As many of my readers may have already heard, Dr. Peter Enns, Associate Professor of Old Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), has been suspended by the Board of Trustees effective 23 May 2008, pending review “to consider whether Professor Enns should be terminated from his employment at the Seminary” (Between Two Worlds). The suspension is due to controversy surrounding his evocative, refreshing, and insightful recent book, Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament (Baker Academic, 2005; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com).
I trust it is clear by my choice of adjectives that I quite liked Enns’s work and am saddened by the controversy it has evoked among conservative evangelicals. I am saddened because, while I don’t agree with everything in Inspiration and Incarnation (what academic ever could!), I felt Enns was on the right track. Evangelicals have had an uneasy relationship with critical scholarship and I felt that Enns was attempting to address some of the issues with both theological sensitivity and some academic rigor. In fact, I was in contact with Dr. Enns last year to have him speak at Taylor’s Faith & Culture Conference (as it turns out he was unavailable; instead we brought in Dr. Kenton Sparks, author of a similarly engaging work on evangelicals and biblical scholarship that is hot off the press, God’s Word in Human Words: An Evangelical Appropriation of Critical Biblical Scholarship [Baker Academic, 2008; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com]. This is another book I would highly recommend).
At any rate, this is not the place for a full review and engagement with Inspiration and Incarnation, but I would encourage you to purchase it and then read it carefully — especially if you feel the need to criticize it.
I will refrain from commenting on issues internal to Westminster Theological Seminary, its administration, faculty, students, and constituency, since I have no basis for comment. It is clear that Westminster has some hard times ahead with the disunity this controversy is raising and the institution needs our prayers. Perhaps even more than this, Dr. Enns needs our prayers. I can’t imagine what it would be like to go through this sort of investigation.
If you want to follow the controversy, I encourage you to keep tabs on Brandon Withrow‘s blog. In addition, Christianity Today also has a blog post and an article on the events. Peter Enns also has a website, though I imagine he will not be posting anything relating to this controversy in the near future.
The sad irony of this whole controversy is found in Dr. Enns’s words from the preface to Inspiration and Incarnation:
I am thankful for being part of such a solidly faithful group [the Westminster faculty] that does not shy away from some difficult yet basic questions and with whom I am able to have frank and open discussions. This does not happen at every institution, and I do not take that privilege for granted” (p. 9).
Sadly, it seems “frank and open discussions” don’t occur at Westminster after all.