialists (who hold similar theological commitments to you!) also having a place in the church.

    So, this is my long-winded way of saying that I do not find your first point helpful or on target.

    Secondly, neither Enns nor myself (nor most others usually brought up) are claiming that the authority of Scripture “comes from” or is “dependent on” the “authority” of ANE data. That is your (semi-polemical) strategic representation of how we urge taking seriously Scripture’s historical situatedness and reading it in context more consistently than Evangelical-Reformed traditionally have. You say claim we so contort Scripture’s authority…thus generally ending the conversation and/or completely reorienting it away from the hermeneutical issues we want to bring into play. I can just as easily say that you make Scripture’s authority “dependent upon” the extra-Biblical language of Hellenistic Greek since you make reading and theologically deploying Scripture somehow “Dependent upon” someone having read it in Greek…and thus in an ancient historical context.

    Does this make sense?

  59. Tom Albrecht said,

    April 28, 2009 at 10:34 am

    >The reason for this is that the issue in question is almost entirely devoted to the issue of inerrancy, particularly the recent challenges to the confessional position in the work of Peter Enns and A.T.B. McGowan.

    Has any church judicatory taken a position on Enns’ confessionalism?

  60. April 28, 2009 at 10:37 am

    “Would you say that Gaffin’s piece misinterprets Enns as well?” Yes and no.

    Would I say that Lillback’s piece misinterprets Enns? Yes, I did. See the link above.

    Would I saw that the HTFC report misinterprets Enns aggressively? Yes, shamefully so! See the HFC reply and many other blog posts.

    This is not an issue of having degrees, but (as I indicate above) a consistently (and sometimes consciously) accepted practice of aggressively misrepresenting people in the Evangelical-Reformed world. I could beat this drum almost endlessly as Enns is simply the tip of the iceberg here.

  61. April 28, 2009 at 10:38 am

    FTH, Enns says what he says. I just didn’t feel like typing the entire surrounding paragraphs.

    My only point is, if that is what he wants to believe and teach fine. Just don’t call yourself Reformed.

    I do think the tenor of the discussion between Waltke and Enns was good, though Enns does not deal with Waltke’s exegetical solutions. He just dismisses them as a posteriori.

    Obviously, as you point out (and so does Enns in his reply to Waltke), no one comes to the Scriptures without pre-conceptions or without using all the contextual aids. The problem with Enns is the relative weight he assigns to the “context.” For him “context” trumps Scripture. So, if Gilgamesh has a certain view of the nature of the world, Moses (if such a man actually existed) must too. That is circular reasoning that has at its heart, unbelief. Sorry. (Simon Cowell voice)

    I also find it interesting that no one challenges Enns from a Christological point of view. He essentially argues that the Bible is full of errors (I’m simplifyng, FTH. Calm down. :) ) and contradictions because it is human. I wonder if he would say the same thing regarding Christ. If so, does he not call into question Christ’s impeccability? If not, isn’t he guilty of a form of docetism? Seems to me you can’t have it both ways.

  62. April 28, 2009 at 10:38 am

    Yes, the OPC and PCA have directed each church to erect a stake for burning in the narthex. If and when Enns ever sets foot in a PCA or OPC church again, there will be a righteous burning.

  63. April 28, 2009 at 10:43 am

    Hmmmm. We don’t have a stake in our church. I’m pretty sure burnings are handled at the presbytery level. I’ll check. :p

  64. art said,

    April 28, 2009 at 10:45 am


    Three quick questions:

    1) What does it mean when you say that ‘context trumps Scripture’ for Enns? (That could be taken in a number of ways.)

    2) How does his reasoning have, at its heart, unbelief? (That is a strong statement that needs to be justified.)

    3) Where does Enns relate the ‘nature’ of the world directly from Gilgamesh to Moses? (He refers to the similar understanding of the structure of the world between biblical authors and ANE cognate literature as Gen 1-11 is part of this thought world).

  65. April 28, 2009 at 10:48 am

    Get ready, brace yourself…I am about to (possibly?) disagree with Enns.

    One of my problems with Enns’ book is that his approach does imply that that messiness is somehow a property of the “humanity” of Scripture. Thus, it does seem to come across as saying that “it is messy because it is human.” Now, I think Enns used this approach to make illustrating what he is doing easier for average Christians and not because he really theologically binds up “messiness” simply with the humanity of Scripture…but, again, your point remains valid for this book. Also, as you note, Enns nowhere talks about errors in I&I, very careful about that : ).

    I, however, will talk about errors, contradictions, etc. I do think the Bible is full of them in the way we usually use the term. I also think the examples of “messiness” Enns uses in his book are a level below child’s play compared to other things the Bible does that cut across how we usually mean “inerrancy.”

    I do not, however, theologically locate this in the humanity of Scripture, as though the Bible has errors because God just had to make do with the best option available: inhernetly errant humanity (I do not accept this logic). Everything about the Bible reflects its divinity just as much as its humanity. Thus, all the “errors” (from our historical point of view) are in fact just as indicative of God’s authorship as the accuracies…because God did it this way! So, from another point of view, I do not consider the Bible to have errors because everything in it is doing exactly what God wants it to be doing.

    To the extent we have problems with this…the point is WE have the problem, not God. Perhaps our notions of what it means that God is truthful need to thus be adjusted by what HE did in giving us his completely inspired Word.

    I have dashed this off very quickly, as I must get back to work. I have actually written a 3-4 page short essay about this, trying to tease it out a bit further. Perhaps I could post it and/or adapt some sections of it later for more detail and better discussion.

    So, even if this is not exactly what you wanted, that is where I am coming from. Related to your point, a Christological critique (emphasizing Christ’s divinity) thus becomes irrelevant (maybe that is too strong a word) to the discussion of whether or not Scripture contains historical-scientific errors.

    Anyway, perceptive point on your part. I hope my quickly-typed ramble above makes some sense!

  66. April 28, 2009 at 10:49 am

    We could both be wrong, it may take place at the GA level. If at Presbytery, would it happen in Executive Session?

  67. April 28, 2009 at 10:51 am

    Lane, since we have far too many different comment reply threads going on here, I wanted to indicate that I responded to one of your points above…though it would be easy to miss in this jumble of threads down here:

  68. April 28, 2009 at 10:52 am

    …ok, back to work. I must complete my presentation about some aspects of Plutarch’s daimonology. Sometime later I will figure out a way to make that “normative” for interpreting Scripture : )…

    I will check back later tonight to receive any (well deserved) discursive blows that may be coming my way…

  69. Richard said,

    April 28, 2009 at 11:04 am

    You’ve no argument from me on that; I suppose the nub of the issue is what is it that God is trying to teach us inerrantly in Gen. 1-2? Personally I am far more persuaded to read it as liturgy than historical prose, cf. Creation & Construction.

  70. Richard said,

    April 28, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    Enns and Waltke are here.

  71. Joe Brancaleone said,

    April 28, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    I just happened to come across this review of a Greidanus book from 20 years ago, and wondered while reading some of the statements in that review warranted a bit of a de ja vu feeling in light of this Enns controversy …



  72. April 28, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    Wow, I have not been subjected to a discursive beat-down. Surprising, in view of some of the things I wrote above : )…

  73. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 28, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    Sorry for the beat-down delay. We’re just gathering the kindling for the righteous burn-down later on.

    Seriously, though: I was intrigued by your comment #65. It helped me understand why you desire to remain within the circle of faith, rather than simply dismiss the Bible and march off to unbelief.

    If I’ve understood, your view is that the perceived errors in Scripture are really a result of our inability to understand the divine language — which turns Enns on his head, no?

    Jeff Cagle

  74. jared said,

    April 28, 2009 at 7:32 pm


    Re: #50

    You say,

    The difficulty would occur if (as I was once taught) we pointed to apparent discrepancies between the Genesis text and our current scientific knowledge, and accounted for them by saying that the author was limited by his background knowledge: that Moses’ authorial intent really was a firmament of waters above the sky.

    What if Moses’s authorial intent really was a firmament of waters above the sky? Why can’t that be the way God really did it? Moreover, why can’t the fall and the flood (the two most cataclysmic events in history) account for what modern sciences observe? This is what I meant by mentioning Jordan. Man has “natural laws” (e.g. gravity) but the reality is that God is faithful in His sustaining of all things. To get at the real issue here (and to bring Calvin into the mess a bit), let me ask you a question. Does the food you eat nourish you because of complex biochemical/mechanical functions or because God causes it to? The difference is subtle but important. One is autonomic and godless while the other is wholly reliant upon the one true and living God.

  75. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 29, 2009 at 5:55 am

    Jared (#74):

    Yes, Omphalism is an attractive option as well. I have no problem with that in principle.

    But by the time Moses came along, the “water firmament” would have been gone; whereas, allegedly, the ANE mindset was that earth-sky-water was the current state of affairs. That’s a rather different issue, yes?

    Re: food — I’m very strongly in support of the non-autonomic view: God works through the secondary causes to nourish me.

    Jeff Cagle

  76. jared said,

    April 29, 2009 at 10:28 am


    The issue with Omphalism is Scripture rather than science’s ability to verify it or not. We aren’t talking about a false history because we have the record plainly right there in Genesis. God didn’t create the appearance of age, He created a mature creation. And since Moses doesn’t talk about his current state of affairs I don’t see how this is a relevant concern. He may have been wrong in what he believed about the current state of things but he was not wrong about what was written in the creation account.

    As for secondary causes, I don’t miss the reference to WCF 3.1 but the concept of secondary causes seems superfluous to me if (1) God is sustaining, directing and governing all things (as per 5.1; presumably this would include secondary causes) and if (2) God is free to work without, above and against those causes (as per 5.3). Secondary causes are also mentioned in WCF 5.2 but I would take the same issue here, it seems to be a roundabout attempt at smuggling “free will” (which, imo, is as problematic as “natural law”) into the picture. I don’t want to go too far astray of the ANE point though, so I won’t push the issue of secondary causes any harder than I need to given the topic.

  77. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 29, 2009 at 10:54 am

    Jared (#76):

    Wrt secondary causes, I would agree with (1) and (2). I wouldn’t use “superfluous” to describe it, though — I think the notion of secondary cause captures something of the regularity of these causes, yet without ascribing autonomy to them. “Free will” in the autonomous sense is completely outside the park.

    wrt creation,

    Moses may have been wrong in what he believed about the current state of things but he was not wrong about what was written in the creation account.

    I agree with you. It’s just that I’ve heard otherwise from one particular person who nevertheless claimed “inerrancy.”

    The only boundary I want to set here is what we all seem to agree to: that Moses’ limited knowledge did not constrain the text in such a way as to produce errors.

    Jeff Cagle

  78. Nathan said,

    April 29, 2009 at 10:54 am

    Jeff and Jared,

    By “water firmament” (Jeff, 75) and “firmament of waters” (Jared, 74) do you mean a firmament that is made of water? If so, what makes you think genesis or other places in the OT or ANE had such a conception? If not, what do you mean?

  79. jared said,

    April 29, 2009 at 11:02 am


    You say,

    The only boundary I want to set here is what we all seem to agree to: that Moses’ limited knowledge did not constrain the text in such a way as to produce errors.

    Isn’t this exactly the point of I&I? I mean, for all the shortcomings I’ve heard about it (I haven’t read it myself), isn’t this the meat of Enns’s position?

  80. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 29, 2009 at 3:47 pm


    I’m not well-read enough to evaluate Enn’s position. I got here by suggesting that one might stand with Bavinck but not with Enns; I think that’s about all I can contribute! :)

    For example, I’m not sure whether Enns’ position entails so much uncertainty about the process of exegesis that the perspicuity of Scripture is set aside. I would need to read up to find that out, and I haven’t.

    Jeff Cagle

  81. Richard said,

    April 30, 2009 at 12:13 pm


    Whilst your comment below was not directed to me I hope you don’t mind my chipping in.

    I’m not sure whether Enns’ position entails so much uncertainty about the process of exegesis that the perspicuity of Scripture is set aside

    I would urge caution in developing a stance that is anti-Enns which is founded upon the “perspicuity of Scripture” argument. Why? The biggest problem I have come across is that many in the evangelical/Reformed camp don’t really grasp what perspicuity of Scripture means historically. I am not saying this is you, but I thought it worth mentioning. :-) Muller’s second volume in his PRRD is helpful on this.

    You may be interested in a post on Reformed Reader: “Abraham Kuyper on Scripture, Part 2”

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