RBS Tabletalk

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Controversy at Westminster Theological Seminary

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Written by deangonzales

April 4, 2008 at 11:21 pm

6 Responses

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  1. […] Here’s what people are saying (Updated 4-4-08): **Updated: Dean of Reformed Baptist Seminary, Bob Gonzales, offers his opinion of the controversy at Westminster on the school’s blog, RBS Tabletalk. […]

  2. The student “rally” that was held on campus was against the Board’s decision to suspend Enns. There is a large Enns following on campus both students and faculty.

    That said, the Board is mostly full of conservatives (I think it was a 23-9 vote to suspend Enns, or something like that).

    As of now, only dissidents are voicing their opinion publicly; those in support of the Board’s decisions are generally watching and waiting.

    I am amazed how political activism seems to be sweeping Enns’s supporters.

    I applaud the seminary’s stance on the confessions and have nothing but admiration for our leaders wading through these difficult waters.


    April 7, 2008 at 1:09 am

  3. Randall,

    Thanks for your helpful and clarifying remarks. With you I applaud the seminary’s stance on the confession, particularly an article of such consequence as pertaining to the inspiration of Scripture, which touches upon the very ground and foundation of our epistemology.

    Honestly, I have been amazed at the relative failure of Enns’ supporters to address the issues. Instead their arguments seem primarily to fall into the category of ad hominem (“right-wing takeover”) or condescension (the critics really don’t understand the issues involved–as if all the supporters are all experts!) or vague, ambiguous defenses like, “There is nothing in Enns’s book that is not in a trajectory with the teaching I received from the OT department at Westminster in the 80s and early 90s, and I mean the entire department: Dillard, Longman, Waltke, and Groves” (Dr. Jerry Shepherd).

    To begin with, the word “trajectory” implies the idea of the projected movement of an object which often follows a curve of some sort. When applied to the direction of a theological position, the projected movement may be good or bad. The trajectory may be heading in the direction of greater precision (good) or eventual deviation (bad). So this kind of argument simply clouds the issue and does not address the real point of debate: where is Enns’ position on inspiration currently located (regardless of whatever path of trajectory it may have previously followed).

    Second, there are those who understand the issues and are critical of Enns’ position (e.g., D. A. Carson, G. K. Beale, and Paul Helms). True, these men may not be OT scholars, but they are well aware of the kind of problems that Enns alleges must force us to rethink our view of inspiration, and these men have been troubled by his thesis rather than persuaded.

    Like Enns, Jeffrey Niehaus is an OT scholar who received his Ph.D. from Harvard. He is an OT professor at Gordon-Conwell. He has just published a book entitled, Ancient Near Eastern Themes in Biblical Theology (Kregel Academic, 2008). Niehaus agrees with Enns that the interpreter should be more aware of the parallels between the OT materials and those of the ANE. Niehaus believes that such comparative studies can illuminate our understanding of various OT themes. However, in contrast with Enns, Niehaus does not believe such comparisons should undermine our commitment to the inspiration and supreme authority of Scripture. According to Niehaus,

    “A use of the comparative method that places the biblical narratives among the mythical or legendary donations of the world is flawed, because it assumes that biblical data are capable of such classification. It ignores (or rejects) the Bible’s claims about its own historicity. Once we accept those claims, however, the same comparative method can be turned around and produce valuable results. We can then understand legends and myths by comparison with what God and people actually did according to the biblical account” (15).

    And consider also how Niehaus accounts for the parallels in a way that is consistent with the standard evangelical view of the Bible’s inspiration and authority:

    “First, the Old Testament preserves true and accurate accounts of major events (Creation, the Flood). Extrabiblical sources around the world also preserve the memory of such events in distorted forms.”

    “Second, the Old Testament uses literary and legal forms long current in the ancient Near East as vehicles of God’s special revelation. Poetic parallelism and the use of stock word pairs in poetry are examples of the former. Use of the second millennium international treaty form in the Pentateuch, and especially Deuteronomy, and of the ancient Near Eastern covenant lawsuit form in the Prophets are examples of the latter.”

    “Third, parallels between the supposed acts of pagan gods and the acts of God appear in the Old Testament and ancient Near East because God allowed concepts that are true of him and his ways to appear in the realm of common grace. The parallel between the temple-pattern revelation to Gudea of Lagash and the similar revelation to Moses, mentioned at the beginning of this chapter is an example.” (29).

    The point is that there are other OT experts out there who have studied the ANE data, just as Enns has done, without arriving at his conclusions.

    Finally, the fact that men of the stature of Carson, Beale, and Helms have leveled serious criticisms against Enns’ book demonstrates that the so-called “right-wing take over” is fallacious. Those opposing Enns’ position are not an uninformed and obscurantist bunch. In my opinion, Enns’ opponents are merely trying to preserve the very foundation upon which WTS was founded.

    Bob Gonzales, Dean
    Reformed Baptist Seminary


    April 7, 2008 at 1:06 pm

  4. Is there a reason why the replies are so dark? Perhaps I do not have the special glasses that are required to read the comments.

    Stephen Welch

    July 26, 2008 at 9:18 pm

  5. Thank you for the change with the blog. I read it earlier and it was so dark I could not read it. This is much easier to read.

    Stephen Welch

    July 27, 2008 at 1:03 am

  6. […] Since my training has largely focused on Old Testament studies, I’ve tried to follow and comment on the controversy raised by Peter Enns’s Inspiration & Incarnation. I actually do believe the […]

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