On March 26th, 2008 the Westminster Theological Seminary’s Board of Trustees convened for an emergency meeting with the Institutional Personnel Committee to address the crisis of persistent faculty disunity. When the day was over, the board decided to suspend a member of the faculty, effective the end of that school year. During the same meeting, the Institutional Personnel Committee also submitted their recommendation that this professor be terminated from his employment at the Seminary. On August 1st, 2008, the Westminster’s academic teaching career finally came to an end for Old Testament Associate Professor Peter Enns.
The events that unfolded in 2008 at Westminster were the result of nearly two years of controversy concerning a book Enns authored titled Inspiration and Incarnation. In the opening sentence to the first chapter, he describes how “the purpose of this book is to bring an evangelical doctrine of Scripture into conversation with the implications generated by some important themes in modern biblical scholarship—particularly Old Testament scholarship—over the past 150 years.” At the center of the storm was Enns’s attempt to reorient Evangelical’s bibliology, with a model that he calls the “Incarnational model of Scripture.” According to Enns’s estimation, “the Incarnational Analogy of Scripture, although only an analogy, is a powerful pastoral and persuasive theological model, one that I feel evangelicals could call upon much more intentionally than seems to be the case.” Enns believed that this “analogy can be used to benefit lay readers who confess by faith the mystery of the incarnation and who are looking for orthodox ways of making sense of challenging scriptural data.”
Yet how could a model that seems to be so promising for Evangelical bibliology in the eyes of its author, receive the type of criticisms that it has received? Surprising are the criticisms from Enns’s own quarters of Evangelical Reformed scholars. Speaking of Inspiration and Incarnation, G. K. Beale describes his motive for critiquing it: “I believe there are people who will be disturbed and have their faith unnecessarily unsettled.” In his review of the book, Carson raises concern that Enns “fails to see how Christian belief is genuinely warranted by Scripture.” It has been suggested by John Frame and Paul Helm that Enns’s model suffers from the defects of being vague and unclear. Certainly, if the Incarnational Model of Scripture has a problem of being vague, then it is questionable how useful the model is for “making sense of challenging scriptural data.”
While the controversy might be over at the faculty level at Westminster, Enn’s has since gone on to become the Senior Fellow of Biblical studies at the controversial Biologos Forum. Given Enn’s recent activity, he will have a broader audience beyond the specialized area of Old Testament theology and peer-reviewed journals to advocate his Incarnational model of Scripture. This fact alone might suggest that it is worthwhile to have yet another Evangelical interaction with his model for bibliology.
Certainly it is true that one must first understand something correctly before one can have a proper evaluation of it. One way to help understand Enns’s Incarnational model of Scripture is to get to the foundation of his theological method. In his interaction with Enns’s material, Helm makes a helpful statement: “Questions of method are fundamental to the problems that arise in formulating any Christian doctrine, including the doctrine of Scripture.” Taking cues from Helm’s statement about the importance of method, this essay will seek to understand and evaluate Peter Enns’s model at the level of his theological method. Understanding the theological method goes beyond just a correct comprehension of the model presented: it is a quest to identify those precommitments which structures the questions that the model is trying to answer, the tools selected to answer the questions, and the norms which adjudicate what is and is not acceptable as evidence, etc. Understanding Enns at this foundational level provides greater details for a more thorough critique of his model rather than ad hoc criticisms. Even if this leads to the discovery of more disagreements, focusing on theological methods can shed more light than heat in the conversation for all the parties involved, with the result that participants may become more conscious of factors that often go undetected in the task of theology.
Enns sets his Incarnational model of Scripture against traditional, evangelical formulation of bibliology. He argues for his model largely by employing rebutting defeaters, believing that his model can account for developments “felt over the past 150 years or so” which “presents challenges to traditional, evangelical views about Scripture.” Believing these problems leveled against traditional evangelical bibliology are real, Enns proposes that these “problems” can be accounted for in the Incarnational model, by viewing them as part of the human element of Scripture.
Space does not permit any lengthy discussion of traditional evangelical bibliology; instead the scope of this paper will focus narrowly on the proposal that Enns’s Incarnational model of Scripture is an inadequate replacement for traditional bibliology. This is due to the deficiencies of the necessary theological method behind Enns’s formulation of his bibliology. These problems can be grouped into three main categories: (1) a problematic model of coherence and relevance that drives the direction of the Incarnation analogy (2) Enns criteria of what constitute evidences and his handling of it in support of the analogy, (3) and the failure of the analogy to satisfy its own stated purpose. The first problem can be quite metaphysical in nature, whereas the second is epistemological, and the third is a pragmatic evaluation of whether the model “works”.
One important note is needed before evaluating the method behind the Incarnational Model of Scripture. One has to remember that Enns’s Inspiration and Incarnation’s “primary audience” is “evangelical and non-academic.” Enns has expressed dissatisfaction with his critics, expecting academic rigors with Inspiration and Incarnation when the expected audiences are not technical scholars. To be fair, the primary sources for this essay in extrapolating Enn’s theological method will be from materials that Enns has presented in formal academic venues such as theological journals and papers addressing fellow scholars. This serves to avoid the frustration with the book’s broad generalities of whom Enns is reacting to: instead of identifying specific individuals of scholars and theologians, the book’s constant use of labels such as “conservatives”, “fundamentalists”, “Evangelicals” and “evangelical scholars” makes one wonder if they are mere phantoms that he is encountering. At times when he writes “Evangelicals”, one wonders if he is talking about scholars or lay readers, when he writes “scholars”, it is difficult to determine who he is referring to. Thus, it is more fruitful to interact with the specifics and concrete examples found elsewhere. While this essay will interact at times with Inspiration and Incarnation when it is relevant, it is in his academic writing that Enns’s theological method crystallizes.
Enns’s Model of Coherence and Relevance
In an article on theological exegesis, Enns had a discussion about having models of coherence and relevance in approaching the text of Scripture. He provided a definition of theological exegesis as reading the Scripture in light of it’s coherence and relevance, and further defining coherence and relevance: “Theological exegesis of the Old Testament is a distinctively Christian reading that seeks coherence and relevance: coherence, meaning it seeks to understand the parts in relation to the whole; relevance, meaning it seeks to focus on the theological significance of such exegesis for the church.” Besides exegesis, Enns believed that the model of coherence and relevance has another purpose, functioning as an important paradigm in understanding the fundamentalist versus modernist controversy. Enns’s article argued of “how traditional models of coherence and relevance were challenged in early historical-critical scholarship on the Old Testament” and “how historical criticism and fundamentalism collided precisely because they offered alternate and competing models of coherence and relevance.” His observation here is worth quoting,
“It is true to a certain point to say that modern scholarship on the Pentateuch has disrupted previous models of coherence and relevance. But we are mistaken if we think of this as merely a negative (i.e., “critical”) exercise—simply an “attack” on the Bible. There is more to it. We must ask ourselves a question that I feel is too little asked in evangelical circles: why did such a supposedly purely disruptive, negative approach become so widely accepted? Why was there a “critical orthodoxy” to begin with? There are many possible, valid, and complex dimensions to answering these kinds of questions, but surely there is much more to it than they were all rebels against God, looking for ways to undermine Scripture. That may very well be true in some instances (in fact I think it is), but that hardly explains this phenomenon as a whole. Rather, higher criticism caught on because it was found to be persuasive—not simply because it destroyed coherence and relevance, as if all modern scholars were looking for ways to rid themselves of traditional belief. It was persuasive because it offered an alternate means of achieving coherence and relevance— one that spoke to many modern readers. The lasting impact of modern criticism on the Pentateuch—the reason why it was persuasive to so many, the reason why after 300 years or so, although regularly adjusted and revised, it continues to set parameters in the academic study of Scripture, even now to a certain extent for evangelicals—the reason for this is not because it rejected coherence—but becauseit achieved far too much of it. It did not simply tear the Bible apart, but it put it back together again in ways that gained, perhaps not universal, but broad scholarly consensus.”
Enns’s observations are insightful. Though Enns does not state it in print here, everyone who engages in theology has some sort of model of coherence and relevance, whether one is aware of it or not. By engaging in theology, an individual would have some concepts which regulate the formulation of doctrines and its relationship to other doctrines (coherence), and believe that the task is meaningful because there is some kind of existential value in practicing theology (relevance). In fact, as Enns demonstrated above, criticism against one model often reveal another model operating behind the “disruption”.
Enns article makes it plain that he distances himself from the fundamentalist’s model of coherence and relevance. Concerning the fundamentalist’s “urgency to resist higher criticism and to maintain pre-critical models of coherence and relevance,” this was for Enns “understandable, in that higher criticism was seen as a threat to such notions as inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility.” But he saw the old pre-critical model becoming irrelevant in a world that has been exposed to the historical critical method: “But when the dust settles from detailed points of debate, the fact remains that the history of Old Testament historical criticism in general has posed real challenges for traditional understandings of coherence and relevance.”
Enns does not flesh out the details of the fundamentalist’s model or its problems, nor does he describe what this pre-critical model looks like in his understanding. Nevertheless, Enns believed it was important to find another alternative:
“Again, without wishing to minimize the legitimate observations of fundamentalism, there are elements of the fundamentalist critique that have made the argument as a whole less effective than it might have been. This, it seems to me, is because the arguments seemed geared to maintaining at all costs an older model of coherence and relevance, rather than offering some sort of synthesis, even of a very modified sort, between traditional views and newer data. In other words, what I wish had happened in the nineteenth century was an articulation of a high view of Scripture that was deliberately in dialog with the impact of things like ancient Near Eastern data or post-mosaica. But rather than offering a persuasive alternative to the modern paradigm, it focused mainly on the salvaging of an older one. And the reason for this, to me, is very important to understand. It is because the survival of the Gospel itself was seen to be dependent upon the success of the older model.”
On the other hand, Enns was not in favor of wholesale acceptance of the higher critic’s model either. He felt that this model promoted autonomy, rebellion, arrogance and sin. Enns has less to say about this model than the fundamentalist’s model. Unlike the fundamentalist’s model though, he does believe the critical model is worthy of being conversational partners in one’s theological formulations, though he cautions that believers must have “a chastening and even correcting role over-against modernist hegemony and over-confidence in its own conclusions.” It seems Enns preferred a chastened version of the modern’s model of coherence and relevance rather than accept the fundamentalist’s model. Further details Enns describe of his own model support this.
Knowing the type of relevance Enns subscribe to is a key to understanding his theological method. To have this knowledge is to know the audience that Enns wishes to benefit from his bibliology. Knowing also the conversational partners Enns sought in his formulation of his Incarnational analogy reveals a lot as to the concerns, input and direction that he would take. Enns’s idea of theological relevance goes beyond the idea of expounding the significance of a particular passage for the life of the Church. He believes that the result of exegesis must have some relevance to the conversation with modern non-evangelical scholars: for such a “theological exegesis, if it is to be successful, cannot stand at a safe distance from modern scholarship,” and “it must be truly progressive, meaning it must be a project undertaken in light of and in conversation with the Bible in the modern world.” 
For Enns, the direction of one’s theological method is determined by whether a doctrinal formulation continues to be relevant to the conversation with modern non-evangelical scholars. Concerning the possibility that the stories in Genesis such as Noah’s flood were the pristine factual account of events rather than the rest of Ancient Near East (hereafter, ANE) versions, he expressed his sentiments of why one should reject such a view: “Yes, I suppose one could insists on such a thing, but it would be very difficult for someone holding to such a view to have a meaningful conversation with linguists and historians of the ancient world.” Since this is the only argument offered against the theory, the obvious litmus test for Enns is whether or not it will be relevant and meaningful for modern scholars outside evangelical circles. Frame’s thought about Enn’s statement is frank at this point: “I cannot see this as anything but a desire for academic respectability. Enns, like many evangelicals, wants to be invited to the table with the mainstream scholars. I don’t condemn that motive, but it does not provide any kind of argument for his hypothesis.”
Enn’s particular litmus test runs the risk of making himself into a theological “transformer” rather than a theological “translator”, at least in the area of his bibliology. David Clark explains the designation of “transformers” versus “translators”:
“Transformers are those who, in their attempt to connect the gospel to current culture, alter the gospel fundamentally. Transformers, like the God-is-dead theologians, lose touch with Christian tradition and with Scripture. Translators, on the other hand, may speak a new language in addressing their context, but they faithfully proclaim what the church has always taught. Their message is established biblically, even though their message is shaped culturally.”
If Enn’s litmus test of relevance suggests the possible danger of his theological method, then the following consideration of the type of coherence he subscribes to leaves no doubt that his model of coherence and relevance presents a real danger in his own methodological process behind the Incarnational Analogy.
Enns’s form of coherence goes beyond the idea of a passage’s relationship to the whole of Scripture. His model for coherence requires biblical passages to cohere with extra-biblical materials as well. In discussing the modernist’s type of coherence he writes,
“As I see it, the relevance achieved through modern criticism is largely a matter of intellectual compatibility rather than personal moral behavior. The Bible’s relevance in modern criticism is seen in how the recently re-constructed coherence now makes the Bible compatible with the modern worldview—this is a Bible ‘we can live with.’”
“It should be noted that the type of coherence offered by source criticism could only be achieved by moving beyond the surface, so-called “plain” reading of the text toward a radical re-reading of the text in light of contemporary worldviews and expectations.”
Enns’s description of the modernist’s type of coherence as “re-reading the text in light of contemporary worldviews” and making “the Bible compatible with the modern worldview” also describes his own form of coherence: instead of fitting Scripture to the presuppositions of modernity, he attempts to fit the Bible according to a worldview that show traces of post-modernity.
In Beale’s review of Inspiration and Incarnation, he wrote how he believed Enns “has been too influenced by some of the extremes of post-modern thought.” Enns took this remark as a deliberate attempt to use an emotionally loaded term against him. Beale disagrees, explaining in his surrejoinder that “I do not mean it in any emotive sense, only in the sense that modern standards of rational thought are inapplicable to judging ancient expressions of thinking, a typical trait of even those who would refer to themselves as evangelical postmodernists and do not see it as a negative term.” An assessment of Enns’s beliefs concerning the role of logic, the relationship of truth and error, and historicity does show that Enns believes that “modern standards of rational thoughts” are “inapplicable to judging ancient expressions of thinking”. The type of coherence Enns demands in his theological method does have postmodern tendencies.
Enns’s rejection of the modern standard for rational thought is best seen in his published article evaluating the methodological assumption of William Henry Green. It is important first to put Green in perspective before any further discussion of Enns’s evaluation. Green was an Old Testament professor who was elected in 1851 as the chair of the Biblical and Oriental Literature department at Princeton Seminary, a position he held until his death in 1900. Green represented what later scholars termed Old Princeton theology, “which was rooted in Scottish Realism and Reformed Confessionalism,” and a theological method “which began with certain premises regarding the nature of the scriptures and then went on to embrace all of modern learning which would fit into the accepted positions regarding the scriptures.”
His academic teaching career came during an important time of biblical studies, when scholarship was hostile towards the faith, and began making inroads into the seminaries and denominational leadership of various Christian churches. According to Enns, “Green’s reputation, however, was largely built around his defense of Princeton’s doctrine of Scripture in the context of shifting views in the world of OT scholarship in the latter half of the nineteenth century.”
Green’s work attempted to establish the orthodox faith in the Bible and it’s teaching concerning the nature of Scripture. His contribution was meant to be a thorough and rational defense against those who attack the traditional view of the Pentateuch. As Enns stated,
“There can be little question that Green has done subsequent conservative scholarship a service in outlining the weaknesses of the critical arguments of the time. In fact, many of his observations are still pertinent today and stand as lasting contributions to Christian thought, so much so that those still wishing to take to task current source theories of the Pentateuch would have to begin with the writings of William Henry Green before proceeding with their own.”
A survey of contemporary literature refuting the documentary hypothesis reveals that some of his original arguments are still employed today. What is rather surprising is how many of Green’s arguments have been ignored by advocates for the documentary hypothesis proponents then as well as now. Old Testament scholar Ronald Youngblood believed that Green’s definitive work, The Higher Criticism of the Pentateuch “is a closely reasoned critique that still awaits a decisive rejoinder.”
Yet, Enns does express serious reservation concerning his own theological method, particularly with what he believes are Green’s use of “modern” standard for rational thought in defense of the ancient Pentateuch. Enns believed that for an Evangelical to do so would be “sharing assumptions with his critical opponents.” He fleshes out his reservation as follows,
“It is my contention that the nature of Green’s defense of mosaic authorship is actually founded upon a number of assumptions that he himself shares with his critical opponents. In reading through Green’s arguments for mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, I have stopped myself occasionally to ask what those assumptions are. Why does he proceed along certain logical paths? In attempting to follow Green’s line of thinking, I began compiling a list of assumptions that he appears to make. It is partly the thesis of this essay that Green’s defense of the gospel would have taken on a very different shape had that defense included questioning the modernist assumptions of his critics rather than participating in them.”
To be fair, Greens does challenge his opponent’s assumptions in his apologetics. Enns should know better. His challenge against modernists’ methodological assumptions can be seen in his early work, titled The Pentateuch Vindicated from the Aspersions of Bishop Colenso, which is the primary source Enns interact with in his article. The work is almost a point by point response to Colenso concerning the arithmetical problems in the Pentateuch. Taylor notes one example of Green’s challenge of the modernist’s methodological assumption found in The Pentateuch Vindicated from the Aspersions of Bishop Colenso,
“In his preliminary remarks Green addresses the issue of presuppositions. Against Colenso, whom Green suggests comes to the texts looking for apparent inconsistencies and difficulties, Green proposes that a reader of the OT should come to the text expecting it to make sense, expecting that the events to which it refers are historical and accurately recorded.”
Rather than it being the case of Green not challenging the modernist’s assumptions of his opponents, it is probably more accurate to say that Green does challenge modernists’ disagreeable assumptions and yet shares some common methodological assumptions which provide standards for rational thought. It is these norms for rational thought that Enns strongly objects to.
One such law of rational thought Enns find troubling is the law of non-contradiction. Enns describes how this rule has compelled Christians in the past to attempt to harmonize discrepancies found in Scripture. But he believed that Evangelicals needs to move beyond this, even suggesting rational explanations and reconciliation are no longer needed. Understanding Enn’s methodological move here would explain why the Incarnational model intentionally does not “wipe away troubles” or provides “final answers to these types of questions.” For Enns, he doubts the law of non-contradiction: “What would be needed is to call into question the thoroughly modernist-critical assumption that discrepancy/contradiction = error/mistake.” Doubting the law of non-contradiction, it frees any apparent or actual contradictions from the trouble of the law and if any are found on the pages of Scripture, they would be nothing more than a reflection of the “human” side to Scripture. This fact brings light upon why the Incarnational approach is content with a mere “attempt to begin and orient a discussion rather than posing a final solution to the problems,” despite concerns from “the context of modern biblical studies where the ‘humanity’ of Scripture has been so relentlessly and unavoidably laid before us.” This is what a model of Scripture looks like when compelled to cohere with Enn’s doubt of the law of non-contradiction.
Enns believes that the consequence of denying the law of non-contradiction (which affects one’s hermeneutics) results in a demonstration of God’s power through the “weakness” of Scripture: “There is a reason why Scripture looks the way it does, with all its bumps and bruises, peaks and valleys, gaps and gashes—it is to exalt God’s power, not ours.” He does not explain how showing the “weakness” of Scripture would exalt God’s power. Such a methodological precommitment against the law of non-contradiction raises other serious methodological problems. Beale puts forth the following argument,
“The laws of contradiction (or non-contradiction) and identity would seem to be part of the faculties of all human beings, as a result of their creation by God in his image. Without these abilities humans would not be able to communicate with one another or perceive correctly (not exhaustively but definitely in part) the created world. Enns seems to have confused the use of reason, which is an aspect of general revelation, with certain kinds of purported modern history writings and precise kinds of modern scientific knowledge. But these most basic laws of logical thought are quite operable for both modern and pre-modern people. Indeed, people could not communicate without assuming the truth of these foundational notions of logic (if I say something is red, it means that it is red and not green; or if I say the Chicago White Sox won the world series last year, I mean they won it and not the New York Yankees [here I would add that when Exodus says that God defeated the Egyptians that the text means he defeated the Egyptians and not the Babylonians]). When people do not presuppose these most basic laws of thinking, then they have difficulty communicating and living in the world. The same is true with ancient communication.”
Enns in his response to Beale, insists on the exclusion of the law of non-contradiction in shaping one’s bibliology. Enns’s reply failed to interact with Beale’s argument for the necessity of the laws of logic in communication, a relevant argument since Scripture is God’s means of communicating to man.
Even Enns himself cannot be consistent in his denial of the law of non-contradiction in the process of theology. Enns stated, “An articulation of Christian coherence and relevance is not simple but hard, collective work.” If the claim that he makes is to be intelligible, it requires that the law of non-contradition to be true. When Enns says to the effect that “articulating Christian coherence and relevance is…hard, collective work”, he is not saying at the same time, in the same sense, “articulating Christian coherence and relevance is not a hard and collective work.” Thus, one cannot extrapolate from his statement to mean a Christian model of coherence and relevance is a simple task to be done alone. To do so would be misunderstanding Enns, or worst, intentionally misrepresenting him. Enns believes one should not misunderstand the meaning of a writer’s communication, but a necessary prerequisite for this is the law of non-contradiction.
Enns counter-argument against Beale was to object that the law of non-contradiction “runs the risk of basing our doctrine of inerrancy on a foundation outside of Scripture.” If the basis of his objection is to reject coherence of Scripture to anything external of it, then this provides the undercutting defeater against his own methodology as well, which relies heavily on appeals to ANE materials. Beale surrejoinder notes the irony: “In fact, to turn the tables on Enns, it appears to be Enns who is allowing extra-biblical sources to define the nature of scriptural inspiration, since he affirms that the genre of Genesis is best defined as ‘myth.’” Throughout his academic writings, Enns constantly invokes ANE records to support his particular view, such as his interaction with the historicity of Exodus: “It is very helpful to consider, first of all, the degree to which ancient Near Eastern literature can lend support to the historical plausibility of the biblical exodus story.” Enns objection to the law of non-contradiction would undermine and exclude the very methodological tools he uses.
It is impossible for Enns to surmount the problems that come with denying the law of non-contradiction, no matter how hard he tries. The more one argues against the law of non-contradiction (with additional premises to back the conclusion), the more one presupposes the necessity of the law of non-contradiction (these additional premises are assumed not to mean something else other than what it is).
A related precommitment Enns has against modern standard of rationality is the importance of the fine line between truth and non-truth. His doubt is crafted in the form of a question, “Are modern standards of truth and error so universal that we should expect premodern cultures to have understood them?” To this question he concludes that current standards of rationality are “somewhat myopic and should be called into question.” Beale offers the his rebuttal,
“Enns affirms that one cannot use modern definitions of ‘truth’ and ‘error’ in order to perceive whether or not scripture contains “truth” or “error.” First, this is nonfalsifiable, since Enns never says what would count as an “error” according to ancient standards. Second, this is reductionistic, since there were some rational and even scientific categories at the disposal of ancient peoples for evaluating the observable world that are in some important ways commensurable to our own.”
Enns’s rejection of the laws of non-contradiction and his suspicion of applying the standard of truth unto the Scriptures leads to a corollary precommitment that denies “‘history’ and “fiction” are mutually exclusive.” To put it another way, it is not important to say whether Scripture reflect historical facts or a work of fiction. One sees that this assumption colors Enns’s bibliology where the Bible can be categorized as myth, alongside other ANE stories. Rather than accept the common definition of myth as “untrue stories”, which assumes a black and white theory of truth, Enns re-defined myth as “an ancient, premodern, prescientific way of addressing questions of ultimate origins and meaning in the forms of stories: Who are we? Where do we come from?” This definition makes truth a non-issue. Frame writes, “The problem is that to call the Genesis flood a myth and then to adopt Enns’ definition of myth is to gloss over one of the main questions people have in examining that story. He raises a non-issue (How can a revealed book be culturally conditioned?) and avoids a real issue (Did the flood actually take place?).” Yet, Christianity believes it is important about “what really happened” as opposed to fanciful stories coming from the source of one’s imagination rather than description of events having occurrence in real state of affairs. Therefore, to deescalate the importance of historicity and then categorize the Bible as being a myth (as Enns define it) does injustice to the Scriptures. Again, Frame writes,
“This is rather different from many definitions of myth, but I will let that pass. In this definition and in its context, Enns intentionally avoids the question of whether these stories relate what “really happened.” But that is of course the issue. Certainly the biblical stories fit this definition of myth. Indeed, if you drop the term “origins” from the definition, all the stories of the Bible fit this definition. The Resurrection of Jesus addresses the question of our ultimate meaning in the form of a story. But the Bible itself insists that the Resurrection story, in addition to addressing the question of our ultimate meaning, tells us something that really happened. Indeed, the Resurrection would not be effective in declaring our ultimate meaning if it had not really happened. Enns’ definition of myth avoids the question of whether these stories narrate real history, and in doing so it avoids the most important problem raised in this connection.”
Bringing in systematic theology into the discussion is helpful at this point. Enns welcomes the input of systematic theology in addressing the topic models of coherence and relevance: “But whatever efforts are expended by biblical interpreters to address matters of coherence and relevance must be in serious conversation with our own systematic theological heritage. But it is hoped that such a conversation would truly be a two-way street.” Though Enns says this, a survey of Enns’s academic writings and in Inspiration and Incarnation reveals an omission of any significant input from systematic theology. To make the conversation become “a two way street”, it is wise to bring the doctrine of the authority of Scripture to bear on the topic.
In the Incarnational analogy, the authority of Scripture must be derived from the “God” aspect of Scripture. That is because “it is God who gives revelation, it is he, not any human recipient, who grounds authority.” The Bible’s authority, stemming from God Himself, lays the foundation for Sola Scriptura that stresses the Bible is the lone, ultimate authority. The authority of the Word of God is moral and veracious in nature. “The phrase ‘veracious authority’ means that someone can communicate truth to an audience such that, because of who the communicator is, the audience is rational or justified in accepting the message as true.” Frame, in his forthcoming Doctrine of the Word of God, explains that this authority stems to all the portion of Scripture: “Since Scripture is God’s personal word, all of it is authoritative, for, as Paul says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Tim. 3:16), not just those parts that we find attractive, cogent, relevant, or culturally respectable.”
This doctrine has implication for the Christian life, and how Christian lives out their theology: “Evangelical theology’s affirmation of the Scripture Principle –the Reformation cry, sola scriptura –involves a dual commitment to the innate authority of the Bible and to an explicit, functional submission to that authority.” What does a functional submission to veracious authority mean? It means “trusting the authority of some person amounts to accepting testimony. Believing an idea as true because some authority declares its truth is essentially embracing the say-so of some person as warrant for believing.” The issue comes down to this: Does not the authority of God’s Word imply that the Bible must be telling the truth? Unfortunately, Enns’s precommitment that historical truth cannot be neatly separated from fiction in the Scriptures is an act that does not submit fully to God’s veracious authority, since Enns is committed not to deny that Scripture is a work of fiction. Rather than question the authority of God’s Word, it is better to question Enn’s methodological precommitment instead.
Enns’s Consideration of the Evidences
This paper cannot follow all the lines of evidences Enns presents in Inspiration and Incarnation. What follows is a treatment of Enns’s philosophy of facts divided into two sections: (1) Enns’ criteria of what constitutes evidences (2) and the priorities between the classes of evidences.
Criteria of What Constitutes Evidence
Enns’s model of coherence and relevance demand that his bibliology cohere with Ancient Near East texts. According to Enns, “not nearly enough evangelical work has been done in helping us work through the implications of such ancient Near Eastern texts.”
Enns can be dogmatically naïve when it comes to the nature of evidences. In Inspiration and Incarnation, Enns reveals that the strategy of the book was “to lay out a few examples of things that are universally accepted as demonstrations of the human situatedness of Scripture—the very thing that is causing readers problems—and to present these examples unapologetically, in as stark and uncompromising a manner as that of hostile commentators, be it in a book, on cable TV, or in a classroom.” Enns wanted to establish the “human” aspect to his Incarnational model with support from “things that are universally accepted”. Yet, it is debatable whether there is anything that can achieve universal acceptance. One has to wonder why controversies surrounds Enns’s model of Scripture then, if things were so simple as listing evidences that are universally accepted that supports his view. Here Enns parallels the Old Princetonian theologians whom he frequently criticizes for their subconscious dogmatic adoption of Scottish common sense realism. Enns suffers from the same spell he so readily sees in these theologians, where the evidences for his position are naively assumed to be “universally acknowledged” despite the contrary. Beale writes on the problem of Enns’s alleged use of “universally accepted” evidences:
“Any reading of Enns’s book will reveal that a number of the issues that he discusses are of crucial theological significance and vigorously debated by scholars of varying theological perspectives—indeed, to say the least, these are matters about which there is no “universally accepted” position, especially if one is comparing traditional non-evangelical, neo-evangelical, and traditional evangelical positions (though, if one has in view that the only viable positions to survey are non-evangelical positions, then one might be able to say there is “universal acceptance” within this restricted community on such issues). But he has chosen to present only one side on these issues, and, strikingly, it is the side that has been traditionally held by non-evangelical scholars.”
Why is it that what appears to be evidence for one individual might not be seen as evidence for another? And why are there even debates among knowledgeable scholars within specialized scientific fields of study? Poythress answers,
“Data are never ‘hard facts,’ completely independent of any theory. What counts as data depends on the disciplinary matrix, or framework of assumptions, that scientists use. All data is ‘theory-laden’…the current disciplinary matrix affects how scientists make observations, what they think the observations actually measures, and what kinds of data or experiments are relevant to the outstanding open questions in their field.”
One needs to remember the point that Poythress was making, how evidential data already come “theory-laden” when presented as evidences. Enns does say, “And we must always remember that all data are to be interpreted, which introduces the issue of one’s presuppositions.” But his acknowledgment of this truth remains superficial, given his view that the evidences are “universally accepted” and his lack of interaction with other scholars on his interpretation of the ANE data.
Besides the direct didactic teaching found in Scripture, Enns’s also accepts what he call’s Scripture’s “phenomena” as evidence in shaping his bibliology: “What we are to learn from Scripture’s self-attestation, in both its didactic statements and phenomena, is that Scripture, being of divine origin, is nevertheless a product that is also thoroughly human and contextualized, and that when we read Scripture, both factors must come to bear on our interpretation.” Enns never defined “phenomena”. It seems “phenomena” are elements found in Scripture that are not propositional in nature, to include things such as styles and genres of the text. These have a “human”, or cultural aspect to it, since God’s means of communication came in forms understandable to man. Understandably, another type of data that he accepts in shaping his Incarnational analogy are ANE texts which provide the contextual background of Scripture’s genre.
As one can see above in Enns’s case, the precommitments involved in the criteria of evidences are discriminatory by nature: of all the information out there, it excludes some as irrelevant and some as relevant. Enns’s evidences are discriminated in light of his model of theological relevance and coherence as well.
The priorities between the classes of evidence
When one’s criteria of evidences determines the evidential status to the data, priorities among the evidence will eventually be shaped, as questions about the relationship between evidences emerges: Are some evidences stronger than others? Of the data, what are the necessary and the circumstantial evidences?
Of the three streams of evidences that Enns accepts, priority should be given to the didactic teaching of Scripture. Sadly, the didactic teachings of Scripture and their implications are never mentioned in his writings. He concentrates primarily on the “phenomena” and ANE sources to interpret Scripture’s phenomena. Take for instance, Enns’s discussion on the historicity of the Old Testament, which matter is judged in conversation with Akkadian texts,
“The problem raised by these Akkadian texts is whether the biblical stories are historical: how can we say logically that the biblical stories are true and the Akkadian stories are false, when they both look so much alike?”
Whether in manners of historicity or other aspect, Scripture’s didactic teaching should be the first source Enns turns to. Happily, Enns does not give any hint that he denies Sola Scriptura from his Reformed theological heritage, and if he followed the implication of this towards his theological method it would impact how he interact with the evidences since “Sola Scriptura is a ‘control belief’, a nonnegotiable belief, within a system, that controls whether and how other claims fit into the system.” The implication of Sola Scriptura is radical, since not only does it mean that the didactic portion of Scripture is the primary stream of evidences that formulate one’s bibliology, but it is normative in one’s criteria for evidence, discriminating what can and cannot be acceptable as evidence:
“The centrality of Scripture, as expressed in sola scriptura, denotes the Bible’s role as a fundamental, regulative ‘control belief’ for theology. As such, Scripture governs the rest of any traditional Christian believer’s worldview. It guides her in assessing new ideas, integrating new data, and evaluating new forms of practice. It is a part of the hard core of her belief system. To deny the centrality of the Bible for evangelical theology, as represented in the Reformation phrase ‘sola scriptura’, is simply to abandon evangelical thought altogether.”
The discussion of the phenomena as interpreted by ANE materials should be secondary. Saying ANE materials are a secondary interpretative source in understanding the phenomena of Scripture is not saying that it does not have significance or provide any clues. On the contrary, Enns has a point when he states,
“Even though ancient Near Eastern texts do not determine the historicity of the biblical narratives, they do serve as sort of a “genre calibration” to help us understand conventions of history writing in the ancient world, which would then help move us to a clearer understanding of the nature of the Bible’s historical witness.”
The disagreement is over the priority of ANE texts in answering the question of historicity in relations to the didactic passages of Scripture. One should dispute Enns’s claim that “these texts must still enter the conversation—front and center—if we wish to discuss the genre of an ancient text like Exodus.” Scriptural didactic teaching has that priority and importance. Part of the challenge with genre calibration of the Old Testament with ANE genres is the issue of continuity/discontinuity: where does the similarity in literary forms end, and the differences begin? Long, who has written on the genre of biblical narratives, writes, “The ancient Near East, then offers little that can compare to the larger discourse units of the Old Testament—to say nothing of the whole Old Testament, or of the whole Bible!” Beale remarks,
“So do we let the mythical genre of the ANE stories determine the genre of Genesis or do we let Genesis itself determine its own genre and then go outside to the ANE environment to see how it is related to it and vice versa. In the initial part of my review article, I contended that on its own, Genesis portrays itself as a historical genre (of course with interpretation interspersed, as is true with any ancient or modern history writing).”
Due to Enns’ priority of ANE in discussing the historicity question of Exodus, he writes, “The type of evidence we would need to bring this issue to a close will likely never come to us, and so the theological dialogue between history and faith will likely not abate.” Enns has not interacted with the implication of the didactic passages to this problem and it’s a shame that he can say “the type of evidence we would need to bring this issue to a close will likely never come to us.”
Failure of the Analogy to fulfill it’s purpose
Enns was astounded with his studies of the methodology of fundamentalist’s biblical scholarship, for he was “struck by the relative silence, especially at Old Princeton, concerning the practical application of this insight for pressing issues of the time.” At the end of the day, Enns Incarnational model of Scripture faces the same dilemma: can the model be applied in light of the pressing issues of our time?
Answering this question requires understanding the objective that the Incarnational analogy was designed to fulfill:
“First, an incarnational model provides a type of apologetic that in my view is needed. A defense of Scripture that engages and accounts for its historical shape, in its details—the very details God put there, the details through which we see God’s power—is a defense that I feel would have considerable impact on knowledgeable and honestly skeptical readers, of which there are many. For such readers, an incarnational model can help remove the offense of the Bible’s humanity by turning the tables on the assumption that lies behind so many skeptical arguments, namely ‘something claiming to be God’s word would never look like this.”
He notes examples of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and even Bart Erhman of those who suffered because of contemporary Christianity’s inability to teach on the Bible’s “humanity”. He goes on to say that
“An incarnational model exposes such foolishness for what it is and encourages us not to defend the Bible’s humanity—which still assumes its problematic nature—but rather to declare it, in an echo of 1 Corinthians 1, as God’s way of using what appears to be foolish and unwise to bring glory to himself.”
Gleaming from the citation above, the foremost goal of Enns’s model is to bring glory to God in the way 1 Corinthians chapter 1 taught. But with a bibliology that believes “the human element of Scripture touches not only on matters of language or style but substance”, how can such a view glorify God? The gospel, the substance of the Word of God, is the wisdom of God rather than the product of the tampering of human weaknesses. As seen even in the citation above, another goal that the model is supposed to fulfill is a bibliology that is an apologetic. Enns elaborates,
“Such an apologetic has value not only for those who may be outside of the faith but also for those on the periphery. It applies to Christians, those for whom a commitment to Scripture as God’s Word is deep and nonnegotiable but for whom the historical context of Scripture creates tensions between what they have been taught and what they are learning now. These are tensions that students of Scripture have felt with an increased force in recent generations. We probably all know evangelicals over the years who have left the faith because they have been persuaded by critical advances, and not just in seminary or graduate schools, but in high school and college Bible-as-literature classes, by watching PBS or the history channel, by flipping through Time or Newsweek, or by reading popular novels. I would suggest that at lease one reason for this is that these individuals have not had at their disposal a workable, alternate theological model for incorporating what they were learning.”
Enns would have readers believe that the Incarnational model is the alternative evangelicals have been waiting for. It is the model that can cope with the rational tensions of the Scripture that the critics throw at the Christian. But how does the Incarnational model resolve the tension by just calling every “problem” the Bible’s “humanity”? And how does one “defend the Bible’s humanity—which still assumes its problematic nature” serve as an apologetic? What does Enns mean by humanity anyways? It is one of the many things that Enns fails to define in his presentation of his model. Beale retorts, “Thus, my objection is not that the incarnational analogy cannot be validly used but that, if it is used, it must be carefully defined, which Enns still does not do in his response.” A vague and undefined model is useless, especially in the area of apologetics.
In our world today, what is accomplished when one describes alleged contradictions and supposed problems found in Scripture as “human”? Ironically, his complaint against Old Princeton comes full circle, for this does not address the issue of our time. Warfield’s assessment rings true today, “Probably no one today so emphasizes the divine element in Scripture as to exclude the human altogether.” The Incarnational approach which labels all alleged problem of the Bible as “human” does no Christian and non-Christian a service, because in the cultural climate of today, the critics believe the Bible to be all too human. It is the Divine nature of the Scripture that is in dispute.
Beale, Gregory K. “A Surrejoinder to Peter Enn’s response to G. K. Beale’s JETS Review Article of His Book, Inspiration and Incarnation.” Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 11, no. 1 (Spring 2007): 16-36.
Beale, G. K. “Myth, History, and Inspiration: A Review Article of Inspiration and Incarnation by Peter Enns.” JETS 49, no. 2 (June 2006): 287-312.
Carson, D. A. “Three Books on the Bible: A Critical Review.” Reformation 21 (April 2006). http://www.reformation21.org/shelf-life/three-books-on-the-bible-a-critical-review.php18 (accessed October 8, 2010).
Clark, David K. To Know and Love God: Method for Theology. Foundations of Evangelical Theology. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2003.
Enns, Peter. “Exodus, Historiography, and Some Theological Reflections.” Paper presented at the national meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, San Antonio, TX, November 19th, 2004.
________. Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005.
________. “Preliminary Observation on an Incarnational Model of Scripture: Its Viability and Usefulness.” Calvin Theological Journal 42, no. 2 (Spring 2007): 219-236 .
________. “Response to G. K. Beale’s Review Article of Inspiration and Incarnation.” JETS 49, no. 2 (June 2006): 313-26.
________. “Some Thoughts on Theological Exegesis of the Old Testament: Toward a Viable Model of Biblical Coherence and Relevance.” Paper presented at the Eastern Regional of Evangelical Theological Society, Souderton, PA, April 1st, 2005.
________. “William Henry Green and the Authorship of the Pentateuch: Some Historical Considerations.” Journal of Evangelical Theological Society 45, no. 3 (September 2002): 385-403.
Frame, John. “Comments on Peter Enns, Incarnation and Inspiration”, The Works of John Frame and Vern Poythress, http://frame-poythress.org/frame_articles/2008Enns.htm (accessed September 19, 2010).
________. The Doctrine of the Word of God. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, (forthcoming).
Garrett, Duane. “The Undead Hypothesis: Why the Documentary Hypothesis is the Frankenstein of Biblical Studies.” The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 5, no. 3 (March/April 2010): 28-41.
Green, William Henry. The Higher Criticism of the Pentateuch. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1978.
________. The Pentateuch Vindicated From the Aspersions of Bishop Colenso. New York: John Wiley, 1863. <Accessed at http://books.google.com/books?id=ETYRAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false>.
Helm, Paul. “Analysis Extra: ‘Inspiration and Incarnation’ one more time.” Helm’s Deep Philosophical Theology Blog. Entry posted on January 12, 2008. http://paulhelmsdeep.blogspot.com/2008/01/analysis-extra-inspiration-and.html (accessed October 10th, 2010).
________. “Review: Incarnation and Inspiration.” Reformation 21 (April, 2006). http://www.reformation21.org/shelf-life/inspiration-and-incarnation-evangelicals-and-the-problem-of-the-old-testament.php (accessed September 19, 2010).
Hodge, Archibald A., and Benjamin B. Warfield, Inspiration. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1979.
Li, Jimmy. “A Proposal on the Occasion and the Method of Presenting Evidence within a Van Tillian Framework.” Reformed Perspective Magazine 12, no. 9 (February 28th, 2010 to March 6th, 2010).
Long, V. Philips. The Art of Biblical History. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994.
Mayhue, Richard L. “The Authority of Scripture.” The Master’s Seminary Journal 15, no. 2 (Fall 2004): 227-236.
Poythress, Vern S. Science and Hermeneutics. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1988.
Taylor, Marion Ann. The Old Testament in the Old Princeton School (1812-1929). San Francisco: Mellen Research University Press, 1992.
Warfield, Benjamin B. “The Divine and Human in the Bible.” In Evolution, Science and Scripture: Selected Writings, edited by Mark A. Noll and David N. Livingstone, 51-58. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2000).
Westminster Theological Seminary Board of Trustees. “A Message from the Board of Trustee.” Westminster Theological Seminary. http://www.wts.edu/stayinformed/view.html?id=104 (accessed October 8, 2010).
Westminster Theological Seminary Board of Trustees. “Joint Statement by WTS and Professor Enns.” Westminster Theological Seminary. http://wts.edu/stayinformed/view.html?id=187 (accessed October 8, 2010).
 Peter Enns, Inspiration and Incarnation, (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005), 13.
 At times, Enns used the term Incarnational Analogy of Scripture to describe his model.
 Peter Enns, “Response to G. K. Beale’s Review Article of Inspiration and Incarnation,” JETS 49, no. 2 (June 2006), 324.
 Gregory K. Beale, “A Surrejoinder to Peter Enn’s response to G. K. Beale’s JETS Review Article of His Book, Inspiration and Incarnation”, Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 11, no. 1 (Spring 2007), 33.
 Enns, “Response”, 324.
 In this essay, the term “precommitment” will be preferred over the term “presupposition”. While the term “presupposition” is used by those who critique Enns, it is important to make a distinction between foundational beliefs that are preconditions for the construction of worldviews (“presuppositions”) from the web of rules and beliefs taken for granted and necessary to assemble theological methods. So as not to cause a confusion of terms, the term precommitment will be used although any reference to presuppositions in this essay will be referring to theological method, and not in the worldview sense. However, theological methods are not atomistic and autonomously developed in a vacuum: they are informed, shaped and limited by other things such as one’s worldview presuppositions, as one will see shortly in this essay.
 Loosely modeling the illustration by Andy Snider: PrecommitmentsàEvidenceàArgumentàFormulation. However, to be correct, precommitments are rampant and govern every step of the way such as one’s commitment to a certain theory of knowledge that will influence what one determines as evidence, the acceptance (or rejection) of the laws of logic as norms for argumentation, etc.
 Enns, Inspiration, 16.
 Enns, “Response”, 314.
 Added to this difficulty, is Enns statement that the book is written to the general Christian audience and secondarily to scholar, and that he is referring to Evangelical scholars and the broad general Evangelical population.
 Peter Enns, “Some Thoughts on Theological Exegesis of the Old Testament: Toward a Viable Model of Biblical Coherence and Relevance” (paper presented at the Eastern Regional of Evangelical Theological Society, Souderton, PA, April 1st, 2005), 1.
 Enns, Inspiration, 52.
 David K. Clark, To Know and Love God, (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2003), 53.
 Enns, “Theological Exegesis”, 9.
 G. K. Beale, “Myth, History, and Inspiration,” JETS 49, no. 2 (June 2006), 303.
 Enns, “Response”, 317.
 Beale, “Surrejoinder”, 31.
 Peter Enns, “William Henry Green and the Authorship of the Pentateuch: Some Historical Considerations,” Journal of Evangelical Theological Society 45, no. 3 (September 2002), 385-403.
 Marion Ann Taylor, The Old Testament in the Old Princeton School (1812-1929) (San Francisco: Mellen Research University Press, 1992), 168-169.
 Enns, “William Henry Green”, 385.
 See Duane Garrett, “The Undead Hypothesis: Why the Documentary Hypothesis is the Frankenstein of Biblical Studies,” The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 5, no. 3 (March/April 2010). This article is a concise survey of the major arguments against the main tenets of the Hypothesis.
Then consult Green’s work, William Henry Green, The Higher Criticism of the Pentateuch (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1978).
 Green, Criticism, v.
 Enns, “William Henry Green”, 392.
 As a curious note, it is interesting to see Enns’s article concentrating on The Pentateuch Vindicated from the Aspersions of Bishop Colenso rather than Green’s more mature work titled The Higher Criticism of the Pentateuch.
 Taylor, Old Princeton, 218.
 Enns, “William Henry Green”, 393-394.
 Enns, Inspiration, 73.
 Enns, “William Henry Green”, 394.
 Enns, “Observation”, 220-221.
 Enns, “Response”, 322.
 Enns, “Theological Exegesis”, 20-21.
 Enns, “Response”, 316.
 Beale, “Surrejoinder”, 29.
 Peter Enns, “Exodus, Historiography, and Some Theological Reflections”( paper presented at the national meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, San Antonio, TX, November 19th, 2004), 7.
 Non-truth is a fitting term to group what Enns calls “fiction”, error, “myth” and mistakes.
 Enns, Inspiration, 41.
 Beale, “Surrejoinder”, 19.
 Enns, “William Henry Green”, 394.
 Enns, Inspiration, 41.
 One can think of the Apostle Peter who writes in 2 Peter 1:16 “For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.”
 Enns, “Theological Exegesis”, 17.
 Clark, To Know and Love God, 62.
 First draft of: John Frame, The Doctrine of the Word of God, (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, Forthcoming).
 Clark, To Know and Love God, 62. 65.
 I find this VanTillian phrase helpful in describing the task ahead.
 Enns, “Theological Exegesis”, 3.
 Enns, “Response”, 314.
 Consult the entirety of Enns, “William Henry Green”.
 In saying this, I am not denying the role of evidences in argumentation. One can give evidence within a Presuppositional, VanTillian framework, but evidence must be handled with a consciousness of the opponent’s presupposition and for oneself to be faithful to biblically driven presuppositions. See Jimmy Li, “A Proposal on the Occasion and the Method of Presenting Evidence within a Van Tillian Framework”, Reformed Perspective Magazine 12, no. 9 (February 28th, 2010 to March 6th, 2010).
 Beale, “Surrejoinder”, 18.
 Vern S. Poythress, Science and Hermeneutics, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1988), 44.
 Enns, “Theological Exegesis”, 7.
 Enns, “Observation”, 225.
 So when a critic of someone do not give the evidential weight to ANE writings in shaping their own bibliology as Enns would like, it does not necessarily mean they are not “facing” the evidence, as Enns like to say in his writings. This fosters more heat than light in the discussion.
 Enns, Inspiration, 40.
 Clark, To Know and Love God, 82.
 Peter Enns, “Exodus”, 10.
 V. Philips Long, The Art of Biblical History, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994), 48.
 Beale, “Surrejoinder”, 2.
 Peter Enns, “Exodus”, 10.
 Enns, “Observation”, 231.
 Ibid, 234-235 footnote 39.
 Beale, “Surrejoinder”, 33.
 Benjamin B. Warfield, “The Divine and Human in the Bible,” in Evolution, Science and Scripture: Selected Writings, edited by Mark A. Noll and David N. Livingstone (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2000), 53.
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