Peter Enns is (Officially) History at Westminster Seminary

Posted By on July 23, 2008

Just saw the announcement on the WTS website. The accouncement reads:

The administration and Prof. Peter Enns wish to announce that they have arrived at mutually agreeable terms, and that, as of 1 August, 2008, Prof. Enns will discontinue his service to Westminster Theological Seminary after fourteen years.

The administration wishes to acknowledge the valued role Prof. Enns has played in the life of the institution, and that his teaching and writings fall within the purview of Evangelical thought. The Seminary wishes Prof. Enns well in his future endeavors to serve the Lord.

Prof. Enns wishes to acknowledge that the leaders of the Seminary (administration and board) are charged with the responsibility of leading the seminary in ways that are deemed most faithful to the institution’s mission as a confessional Reformed Seminary.

Prof. Enns expresses his deep and sincere gratitude to the Lord for his education and years of service at Westminster Theological Seminary.

WTS naturally has every right to make this move. It also has the right to make it on the basis of its higher commitment to the Westminster Confession than to the Scriptures. I don’t mean that pejoratively, either. What I mean is that WTS, as an institution, is choosing to prefer one particular tradition of biblical interpretation (Reformed) as expressed in the Westminster Confession and other documents, over the thing being interpreted (the Bible) and other interpretative traditions of that thing. It has to, since that is its chosen and historical orientation.

All that said, it’s a sad thing when we elevate our hermeneutic to this level. This is one reason I view denominations as both the friend and foe of biblical Christianity. Personally, I think we would all be better served by the hermeneutic of humility, since all of our denominational preferences derive from presuppositions, which derive from answers to certain questions which reside in our heads. Denominational preferences are by their very nature preferences; they are not self evident truth. While WTS has every right to make this decision, it would have been nice to SOMEWHERE in the announcement acknowledge the fact that the reformed confessions are interpretations and not to be set on par with the thing they interpret. This wouldn’t have changed the decision; it just would have been more candid. What we get instead is that Enns’ views are “within the purview of Evangelical thought.” Good . . . right next to Joel Osteen, John Hagee, Brian MacLaren, The Shack, Tony Campolo, Bible codes, and Left Behind. Thanks for the endorsement. I am sure that WTS meant well here (really), and was trying to be gracious, but in case they hadn’t noticed, “evangelical” was considered a hopelessly elastic term in the sixties and seventies (remember Harold Lindsell?). It hasn’t gotten any more coherent.

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2 Responses to “Peter Enns is (Officially) History at Westminster Seminary”

  1. Your posts on this topic have been excellent. You have expressed many of the ideas I have had far better than I could have. Thanks. Also, do you know a good book or two or possibly an article that treats inspiration and canon this way?

  2. MSH says:

    @danieljdoleys: Well, there is certainly Peter Enns’ book, Inspiration and Incarnation, though my tack is different in places. I *think* that the recent book by Kenton Sparks will have some similar thoughts (in places): God’s Word in Human Words: An Evangelical Appropriation of Critical Biblical Scholarship. Haven’t read it yet, though, so I can’t endorse it. I’m just guessing it will be stimulating and along similar lines, at least on some points. But that’s just a guess. The book may be something like Noll’s “Between Faith and Criticism” and not really deal with inspiration. It’s on my list, though. There’s also Craig Allert’s, A High View of Scripture? The Authority of the Bible and the Formation of the New Testament Canon. It deals mostly with canonicity, but the last chapter is on inspiration and inerrancy. May have some touchpoints.

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