Discovering Peter Enns

I’m not sure how I missed this, but I mentioned earlier how the author of Inspiration and Incarnation, one of my textbooks for the upcoming semester, is Peter Enns.

The name sounded vaguely familiar, but I didn’t give it much thought, but then it dawned on me: It’s this guy.

Pete Enns is Senior Fellow of Biblical Studies for The BioLogos Foundation and author of several books and commentaries, including the popular Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament, which looks at three questions raised by biblical scholars that seem to threaten traditional views of Scripture.

BioLogos was featured prominently in the now-famous Christianity Today cover story about the questions surrounding the historicity of Adam and Eve. I’d never heard of the organization before, but its blog, Science and the Sacred, has quickly become a must-read. For the first time, I’d found a place where evangelical Christians intelligently and honestly discussed the overwhelming scientific evidence in favor of evolution as the means through which God created the world and everything in it.

Throughout my life, going to a private Christian school, learning from the propagandistic A Beka Book curriculum, I had been taught about the holes in Darwinism but never what the theory itself actually was, and even to my child’s mind, some of the so-called refutations of evolution seemed a little weak.

I remember being in a Sunday School class soon after graduating from college, and one of the members asked for prayer because his child was about to enter the dreaded “evolution section” of the science curriculum. Immediately, all the other members of the class began chiming in with various rebuttals and retorts this child should make sure to use, and of course they prayed the child would have courage to stand for his convictions.

I don’t have any problem praying that our children have the courage to stand for their convictions in school; that’s vitally important, as a matter of fact. But it seemed strange to me, even as someone who would have affirmed at the time a belief in a literal Genesis account, that our convictions would be so tied up in something as relatively unimportant as how God chose to create us.

And as I grew older, I became increasingly uncomfortable with the blithe rejection of scientific consensus. Is not science merely the study of God’s own creation? If God’s own creation is giving us clues as to how God created, perhaps we should listen to them. The assumption that we, armed with our two chapters of Genesis, must therefore know more about archaeology, geology, biology and astronomy than 99 percent of the experts in those fields struck me as bizarre.

So you might say my mind was ripe for an article like the one run by Christianity Today, and for a site like the BioLogos Foundation’s. In particular, their section entitled “The Questions,” helped answer a lot of the, well, questions I had long held but to which no one in my faith communities seemed willing to even approach, let alone answer. It also provided fuller, more believable answers to the challenges posed by the likes of A Beka Book: fossil record, improbability of complex life, etc.

Let’s just say that those answers, as well as the information found in other posts on the site, are incredibly illuminating, not to mention convincing. But to accept the truth of evolution as the means of creation is to reject a literal interpretation of Genesis, and in so doing, to upend my lifelong view of the Bible.

And that’s where Peter Enns comes in, and why I’m so excited to be reading his book this semester. Here’s a quote from a recent post:

[T]he manner in which God speaks truth is through the idioms, attitudes, assumptions, and general worldviews of the ancient authors. “Truth” is not a neutral philosophical concept to be downloaded onto Scripture from the outside. Rather, it is expressed in Scripture through the energetic interplay of the Spirit of God working in and through human authors. So, the question is, ‘What is truth in view of the fact that God is not speaking in philosophical, or even modern, terms, but to ancient peoples?’ Do not the historical settings of Scripture affect how we understand the nature of the truth that the Spirit is revealing?

These words are not without controversy, especially in the evangelical community from which Enns and I both hail. In fact, Enns was suspended in 2008 from teaching at Westminster Theological Seminary after the release of Inspiration and Incarnation. The school’s board of directors determined Enns’ book put him at odds with the belief statement to which all faculty must adhere.

That he continues to tackle hard subjects such as these is a testament to his perseverance and his intellectual rigor, and I look forward indeed to learning from his thoughts in the coming semester.


2 thoughts on “Discovering Peter Enns”

    1. Yeah, I listened to that one. Pretty good. I’m cautiously optimistic that stories like this will help draw modern-day evangelical Christianity out of its self-imposed darkness and into a light that accepts the harmony between modern science and a healthy reading of scripture.

      On the other hand, I can also see a retrenchment into the intellectual ghetto that takes generations to undo, a la conservative politics and Fox News.

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