Bob Trube, Senior Area Director for InterVarsity’s Graduate & Faculty Ministry in the Ohio Valley, is in the top 1% of contributors to Goodreads. Even before this announcement, I had been following Bob’s excellent Goodreads reviews, Furthermore, inspired by The Best Christian Book of All Time, I had already asked Bob if he’d be willing to contribute reviews to the ESN Blog. AND Bob said, “Yes” :)
In light of the recent conversation regarding the writing of Peter Enns, I asked Bob’s permission to start with his material on Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament (Baker, 2005) and The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible does and doesn’t say about human origins. (Brazos Press. 2012). AND Bob said, “Yes” :) It’s great to have Bob join the team of contributors to the Emerging Scholars Network (ESN)’s blog as we enter the fall term. Lord.
Note to all our readers: Please feel free to share your responses to one or both of the books by Enns. As I have done such previously, I encourage you to read a book before you comment upon it :) It’s my intention that reviews such as those offered by Bob will not only provide opportunity for dialogue by those who have read the material, but also serve as teasers — helping our readers discern what books to place in their personal and book discussion group queue. If you have books you desire to review and/or have reviewed, please email me.. ~ Thomas B. Grosh IV, Associate Director of ESN, editor of ESN’s blog and Facebook Wall.
Inspiration and Incarnation
Peter Enns has stirred up something of a tempest in some evangelical circles with this book on scripture as well as a more recent book on Adam and evolution. At the same time, scholars like Mark Noll commend his work (in Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind). So, I decided to pick up this work and his one on Adam to see what the kerfuffle is all about.
I can see why some would struggle with this book. Enns asks us to set aside our conceptions of how scripture should work if it is inerrant to work inductively from the text itself asking the question of how it actually works. And what we find is that some passages we consider inspired may draw upon ancient near east traditions, passages in different books reflect diverse perspectives, sometimes upon the same matters, and the New Testament writers often interpret the Old Testament in ways that look suspiciously like eisegesis (reading into the text) rather than sound exegesis (reading out of the text). Often the responses to such difficulties have been superficial reconciliations that seem unsatisfactory to the careful reader.
Enns proposes that an incarnational approach to scripture can help us. Such an approach recognizes both the divine and human element in the writing of scripture. The human element means that writers reflect their cultural context and should be judged by its rather than our own standards. That means that they would relate to traditions of surrounding cultures, that writers writing at different times and circumstances will reflect diverse perspectives, and that New Testament writers will use the interpretive conventions of their days and not our own. I found this last most helpful and his proposal that the apostles used a christotelic hermeneutic, one that sees Christ as the end or fulfillment of the Old Testament and reads the Old Testament through the work of Christ. He also observes that Jesus himself does this and that the other “second temple” readers of scripture of his day understood and often approved this approach.
Enns doesn’t really answer the question of how we should read the Old Testament, indeed all of scripture given the apostolic hermeneutic. It seems he proposes that we accept their hermeneutic on its own terms, perhaps recognizing the christotelic character of the OT ourselves but not abandon good exegesis. One inherent self-contradiction in this approach seems to be that he has asked us to set aside our doctrinal conceptions about scripture to encounter scripture on its own terms Yet he seems to permit the reading in of our doctrine of the person and work of Christ into both how scripture works and how it is to be interpreted.
All in all, I did not, however, find Enns’ proposal contrary to good interpretive practice. But it will be interesting to see where he goes with this in his treatment of Adam.
The Evolution of Adam
I found myself torn in reading this book. Like the author, I disagree with the attempts to fit evolutionary science into the Procrustean bed of a literal reading of the early chapters of Genesis. And yet it seemed to me that the author felt compelled to fit Adam into the Procrustean bed of evolution.
Along the way, the author argues for a post-exilic setting for the compiling and composing of the Pentateuch as an explanation for the Genesis accounts. Most of all, he argues that Paul’s statements about Adam in Romans 5:12-21 reflect Second Temple Judaism cultural assumptions about Adam as the progenitor of all humanity and for Adam’s disobedience as the means through which sin and death entered the human race. He then dismisses the historicity of the First Adam while still maintaining the historicity of Jesus death and resurrection (although he admits that other scholars question this).
What was troubling in all this is that the author argues against reading our own assumptions about a doctrine of the inspiration and authority of scripture into the text while being blind to the things that are shaping his own re-reading of that same text. And he fails to address the theological implications of his position. What does the idea of redemption mean if in fact there was no fall but we all just sin? How may one die for all if one did not act for all in sinning? How can the resurrection of one mean new life for all who believe? One may argue that God is able to do this even if Paul was mistaken about the historicity of Adam as our federal head. But what have we given away in terms of the trustworthiness of scripture in the process of these theological moves?
Fundamentally, I think this author makes a similar mistake to that of the fundamentalists. He feels compelled to force some kind of reconciliation of evolution and the biblical account, in this case by sacrificing important elements of the biblical account. I think I would rather live with the tension of leaving these unreconciled and let scientists do good science (and not more than this) and to encourage biblical scholars to carefully study the biblical testimony in it historical-cultural context without forcing a reconciliation or synthesis of the two, which is usually satisfying to neither.