A hopefully helpful response to Peter Enns’s post that opens up rather than shuts down conversation with Evangelicals who in some way affirm “biblical inerrancy.”
As someone who would own the label Evangelical, I for one like Enns’s evangelical orthodoxy scale. I attended Regent College in Vancouver, BC. Although I was a new Christian, I had already imbibed from the culture both Christian and secular (vocal anti-Christians often assume “fundamentalist” interpretation is the only Christian interpretation, I was and still am a Carl Sagan fan) that if its in the Bible and it “sounds remotely like history” it is history.
I vividly recall the crises I experienced when my professor said that Job is fictional. I remember the conversations I had with thoughtful caring friends in Regent’s Atrium after the class. Crisis then, now, I teach that in my classes and John Walton’s commentary is my favo(u)rite commentary on Job. So what made the difference? At Regent College, an Evangelical Graduate institution, questions are welcomed. Questions and conversation are the order of the day and mysteries and open-endedness are embraced when appropriate. Quelle difference!
Which is why even though I do not agree with some of Enns’s conclusions in his various books, I appreciate his work and recommend it to my colleagues, friends and students. I highly recommend his book The Bible Tells Me So . . Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It (which at the time of writing this blog is under $9 on Amazon).
For his readers who are addressing individuals or groups who were like me or come from the “inerrant = literal” background, I highly recommend evangelical theologian and Regent professor J.I. Packer’s short essay “Inerrancy and the Divinity and Humanity of the Bible” it can be found as Chapter 11 in Collected Shorter Writings Volume 3 (PaterNoster, 1999).
Due to his use of “Fundamentalism” in a book title and his owning of the term “inerrancy”, he was invited to speak at a conference on Biblical Inerrancy (hosted by the Southern Baptist Convention, I believe). Packer with his usual witty yet pointed style warns his audience that, by ignoring questions of history and genre, they have misunderstood the concept of inerrancy.
He reminded them or informed them, “Belief in inerrancy does not commit me to belief in the inerrancy of any particular interpreter, not even myself. Nor does it commit a person to disregarding the humanness of Scripture.” (164) To paraphrase, “While I agree the Bible properly interpreted is trustworthy and authoritative on what it speaks to, your method of interpretation and its results suck.”
No doubt, some of Enns’s readers will find Dr. Packer to be too far to one side of the Enns’s scale but in my experience evangelical and fundamentalist students get J.I.Packer and it opens the door to further conversation.
Here is a link to Enns’s book The Evolution of Adam pictured above.