February 9, 2011 was a great day for the Hamiltons, as my sweet wife gave birth to our fourth child. Praise God.
Meanwhile, over on the left coast Peter Enns was giving a lecture at Westmont College, and in the lecture he refers to Westmont as a left-wing California-style evangelical school.
In preparation for a panel discussion on the historicity of Adam at SBTS this next Tuesday (November 8, 2011), I watched the lecture Enns gave.
It seems from this lecture that for Peter Enns the theory of evolution carries as much authority, if not more, than the Bible. If you doubt that, do watch the lecture.
In seeking to synthesize evolution with Christianity Enns is engaging in a syncretistic attempt to combine alternative religions.The fact that he wants a careful, deliberate, sophisticated synthesis does not change the syncretistic nature of this enterprise.
This is not new. It’s old and boring and full of fallacies.
The first fallacy is found in the false choice Enns forces in a statement that appears on several slides: “Adam in Genesis: First Man or ‘Israel’?” He is “asking” whether Adam is the first man or a kind of symbol of Israel, but this is a false choice. Why can’t it be a both/and? If it’s not a both/and, it’s no more true, no more authoritative, no more helpful for understanding the real world than the Illiad and the Odyssey. If it’s a myth, why try to combine it with what’s true? Enns makes some good biblical theological points: there are parallels between Adam and Israel, to be driven from Eden/the land of Israel into exile is a kind of death, banishment from the realm of life in the presence of God, but this doesn’t nullify the historicity of Adam. In fact, if Adam is not historical, then the parallels are nothing more than symbolic fiction.
Worse than the bad logic, though, is the way that Enns approaches the interpretation of the Bible. He suggests that Genesis is flexible and open to various interpretations. As he said this, I was asking myself whether Enns views the interpretations of Genesis found in the rest of the Bible as correct? Later in the lecture he answered by question when he said, “Paul’s reading of the Adam story is one example among several.”
Enns views the fact that Paul refers to Adam as the first man as a problem, and he openly states that taking Adam not as the first man but as Israel “lessens the tensions with evolution.”
There are several interpretive claims that Enns makes about Genesis 3–4 that run contrary to what later biblical authors say about those passages. Enns suggests that Paul’s interpretation of the results of Adam’s sin in Romans 5:12–21 is not what the Old Testament teaches. He asserts, “You don’t find the idea that people are enslaved to sin in the Old Testament.” But see Gen 6:5; 8:21; 1 Kings 8:46; Eccl 7:20, and all the passages Paul quotes in Rom 3:10–18.
Much more could be said about the way Enns reads the aftermath of the curse in Genesis 3:14–19, but I want to move on to the bigger biblical theological issue, that of biblical authority. As we read the Bible, are we to mold it to fit the world as we understand it, or are we to be molded by it so that we understand the world as the biblical authors did?
Enns acknowledges that Paul did not think about evolution, and that Paul did not read the Bible the way that moderns who hold to evolution read it. Enns asserts that Paul was Rabbinically trained, and that Rabbinic interpretation is marked by creativity, and on this basis he claims that Paul was not seeking to communicate what the Old Testament authors meant but what it meant for him. Further, Enns argues that Paul has re-read the Old Testament knowing the end and that he teases things out of the OT that no one else would have teased out of it.
This seems to suggest that what has happened in Christ is not what the OT was building to all along. If this is correct, how are the New Testament authors not imposing a fulfillment on the Old Testament that was never there to begin with? How is this not bad interpretation that should be rejected? How can bad interpretation marked by creativity be authoritative? Enns’s own conclusions show that he doesn’t view Paul’s interpretations as being correct, so he is not bound to think what Paul thinks about Adam.
Enns has thus separated himself from Christians who believe that the biblical authors were inspired by the Holy Spirit. Among other things, the inspiration of the Spirit kept the biblical authors from mis-reading earlier Scripture. This means that when a later biblical author quotes an earlier biblical text, we who hold that the Bible is inspired by the Spirit and authoritative presuppose that the biblical author has rightly understood that earlier text. Our task is to discern how he has understood it, not whether he is right.
Another false dichotomy appears when, trying to deal with the difficulty Romans 5 presents for his view, Enns asserts that Romans is not a book about how to get saved, it’s a book about reconciling Jew and Gentile. Here again we have a both/and not an either/or, and the reconciliation of Jew and Gentile depends upon the salvation Paul’s message brings to people.
For Peter Enns, evolution denies the historical Adam and Eve, and that gives rise to the questions he’s trying to answer. The fact that Paul viewed Adam as the first human being has, for Enns, been shown to be wrong scientifically. Enns asserts that Paul is theologically right on the point that Jesus defeated sin and death, but that he “may be wrong” on what caused the problem–Adam’s sin. Though he “may be wrong” on that, Enns asserts, Paul is right about sin and death and the solution. Enns says that even if Adam and Eve didn’t bit an apple, sin and death are real.
Enns seems to want to keep the theology while discarding the history as he explains: “I don’t need a historical Adam to make all that happen… I understand why Paul says what he says, cause he’s an ancient man, cause he’s a Jew.”
For Enns, the theory of evolution carries as much authority as Scripture, and it shows that Paul was wrong about Adam being the first human. Moreover, the interpretations that Paul and the other biblical authors provide of earlier Scripture are just possibilities, not necessarily correct readings that function as controls on how those earlier texts should be read.
Peter Enns is trying to combine two different religions, evolution and Christianity. The syncretistic proposals he is offering do not preserve the historicity of the claims the Bible makes, on which the theological truth of those claims depends. This rejects what Christians have always believed about the authority of Scripture, and Erich Auerbach is right about how the Bible should shape the way we view the world:
The world of the Scripture stories is not satisfied with claiming to be a historically true reality—it insists that it is the only real world, is destined for autocracy . . . The Scripture stories do not, like Homer’s, court our favor, they do not flatter us that they may please us and enchant us—they seek to subject us, and if we refuse to be subjected we are rebels.” (source)