Friday, June 09, 2006

Inspiration and Incarnation II

After a bit of a delay, I finally return to writing a little more about Dr. Enns’ book. I want to write about my second major concern with the book in this entry, and in subsequent entries deal with some of the responses particularly by those in the conservative reformed tradition to the book.

Dr. Enns notes that much of conservative, evangelical treatment of the Bible minimizes the humanity of Scripture, to the point of tacit denial. Sadly, as a general characterization, this statement is undeniably true. Dr. Enns labels this conception as docetic; parallel with those early heretics who denied the true humanity of Christ. As a remedy for this, Dr. Enns proposes the Incarnation as an analogy for an evangelical doctrine of Scripture- not a new concept in a conservative doctrine of Scripture. I cannot help but wonder though if Dr. Enns proposed correction tends to the opposite danger of Arianism- denying the true deity of Scripture.

I am not asserting that Dr. Enns truly holds to an Arian-like concept of Scripture. He says nothing explicitly or implicitly which leads to such a conclusion. Yet no good evangelical would explicitly state that he holds to a docetic doctrine of Scripture. What is at stake is a lack of balance. I recognize that fully addressing the divine aspect of Scripture was not Dr. Enns’ concern. Further, it could be argued that so much emphasis has been paid to the Divine that little need exists for further treatment; however, the lack on the human demands sustained and focused attention. Dr. Enns is clear throughout the book to acknowledge the human and divine in Scripture. Yet his emphasis on the human and the lack of synthesis with the divine leads one to question the unity of the two truths. Throughout the book, Dr. Enns presents data which points strongly to very human characteristics in Scripture, such as connection with larger cultural pattern of its time, clear signs of individuality in the various books composing the Old Testament, and observable patterns of interpretation by those using the Old Testament text, especially in the New Testament. While his concern is to present this data in order to bolster and protect the faith of the reader, I wonder if the lack of attention played to the reconciliation of the human with the divine might not lead some to serious doubts and questions. Many minds, like my own, need to hear not only that something is the Word of God, but need to see how the divine and the human can coexist and be reconciled by doing full justice to both truths.

The Chalcedonian Creed attempted to do justice to both the Divine and human in Christ, and to produce a systematic statement of the doctrine. Focusing exclusively on one aspect of the person of Christ to the exclusion of the other is not consistent with a fully orthodox Christological conception. To present a true statement of the person of Christ one must present “our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man…recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ.” If the Incarnation is the analogy which one chooses as the basis for one’s conception of Scripture, then it is necessary to follow the analogy consistently and present the Bible “without confusion, without change, without division and without separation” in both the true humanity and the true divinity. Any doctrine that fails in this fails to be a truly orthodox doctrine of Scripture.


Mark Traphagen said...

Your error here, as it has been for most of Enns's critics, is in viewing the book as some kind of explication of a complete Doctrine of Scripture, which it is not and never intended to be. It is a little book written for thoughtful, non-scholar evangelicals, which seeks to address head on and honestly problems that evangelicals have tended to ignore or explain away far too carelessly.

Keith said...

I should make more clear how much I really liked Enn's book. It was a breath of fresh air to read. Just this past week I recommended the book to the Sunday School class I teach at a conservative church (got to seal my excommunication somehow). I guess it is easier to be negative than it is to be positive.

My main concern with the book is the bad press it has received from evangelical critics. I wonder if the book had been framed differently or more nuanced if some of the criticism could be avoided. I know in the OPC, a lot of the bad press that the book received in New Horizons and on the OPC discussion list probably discouraged many from reading the book. I would guess that D. A. Carson's review has had a similar effect in the wider evangelical tradition. I think this is a valuable book, and needs to be read to avoid the struggles ignorance of these issues can cause the thoughtful evangelical.

I am not trying to say that Enn's position is anything other than orthodox and in accord with the best in evangelical scholarship, but I think more reflection on the doctrine of Scripture he began at the outset in each chapter or in the conclusion would be helpful. The introduction suggests that the doctrine of Scripture is being addressed, so more clarity is not a bad thing. Further, greater clarity may also aid the thoughtful evangelical on the other pole to be balanced in this discussion.