News has just been made public regarding yesterday’s special meeting of the Board of Trustees at Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), which met to address “the disunity of the faculty regarding the theological issues related to Dr. Peter Enns‘ book, Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament.” The Board decided to suspend Professor Enns at the close of the school year, with a process in place to consider whether he should be terminated from his employment at the Seminary.

Here is the letter from the Chairman of the Board:

March 27, 2008

Thank you very much for your prayers for the special meeting of the Board of Trustees that was held on March 26 to address the disunity of the faculty regarding the theological issues related to Dr. Peter Enns’ book, Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament. After a full day of deliberation, the Board of Trustees took the following action by decisive vote:

“That for the good of the Seminary (Faculty Manual II.4.C.4) Professor Peter Enns be suspended at the close of this school year, that is May 23, 2008 (Constitution Article III, Section 15), and that the Institutional Personnel Committee (IPC) recommend the appropriate process for the Board to consider whether Professor Enns should be terminated from his employment at the Seminary. Further that the IPC present their recommendations to the Board at its meeting in May 2008.”

In order to provide the entire Westminster community with a more complete understanding of the Board’s decision and to offer an opportunity for questions and dialogue, the Chairman and Secretary of the Board will join the President on campus for a special chapel on Tuesday, April 1 at 10:30 am. Students and staff are encouraged to attend and participate. Following that special chapel, they will hold a separate meeting with the faculty.

Our concern is to honor the Lord Jesus Christ and assure a faithful witness for Westminster for years to come. To that end, please pray for everyone involved during the next two months.

Jack White
Chairman of the Board

(HT: Sibboleth)

No matter where you stand on the issues (for a review of the debate over Enns’s book, see this post), this is a difficult day for Westminster Theological Seminary, and I would encourage prayers for all involved.

Update: More links about the book here.

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17 thoughts on “Peter Enns of Westminster Theological Seminary Suspended”

  1. A. B. Caneday says:

    It is always sad and unsettling whenever anyone is suspended or terminated, whatever the cause and whether warranted or unwarranted.

  2. Bernabe Belvedere says:

    I don’t mean to downplay how difficult a time this must be for Professor Enns, but I think it’s is a step in the right direction for WTS Philly.

  3. Samuel Sutter says:

    well, it’s also tough for students and alumni. Pete was an inspiration for many of us. He’s a great teacher, and he showed us how to bravely face objections to the Gospel and answer them with a very big God. I think it’s a step backward for WTS Philly.

  4. LordDaniel says:

    I am possibly just not seeing something obvious to others, but why would Dr. Enns be suspended over this book? I am confused.

    From reading the initial review and the rebuttal comments, it seems as though all parties involved are on separate planes. Each is speaking of (or claiming to speak of) something other than what is at hand.

    Someone, please briefly explain the issue here. Thank you.

  5. Samuel Sutter says:

    Well, i think it’s fair to say that part of it is that Pete wrote a book that was targeted toward a popular audience but still used some OT guild jargon (i.e. referring to myth as a referring to a texts ANE genre instead of it’s veracity) – Because of that he’s really the biggest bullseye on a trend at WTS of asking hard contemporary (new?) questions and providing (new?) answers. Q & A’s loosely but not explicitly found in the Reformed tradition. New enough for students to be inspired by it’s freshness and usefulness but different enough to make people think it’s not reformed proper. But yeah, it does seem like very little of the debate is actually about a book :-( It’s more about the flexibility and comprehensiveness and the reformability of the Reformed tradition.

  6. Guy says:

    the book’s been out almost three years, and i’m sure he circulated the manuscript for well before that.

    it would be nice for someone to clarify the issues, because WTS has had ample time to read and preempt the book or disavow the teaching. to me it looks like something else.

    are people lumping Enns in with the NPP? would he be comfortable with this?

    if it’s about doctrine, then we need to ask questions like: if Professor Enns says that the first chapters of Genesis are “inspired myth,” then what could he mean by that, and in what light might such be true? before we understand Professor Enns, and before he is suspended – there needs to be a clear statement showing A. understanding, B. reproof, and C. a clear and thoughtful response upholding a Biblical or Theological standard / authority which he has violated.

    if such has been done or is out there somewhere in the interwebs, please make it known to me so that i too can have a restored confidence in the suspension of Professor Enns. until then, i will remain a curious skeptic hoping for the best.

    thanks,

    Guy

  7. Guy says:

    To quote Enns:

    It has been my experience that sometimes our first impulse is to react to new ideas and vilify the person holding them, not considering that person’s Christian character. We jump to conclusions and assume the worst rather than hearing-really hearing-each other out. What would be a breath of fresh air, not to mention a testimony to those around us, is to see an atmosphere, a culture, among conservative, traditional, orthodox Christians that models basic principles of the gospel:

    Humility on the part of scholars to be sensitive to how others will hear them and on the part of those whose preconceptions are being challenged.

    Love that assumes the best of brothers and sisters in Christ, not that looks for any difference of opinion as an excuse to go on the attack.

    Patience to know that no person or tradition is beyond correction, and therefore no one should jump to conclusions about another’s motives.

    How we carry on this very important conversation is a direct result of why. Ultimately, it is not about us, but about God. [p. 172].

  8. Guy says:

    I wonder if the president will announce April fools at the special chapel address. What a stupid day to choose. Maybe I should exorcise my own cultural superstitions. :-)

  9. Jeremy Pierce says:

    It’s about inerrancy. Enns says he affirms the Westminister statement of faith, but he in fact denies inerrancy in practice even if he doesn’t admit it. An example is his claim that the daughter of Pharaoh didn’t say what the text says she said. That kind of attribution of historical error in the Bible is compatible with Fuller’s denial of inerrancy but not with Westminster’s acceptance of it.

  10. Jeremy Pierce says:

    I should say also that there are worries about what he means when he describes the Bible in incarnational terms. The orthodox understanding of the Incarnation is that Jesus is fully God and fully human. When Enns applies this to the Bible, he says he’s correcting the emphasis on the divine role in inspiration by allowing for a fully human role. But in the details, what that looks like is emphasizing the human role to the point of denying a divine role in many cases. Thus appropriation of ancient near eastern myths is not just using the stories of the day as illustrations (like if a pastor today used Luke Skywalker as an illustration) or co-opting the terminology but not endorsing the whole account (as many scholars think the Bible does when it speaks of YHWH conquering Tiamat). The worry is that he treats the biblical authors of uncritically accepting the worldview of their time. It’s thus similar to Paul K. Jewett’s take on gender roles. He gives the complementarian exegesis and then says Paul was simply wrong on that moral issue. I think Beale and Carson’s worry about Enns’s view on myth and inspiration is similar to evangelicals’ criticism of Jewett’s attitude to scripture.

    Another example is Enns’s claim that Psalm 95 and Hebrews 3-4 contradict each other, one saying God was angry for 40 years and the other taking God’s anger only to appear at the end of the 40 year period, with God not being angry for the previous 40 years. The suggestion is that the author of Hebrews misinterpreted Psalm 95.

    I think it’s clear that the issue isn’t about the meaning of the word ‘myth’. It’s about the infallibility of scripture as fully from God. Enns may affirm that in theory, but his particular views are at odds with such a claim. He shouldn’t be teaching at an institution that affirms inerrancy unless he’s willing to rethink these statements and recant them.

  11. Samuel Sutter says:

    I don’t think orthodox Christians have to pick between Docetism and Arianism. The wonder of person of the Word of God is that Jesus was 100% human and 100% God… It’s a tension we’ve learned to deal with. There’s an obvious difference between talking about Jesus’ humanity and denying his divinity. – Why do you have to be a biblical docetist to be orthodox? “The Bible only seems to be written by humans, but it’s an illusion?” It’s obviously an analogy, but it’s a functional analogy none the less.

  12. J. Byas says:

    I agree with Sutter. I have studied under Pete for some time now and have no doubts that he believes in the divinity of Scripture. It is precisely because he believes Scripture is 100% God-authored that he can without fear begin asking the tougher questions of Scripture that a docetic view of Scripture tends to ignore. At least he is trying different models instead of spending all his time trying to show why “the liberals” are wrong.

    If Scripture really is 100% divine, we shouldn’t be afraid to see its 100% humanity, trusting that God knew what he was doing.

  13. Ken Stewart says:

    The Christological heresies of docetism and arianism are easily invoked when discussing the adequacy of Enns’ use of the Incarnational analogy. Having looked at his use of it in I&I and also in a follow-up article in the Calvin Journal (2007.2) I am convinced that his case for using it is extremely flimsy. Trace back his quotations to older Reformed theology, which he alleges provide a precedent for the use of this analogy and you will be chagrined at how paltry this evidence is.
    To say that Enns has made much of little (in these sources)would be putting it kindly.
    For those who wish to plunge ahead in their use of the Incarnational analogy with regard to Scripture here are a few cautions:
    1. ‘there was a time when he was not’ is a heretical statement as regards the Son. It is not a heretical statement as regards Holy Scripture.
    2. By its own testimony, Holy Scripture, had its origin ‘at many times and in various ways’ (Heb. 1.1). Multiple impulses from the Holy Spirit, in almost periodic fashion, stand behind the genesis of Holy Scripture. Of course this does not obtain in the Incarnation.
    3. If categories of Christological error are to be employed in judging the adequacy of conceptions of divine inspiration (and I recommend against this)remember that the options in Christological heresy were not two only. The relations of human and divine were not only misconstrued by Docetists and Arians, but by Nestorians (who taught the separation of natures), Apollinarians (who taught that only the exterior frame of Jesus was human, all else divine)or Eutychians. Because I don’t accept the fitness of the analogy, I will not use Christological heresy names to describe the problems with I&I. But ask yourself, on Enns’ use of the analogy – what has the divine influence prevented or hindered that might otherwise have prevailed? In the case of the Incarnate Son, His holiness was ensured from birth by the Spirit (Luke 1.35)

  14. Samuel Sutter says:

    it’s an analogy. I don’t think anyone is pressing it far enough to say its human authors were virgins, or that the Bible rose again. But, what is being said is that the Bible is both God’s breath and the production of humans – and maybe that doesn’t have to scare us. Maybe it’s ok for God to reveal himself in those kind of ways… like He did with Jesus

  15. Jeremy Pierce says:

    The analogy is from Enns, not from his critics. The critics are pointing out that if Enns is going to use this analogy then he needs to get it right and not end up with a view that leads to a book with parts that are divine and parts that are merely human.

  16. Ken Stewart says:

    Jeremy:
    You recognize the issue properly in your post. Enns’ employment of the analogy is deeply problematic. Orthodox Christology affirms what is called ‘communicatio idiomatum’ according to which the two natures of Christ interact with each other. While Reformed theology is not necessarily of one mind about whether this is what ensures the sinlessness of the God man (some preferring to attribute this to the operation of the Holy Spirit in Him)what is affirmed is clear. The humanity shares in the divinity and the divinity in the humanity.
    In the case of I&I what has the alleged incarnational principle ensured? Not apparently accuracy, or consistency, or necessarily historicity. When you think about it, the employment of this analogy (because of its supposed utility in explaining the complexities of the Bible) may actually endanger our Christology.
    The point of this argument is _not_ to deny biblical complexities.All thoughtful bible readers acknowledge the existence of these. It is simply to affirm that we are not helped in understanding their co-existence with the divine action we call inspiration by invoking the incarnational model. Though I do not approve of it as fully satisfactory, the proposal of John Webster to liken inspiration to sanctification escapes this difficulty.

  17. Ryan S. says:

    Surely the illustrious Justin Taylor can come up with better blogposts than announcing someone’s suspension from a seminary. How about some doctrinal commentary or something on discipleship?

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Justin Taylor is senior vice president and publisher for books at Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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