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More Support for Dr. Peter Enns

4th April 2008

My Old Testament colleague at Taylor Seminary, Dr. Jerry Shepherd, wrote the following post for the Canadian Evangelical Theological Association email list. It is reproduced here with his permission.

I want to comment just a bit on the Peter Enns situation. There was a thread on the Canadian Evangelical Theological Association email list a few months ago with regard to the Enns situation where I made a couple of contributions, but here are some more thoughts in light of Enns’s suspension. Keep in mind that I am writing this as both a Westminster Theolgical Seminary (WTS) alum and one who was very much involved in the OT department when I was there. I was Al Groves’s TA for a number of years, taught a few courses myself, and was involved with the Westminster Hebrew Computer Project. I took numerous courses both at the Masters and PhD levels from Al Groves, Ray Dillard, Tremper Longman, and Bruce Waltke. Doug Green, Peter Enns, and Mike Kelly were my classmates.

While there are some things in Enns’s Inspiration & Incarnation that I might disagree with, and some things I might have worded differently, I believe the book is entirely within both Evangelical orthodoxy more broadly, and Reformed orthodoxy more narrowly. WTS is a confessional school, and I understand the need to continue to uphold the school’s commitment to the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF). But there is also needed the continuing commitment to the idea of “Reformed, yet reforming.” To make the WCF the major evaluative tool by which exegetical statements are to judged orthodox or not, especially when the WCF itself needs to be exegeted through a particular set of lenses to arrive at this judgment, is, in my opinion, very much misguided.

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. For the Board to make this kind of decision with regard to Enns is also at the same time, in my opinion, a judgment on the entirety of the current OT dept., as well as a retroactive judgment on nearly three decades of OT instruction at WTS, especially since two of the endorsers on the back cover of the book are Longman and Waltke. Additionally, the decision appears to be one that is being made by persons who are simply unaware of the complexities involved in the faithful critical discipline of OT studies in the context of the ancient Near East.

As far as the faculty who are opposed to Enns, I am grieved because, apparently, at least a couple of the professors in that camp are ones for whom I have great admiration, respect, and gratitude for what they taught me (there are others with whom I am not personally acquainted).

One last comment. For my OT intro class last Fall, I had my students read I&I and write a reaction paper to it. With only a couple of exceptions (in a class of about 25), the students found the book to be very helpful. To my knowledge, none of these students have lost their faith. To the contrary, a couple of the students who work with university and college students on secular campuses have found the book to be a valuable resource for them in their work with these students.

I hope and pray that more informed thinking will prevail.



Dr. Jerry E. Shepherd
Associate Professor of Old Testament
Acting Academic Vice President
Taylor Seminary, Edmonton, Canada

8 Responses to “More Support for Dr. Peter Enns”

  1. jerry shepherd on peter enns « finitum non capax infiniti Says:

    [...] You can read all of this thoughts here. [...]

  2. Hit and Run: Peter Enns and blogging | the blog of brandon withrow Says:

    [...] Here’s what people are saying (Updated 4-4-08): **Updated: Westminster alum, Dr. Jerry E. Shepherd, Associate Professor of Old Testament and Acting Academic Vice President of Taylor Seminary, Edmonton, Canada, comments on this controversy at Tyler Williams’ blog, Codex.  [...]

  3. Manlius Says:

    Jerry Shepherd is right on.

    When I first read I&I, I thought to myself, “This is practically identical to the OT Intro. class I had with Enns in 1994 or 1995.” So why the problem now? Didn’t these people know what Enns has been teaching for over a decade?

  4. John Hobbins Says:

    A great way to honor Pete Enns is to fearlessly ask the questions he asked. His current TA, Ros Clarke, has some interesting comments up on my blog.

  5. ReformedSinner (DC) Says:

    Since when are students a good way to decide complex theological issues? If Professor Shepherd says in one breath that it’s hard for gifted theologians outside of the OT field to ” of the complexities involved in the faithful critical discipline of OT studies in the context of the ancient Near East.” Then how is citing 23 of 25 students who find the book helpful going to prove anything?

    Also, the “newness” of any theology attracts attention and appreciation. I am reminded how many good Reformed people fell quickly in love with Karl Barth when he first came on the scene. Today many good Reformed people totally embraced N.T. Wright’s New Perspective on Paul. Just like many good Reformed people bought into the Auburn Affirmation.

    You challenged that the opposing professors are unawared of the of the “…complexities involved in the faithful critical discipline of OT studies in the context of the ancient Near East.” Fair. Do you also agree that OT scholars (such as Dr. Enns and yourself) are simply not spending enough time to thoroughly appreciate the relationship of ST and BT and how they informed one another and also guard each other from over-zealous curiosity, and at the same time an OT specialist might be “unaware” of the “complexities involved in the faithful Biblically through and through character of the Reformed Confessions in the context of Westminster Confessions?”

  6. steve martin Says:

    Thanks for posting that … very helpful.

  7. Relevant links in regards to Peter Enns and the Board of Westminster’s recent actions « ‘Conn’-versation Says:

    [...] Jerry Shepherd a former classmate of Peter Enns shares his thoughts here. [...]

  8. Codex: Biblical Studies Blogspot » Blog Archive » Peter Enns - His Departure from WTS Says:

    [...] had posted previously on my support for Dr. Enns as well as the support of my colleague, Dr. Jerry Shepherd (WTS grad and friend of Dr. Enns). I have found Enns’s work to be [...]