Saturday, 29 March 2008

The suspension of Peter Enns

Looks like there’s never been a better time not to work at Westminster Theological Seminary. The letter from the chairman of the board reads: “After a full day of deliberation, the Board of Trustees took the following action by decisive vote: That for the good of the Seminary Professor Peter Enns be suspended at the close of this school year…” A full day of deliberation? Maybe next time they should take two days.

Anyway, here’s the book that caused all the trouble. And you can find links to various reviews and discussions here and here.


Rachel said...

My roommate's dad teaches at Westminster and he's pretty much getting forced to leave because he espouses the New Perspective on Paul. Shame about this guy too. The book sounds good...I'm putting it on my reading list. :)

Anonymous said...

Let's be honest was WJT east ever a real good place to teach and learn anyways? Cornelius van Til - need I say more?

Chad said...

Wow - I just finished reading Enns book last semester (it was required reading in our OT class here at Duke Div). I found his book to be a wonderful read and a great attempt at trying to bridge the gap between conservatives and liberals with regards to our posture towards Scripture. Sadly, it sounds like one side of that bride (the conservatives) were not willing to take a few steps (of faith?) What a shame.

These sort of knee jerk reactions to good scholarship and sincere people only widens the divide and disunity between "them" and "those."

I'm enjoying your blog - I have it linked from my blog ( Thanks for the insights!


John B. Higgins said...

God forbid that ecclesiastical institutions act on doctrinal infidelity! Now you may disagree with whether or not Enns' espouses dangerous theology, but there are very few ecclesiastical bodies that take theology and its attendant praxis serious enough to suspend someone.

Chad said...

I agree that there are certain doctrinal positions that a faculty member of a seminary ought to espouse or at least not kick against. Mr. Enns has a choice as to which lake he puts his boat. But to be suspended over this book is sad. It sends a message that the views some have of how scripture must be handled and interpreted are set in stone and not subject to continuing examination. And, I think it says loudly that one "side" is completely unwilling to listen to the other "side." That is not the position a school of any caliber ought to take.


Steve Ranney said...

Enns' book helped me a lot in understanding the issues of interpretation, particularly the Genesis issue and the use of the OT by the NT. It's tragic that fundamentalists push out people like this who are offering a way forward. I am concerned for people who don't have an opportunity to even know that there are options like he outlines available. It is also fairly obvious that the school officials are just assuming that one man can be sacrificed in order to ensure the smooth operation of the status quo and the continued influx of funds.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you mentioned the word "funds", Steve. One wonders how much a decision like this has to do with theological commitment, and how much it has to do with banal managerial anxieties about funding.

brian said...

anonymous, what is "WJT"? i've never heard of that school.

and as far as cornelius van til goes, what is your point?

Anonymous said...

Yea, I know what you guys mean. I mean he should be allowed to teach whatever he wants. I am sick of this fundamental "Scripture is holy and inerrant" stuff. Totally unchristian. Idiots.

Anonymous said...

This is ashame. WTS East has lost brownie points with me. Checkout my blog on the issue at

John B. Higgins said...


It doesn't at all necessarily mean that one side is unwilling to listen to the other side. They very well could have listened intently and prayed vigorously and decided that Enns' position was unbiblical. Furthermore, that "the views some have of how scripture must be handled and interpreted are set in stone" is a fundamental Christian position. Now, you may believe that on this issue there is not hard and fast biblical truth. But, you must affirm the principle that some positions are set in stone. Belief in God is "set in stone." Moreover, there must be some hermeneutical positions that are set in stone. Remember, the difference between a pharisee and a Christian is not what they read, but how they read it.

Chad said...

Hello. You quoted me saying: "the views some have of how scripture must be handled and interpreted are set in stone" is a fundamental Christian position.

Yes, as far as you quoted me goes - that is a Christian position, but the rest of what I said it, "and not subject to further examination." That's the kicker. I believe we do need to examine these so called "fundamental positions" (ie. always reforming).

There is a large gap between the fundamental belief "in God" (as you rightly claim) and the evangelical doctrine of scripture. I can believe in God without believing in an inerrant Bible. I can recite and believe in all the confessional creeds without espousing an inerrant, infallible Bible.

By the way, did you read the book? If you have, what did you find so objectionable? I found it to be a pretty good attempt at navigating some rough waters between two "rocks." Enns should have been given a raise, not sacked.


::aaron g:: said...

Hopefully this means that the sales of his book will go through the roof!

Anonymous said...

Indeed, Enn’s book is only getting much needed, and entirely unwarranted, advertising through all the hubbub. What a shame that such sloppy thinkers tend to dominate discussions, create controversy due to their incoherence, and leave us all in the end un-edified. Indeed, Dr. Enns’ departure from what many of us would call an orthodox view of scripture and inerrancy occurred over twenty years ago, and all the noise is only the rumble of his troubled wake as he departs from a once(Machen era?) biblical, biblical studies department. Indeed, Dr. Enns sadly seems to be a “fall guy,” since the rest of the OT department might be hard-pressed to claim any greater restraint on their historical-critical hermeneutics, since they all follow and emulate the deceased Raymond Dillard whose motto was “Plundering the [historical-critical] Egyptians.” Imagine a seminary professor so butchering (i.e., spiritualizing) an OT text!
As Eta Linneman replied to him once on this point, “For shame, for shame . . . remember what the Israelites made of the plunder!”

pduggie said...

I don't think that Linneman point makes sense. The use of "plundering the Egyptians" is supposed to represent that the Israelites took the Egyptian plunder and used the VAST MAJORITY of it to build the tabernacle.

The israelites used a bunch of earrings (which may not have even been plunder) to build the calf. In any case, God wanted them to have the plunder, and they did need to be careful with it.

I've heard lots of evangelicals use that idea to talk about using compatible philosophy or psychology or what have you from dubious sources. It usually goes along with "all truth is God's truth"

Anonymous said...

Well, you do seem to agree with the point that, regardless of whether they eventually made something good out of it, Israel did indeed fail to be careful with it.
Also, it really makes little difference that lots of evangelicals use the similar idea of "all truth is God's truth," because we are not talking here about truth but "plundering" the erroneous hermeneutics of historical-critics. Also, even if we argue that "all truth is God's truth," it does not mean that a "truth" in Satan's mouth is something we should heed. Context is everything, is also an idea that many evangelicals employ. That is, general revelation seems an unworthy guide in such serious matters of biblical hermeneutics, even if we might learn much about many things through those who are unbelievers.

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