As I related in my previous post (postures and orientations of the WTS debate), I’ve had trouble getting away from the recently released Westminster documents.
For those of you who are having trouble following the essay in which Peter Lillback’s attacks Peter Enns, Hermeneutical Crisis and the Westminster Standards, I thought I could provide a brief outline that follows the headings in the articles and the essay’s “line of argument.” 😉
[N.B. Reference to “God Bless America” and “apple pie” under point V and the “stake” in the conclusion are fictitious.]
OUTLINE (sort of)
I. (pages 2-9/104-111) Harvie Conn would have supported Enns. Wait . . . the entire faculty of Westminster wrote a whole book on Inerrancy in 1988 and only cited the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) eight times – only the first chapter and never I.9 (p. 6n29 ); Bultmann gets eight citations too.
II. Enns might be okay as far as WCF is concerned, but if we consider the catechisms and the Westminster/OPC/PCA statements of subscription, then we’ve got him (p. 10 ).
II.B Given criticisms of primacy afforded to Westminster Standards (including by Conn n.45), the real question is what do the Standards say (p. 11 )
III. A string of enough quotes from [the new divines? “magisterium”] Silva, Turretin, Gaffin, Kuyper, Berkouwer, Warfield, Bavinck, Young, Schaff, D.A. Carson(?), Episcopious (?), Poythress should overwhelm you with the view that the Standards are necessary for hermeneutics . . . and Enns – unlike Young – is a heretic because he is “vague and undefined.” (p. 14n51/116)
IV. Avoid science (Berkouwer and Kuyper), it leads to “irresolute doubt (18/120).” The Westminster Confession and confessional theology are the only exceptions to the “Scripture interprets Scripture rule (p. 19 ).” [But see also VII.7 below.]
V. Turetin [sic n. 71] and Berkouwer say that Enns is wrong to “emphasize” the humanity of Scripture and to consider extrabiblical evidence (20/122). With his “risks, unexpected bumps, twists, and turns” (2x here – plus the conclusion) Enns’s “provisional” doctrine of Scripture is denying sola Scriptura, the “infallible rule of interpretation,” the Confession, the Larger Catechism (i.e. the Reformed tradition), God Bless America, and apple pie. (p. 22-/124) [Note from editor: I felt like choking when I retyped these mots qui fache as the French say.]
Is the Bible still the word of God? Rally to arms, my friends; we are in crisis!!
VI. Help me Bavinck, Young, Carson and Helm; Enns “disturbingly” avoids our favorite theological terms [and capital “W”/Latin “V” ] (30/132 cf. n. 87 – thanks Justin) – at least where I’ve chosen to quote him. 4 consequences (p. 31/133).
VII. When you compare Inspiration and Incarnation contra the Westminster Standards, Enns’s “views are incompatible with the Westminster Confession of Faith” or the catechisms if we can’t nail him with the Confession. Read: Enns is a heretic.
- Forget section four of the HFC response. (I didn’t read it either?); Enns is a heretic.
- ?? [Read it for yourself; it’s only one paragraph (33/135).] Enns is a heretic for being in a “continual conversation” with Scripture.
- Let me give a series of quotes from the WCF about the humanness of the Bible (35/137) and then say that Enns is a heretic for talking about its humanness.
- The “infallible rule” is itself infallible because it talks about the infallible Bible. Our doctrines of Scripture are therefore infallible, not provisional. Enns is a heretic for saying doctrines are provisional.
- The Bible needs to be read as a “timeless rulebook” because the Confession and Catechisms use the word “rule” many times and because LC 99 tells us to obey the 10 rules (commandments). Plus in his vows, Enns said that the bible was a “rule” (of faith and practice.) [I’m curious, what do the Standards say about the bible as an “owner’s manual” – see I&I 169 right next to “”timeless rulebook.”]
- I know the Christological focus of the Bible is one of the major theological paradigms advanced by the Confession (among others like covenants and kingdoms, which are not Christologically focused?), BUT man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. Therefore, the christotelic hermeneutic offered by Enns “necessitates a christonomism.” (Therefore, in case you didn’t know that christonomism is a heresy, Enns is a heretic.)
- ?? [Somebody help me with the line of argument here . . . ?? Our hermeneutical rules are infallible because they describe the infallible infallible rule, which is infallible because it describes the infallible Scriptures (see 4 above)?? Plus the LC99 describes the 10 rules ??] Since Enns admits that there are no “clear rules or guidelines for not taking this process too far” (I&I p. 171 – my favorite “bumps, twists, and turns” above), therefore Enns denies all hermeneutics (rules of exegesis), therefore Enns is a heretic.
Conclusion: Crossroads, Slippery Slope and Watershed. Lets reframe this crisis in terms of Schaeffer’s existential neo-orthodoxy. I appeal to Luther! In case you forgot, Enns is the anti-Luther; “bumps, twists, and turns” again! Let’s sing a Lutheran hymn to feel more pious and psyche ourselves up for burning the unrepentant Enns at the stake (if only we were in the golden age of orthodoxy – p. 2n10). [Sorry, very low blow.]
END OF OUTLINE:
Hope this helps as you plow through the essay. Let me know if you find any errors or points of disagreement. As soon as I finished reading Lillback’s essay, I turned to Enns’s conclusion in Inspiration and Incarnation (Ch. 5, where’s Lillback’s favorite “bumps, twist, and turns” quote comes from.) – not by judgmental suspicion, fear, polarization, power plays and hostility, but by humility, love, and patience (I&I p. 172). [Sorry, guilty as charged.]
The “Historical and Theological Field Committee Report” is especially depressing. The Report makes it clear that Enns’ heterodoxy was already a settled issue for these colleagues; there is no real engagement with his book, no reflection on the theological questions, and certainly not even a glimmer of self-critical humility. Every question is settled in advance; the authors are invincibly persuaded of their own rightness.
. . .It’s sadly revealing to see the way objections against Enns are simply piled up, willy-nilly, without any modesty or sense of proportion. . .
Frankly, I think the essay is an embarrassment. I realize that presidents of academic institutions are often selected more for their vision or administrative skills (or even willingness to take on an unforgiving job) than necessarily their scholarship or academic rigor. Still, in my opinion, Lillback’s essay is a disservice to the integrity and reputation of WTS.
In the preceding paragraphs he writes:
The climactic passage of Lillback’s own essay poses the possibilities as an either/or crossroads for WTS that forces a stark choice: either sola scriptura or Enns, either “the evangelical doctrine of scripture” or Enns, either “Luther” or Enns, either “standing on God’s word” or Enns. While Lillback’s formal recommendation may have stopped short of suggesting termination, it seems clear to me that the burden of his essay pushed for more decisive action.
Concerning the essay itself, it is a peculiar piece. The footnotes, overall, are more extensive than the main text and contain a great deal of the essay’s argument, a method into which academics like me can too easily slip, but which is considered poor form (I’ve seen it referred to as “footnote disease” by the style manuals).
Further, the method of argumentation seems somewhat scatter shot. While the main theme is the Westminster Confession’s statement that “the only infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself,” the actual argument ranges over a vast host of topics.
The essay strikes me as an attempt to grab and deploy any and every possible tool against Enns’s book, drawing upon negative reviews, repeating various aspects of the HTFC report, and amassing various lists of quotations from Inspiration and Incarnation (often isolated phrases, taken out of context), hoping that among these various tools, something makes a dent. Strangely, the essay doesn’t seem even to acknowledge the HFC reply to the HTFC report from nearly a year earlier, but rather makes a number of the same, already-criticized moves that the HTFC report did, without any real revision or acknowledgment of their problematic character.
Rhetorically, as noted above, the essay appears designed to provoke a response and sets out options in the starkest terms, an approach that would prima facie seem able to gain traction only with those already disposed to its conclusions.