Pastoral Musings

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Quick Thoughts on Enns’ Response to Kevin DeYoung

Posted by Pastoral Musings on February 14th, 2012

DeYoung claims that Paul believed in a historical Adam, and I agree with him (though not all Evangelicals do). He further implies that this

creation of man

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observation should settle the matter, as we can see from his citation of Tim Keller at the end of the post: ” If you don’t believe what he [Paul] believes about Adam, you are denying the core of Paul’s teaching.”

This is an unfortunate quandary, for to take this admonition seriously, one has really little choice but to turn a blind eye to the scientific investigations of human origins. Perhaps DeYoung is prepared to do this and counsel others to follow his example. I am not sure.

Paul’s view on Adam is perhaps the central issue in this debate among Evangelicals. But the entire question turns on whether Paul’s comments on Adam are prepared to settle what can and cannot be concluded about human origin on the basis of scientific investigation.

Citing a few verses as transparent prooftexts does not relieve us of the necessary hermeneutical work of what to do with Paul’s words. Paul’s view of Adam does not end the discussion, as DeYoung thinks; it begins it.

via Thoughts on Kevin DeYoung’s Restless Comments on the Historical Adam | Peter Enns.

I think that Enns’ presuppositions are showing (note the bold text in Enns’ statement). Whether Enns’ will ever admit it or not, this is the issue at stake: where is authority? Where is the standard of truth? Is it the ever changing evolutionary paradigm that is philosophically committed to a world that happened by naturalistic processes, or it is the Word of God who declares to us what He has done and is doing?

Enns later stated,

the entire question turns on whether Paul’s comments on Adam are prepared to settle what can and cannot be concluded about human origin on the basis of scientific investigation.

There  it is again; the statement that scientific investigation must answer for us what God’s Word has already answered.

Again we read,

The entire point here is that much of the history of interpretation did not have to deal with evolution, so their perspective by definition does not help us.

DeYoung would need to explain how an appeal to assumptions of human origins in “pre-evolutionary” Christianity help us today in adjudicating a modern scientific issue, and how this same sort of reasoning would not also move us toward a flat earth and geocentric cosmos.

The issue here is that there is a forgetfulness that God gave us Scripture by the work of the Holy Spirit as well as by men. The fact that Scripture is God-breathed means that it has its origin with God. God gave us Scripture. Sure, He used men. That, however, does not rule out the fact that God speaks truly and Scripture is true.

There is also the forgetfulness that the history of interpretation is not so much a history of interpretation in relation to science. It is a history of interpretation as guided by the Holy Spirit. That does not guarantee that men won’t make mistakes, but it does mean that men have help in understanding the Scriptures. To disregard this and simply state that those who have gone before us didn’t have to content with science is folly.

Enns continues and says,

I am sorrowfully aware that this post could be taken (and no doubt will be taken by some) as clear evidence of the hubris of an academic, wholly detached from or even hostile to the life of the church.

I doubt that Enns is detached from the life of the church. I do wonder if he realizes the amount of doubt that his approach throws upon the Scriptures. Beale did not engage Enns for nothing when he wrote “The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism.” There is a reason for it. People are pushed into unreasonable doubt by the subtle attacks upon the veracity of God’s Word. Enns thinks that he is supporting God’s Word, but the reality is that his approach gives much ammunition to those who oppose God’s Word. It is a capitulation to the philosophy that science trumps Scripture.

If Enns were to minister to people week by week as I do, perhaps he would see that ideas have consequences. Perhaps he would see that his approach leads to unhealthy doubt. Perhaps he would see that the uniqueness of Scripture and the truthfulness of God’s Word should be his presuppositions.  If he were to try to give an answer to someone whose husband is dying of cancer, perhaps he would see that the literal six day creation and the literal Adam are much more helpful in giving us a response to the question and problem of evil and suffering. His approach leaves us with so very many unanswered questions. It leaves us in doubt and fear instead of giving us hope in the God who made us all.

This is a sad, sad debate we are having. Neither is it helped by simply stating that some people have to circle the wagons and remain entrenched in their ideological fortresses, as though they never stop to consider what has been said. The reality is that this is not about people not considering and reading. It is about people reading, considering, and discarding what they recognize to be untrue and harmful.

 What is needed in this discussion is not the airing of views by the young and the restless, but more efforts to “come and reason together” by the seasoned and centered.

This statement comes across as very arrogant, to be honest. It smacks of the notion that the younger, less seasoned, and less experienced ought to simply sit back and listen to their elders who know better than they. The fact is that even the elders with all of their seasoning go wrong at times. I’ve seen it altogether too often.

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9 Responses to “Quick Thoughts on Enns’ Response to Kevin DeYoung”

  1. Erik D Says:

    I have a blog posting tomorrow about our theological frameworks and whether there isn’t a better way we could construct our thinking as to weather these kinds of doubts.

    Personally, I welcome the challenge of authors like Enns because I think they force us to rethink our way of doing things, sometimes changing and sometimes simply flexing so we can pass through. I actually think doubt is necessary for growth.

  2. ScottL Says:

    Jason -

    I think that Enns’ presuppositions are showing (note the bold text in Enns’ statement). Whether Enns’ will ever admit it or not, this is the issue at stake: where is authority? Where is the standard of truth? Is it the ever changing evolutionary paradigm that is philosophically committed to a world that happened by naturalistic processes, or it is the Word of God who declares to us what He has done and is doing?

    This is not completely fair nor does it look at the real issues at hand by simply challenging that the issue lies with Enns not having the proper authority, since you have not established that he holds an improper authority. You only suggest a conclusion, not actual points to arrive at that conclusion.

    1) Enns has repeatedly said he is completely committed to the God-breathed intent of God given in Scripture. But we have to ask what is that intent. Is it given to tell us the intricate scientific details of how our origins came about or is it there to give us a theological understanding of our origins? By your reckoning, as I believe you are a YEC, it seems you would need to step up and challenge all positions of any OEC view.

    2) Nor is Enns asking us to simply hold to ‘naturalistic processes’, as if God was not/is not involved in the creative process. That is the whole thing – believing in the Creator God who brought about all of creation, but utilised a particular means (i.e., evolution) to bring about his creative product. Is it wrong that God got dirty as a human being to reveal ultimately what God is like? Is it wrong that God does not create humans today at fiat command, but uses 9 months to do so? Is it wrong that processes are utilised in accomplishing both ‘physical’ and ‘spiritual’ things? God can do both and does do both.

    As to your last statement in the post, I am not sure it is fair to say Enns is being arrogant. James McGrath was maybe quite gristly and edgy. Enns was not and I think that comes across in his article, even in the midst of his challenges.

    Enns is committed solely to God and His intent in Scripture. Enns is actually very humble and pastoral, from what I can tell.

  3. Pastoral Musings Says:

    Erik,
    Somehow your comment went to spam. Sorry that I just saw it.
    Yes, challenge is good for us.

  4. Pastoral Musings Says:

    ScottL,
    In response to your issue with my comments. First of all, I’m dealing with what Enns said and implied, and that is we must rethink Scripture because science demands that we do so. This is a forgetfulness of the role of the Holy Spirit who has been with God’s people for all of time and has helped God’s people understand His Word.
    1. I’m stating that Enns is compromising on the issue of the authority of the Scripture by doing what he has done. As a matter of fact, it certainly a denial of the unique nature of Scripture as well. Furthermore, it is a straw man argument to bring up the old argument that Scripture is not a scientific text. I didn’t say that it was. Genesis 1-3 is historical narrative as well as the rest of Genesis, however. And, yes, I challenge OEC as well as theistic evolution.
    2. I didn’t state that Enns is asking us to hold to naturalistic processes. I stated that is what the philosophy of evolution is. There’s a categorical fallacy when you compare creation via evolution to the nine months pregnancy. You figure it out. I think you can see that if you stop to think about it.
    ScottL, you are younger than I, and possibly not as seasoned in the ministry as I. I’m not about to tell you to step aside simply because I’m older and more seasoned than you. That is arrogant. I also think it would be arrogant of you should you tell me to step aside because you have more formal education than I have. You have not done that nor implied that, and I appreciate you all the more for that. That, however, is the message that I got from Enns’ statement. If I misunderstood that statement, then I certainly will acknowledge my wrong.
    Thanks for interacting with me on this very important issue. We may never get to the point to agree with each other, but I appreciate your tone and your willingness to discuss this issue with charity. I hope that my response is received in kind, because it’s how I want to respond.

  5. mem Says:

    I do think there are misapplications both of Scripture and science. One of the difficulties we have in our modern perspective is that we have been told that science and the Bible interrogate the same thing (capital-T Truth).

    While science as a lens has gradually been resolving more and more detail of the world and universe in which we live, it is nonetheless still not as sharp as people think. Science is a process and the body of knowledge obtained by that process. The process is iterative, and so the body of knowledge churns. Iterations proceed by better and more accurate observation, and the churn alternately reinforces old conclusions or undoes them.

    What does not make much sense, at least to me, is to agree that naturalistic processes are routinely undone in Scripture (most significantly in the resurrection) and then to argue that such explanations aren’t sufficiently satisfying when we begin to discuss issues of origins.

    I wouldn’t begrudge someone his personal beliefs, although I think the issue of the historical Adam is significant; but I don’t really understand why a Christian of all people would find Genesis one unconvincing if he finds (as he does, by definition) the story of the resurrection convincing.

  6. Pastoral Musings Says:

    Thanks for the comments.
    The whole discussion mystifies me, because I cannot understand how one who professes to believe in the Divine Inspiration of the Scriptures can then implicitly deny that by presenting the Genesis creation account as another ANE myth.

  7. mem Says:

    I do think the position is more nuanced than that. The struggle of how to integrate new data and new means of data acquisition is not a minor one.

    In the main, though, I think people have been sold on this Modern Western myth of scientific objectivity and process. What we find commonplace knowledge today will be laughed at tomorrow. Einstein ruined Newton, and I think the folks at CERN and elsewhere are poised to ruin Einstein.

    If we found out, for example, that there are multiple dimensions that we cannot see, or that neutrinos really can move faster than light, we have some serious, serious issues with our current scientific frameworks that will certainly change some (not all, but some) of our discussions of origins.

    Ultimately what happens when we harness Scripture to a particular scientific interpretation is that we are condemned to follow that interpretation wherever it leads. This is the ultimate reason I find origins discussion rather fruitless: we are hitched to two different engines of interpretation, and while the tracks run parallel in some cases, more often than not they diverge. Discussions of origins are poised to crash the trains together.

  8. Ray Nearhood Says:

    “Ultimately what happens when we harness Scripture to a particular scientific interpretation is that we are condemned to follow that interpretation wherever it leads.”

    Right – like the early Church was led to interpret Scripture according to the, at the time, modern Scientific theories of a Flat Earth and a Geocentric Cosmos. Which, btw, is why I find the veiled accusation in this Enns quote (and accusations like it) completely disingenuous:

    DeYoung would need to explain how an appeal to assumptions of human origins in “pre-evolutionary” Christianity help us today in adjudicating a modern scientific issue, and how this same sort of reasoning would not also move us toward a flat earth and geocentric cosmos.

    Blame is placed backwards. Scientific observations were not interpreted by Scripture to come up with either of those models. They were both popular before Christianity, and neither was popular amongst the Hebrews. It was Scripture that was being made subject to the popular scientific/philosophical theories of the time. Comparable to that today would be… oh, I dunno… creation narratives being understood in accordance with Theistic Evolution theories.

  9. Pastoral Musings Says:

    Ray,
    Thanks for the comments.
    Check back over the next while, because I plan to interact with the ANE texts to see if they truly parallel Genesis’ creation account as much as we are told they do.

 
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