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Preface to "Inspiration and Incarnation: A Response"
written by the Historical and Theological Field Committee (HTFC)
This document is being released to the public as it was originally written, with the following prefatory and explanatory remarks:
1. The publication of I&I in 2005 was deeply troubling. We were concerned with both the actual content of I&I and its implications for pastoral ministry. As the document indicates, it was originally constructed as an initial elaboration of five points of concern that were first raised by the HTFC in a meeting of the faculty on February 6, 2006. The intent of this document was that it would focus our initial concerns for purposes of faculty and board discussion. The document was meant to be preliminary, and it was agreed among the faculty that members of the Hermeneutics Field Committee (HFC) would provide a written response. This document was finalized in April 2006, to go to the seminary's Board of Trustees for its May 2006 meeting. For various reasons, that schedule had to be delayed.
2. As the HFC "Reply" makes clear (in "Section Five," on p. 62), this document misquotes I&I. We erroneously attributed the phrase "the living Christ" to I&I. We acknowledge that this was a misquotation, and we have apologized, in our discussions, for this error.
3. Toward the end of our faculty discussions, William Edgar, who had signed this document and shared its concerns, changed his views. In light of that change, and in line with it, Dr. Edgar co-authored the "Edgar/Kelly Proposal."
This document is formulated by the Historical and Theological Field Committee (HTFC) for the Faculty Theological Fellowship (FTF). It is, in the main, our response to the book, Inspiration and Incarnation (I&I). 1 It is also, tangentially, a response to the “Proposed Statement on Scripture by the Biblical Studies Department” (PS). This document has been approved by and represents the views of the undersigned at the end of the document.
In the February 6, 2006 FTF meeting, the HTFC raised five fundamental concerns regarding I&I as a whole. Those concerns, listed in what the HTFC considers to be their order of importance, are:
(1) a doctrine of Scripture that diverges from the classic Reformation doctrine, in particular the tradition of Old Princeton 2 and Westminster and specifically, the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF), chapter 1;
(2) a reductionistic Incarnational model;
(3) a Post-Conservative Evangelical (PCE) approach to the discipline of theology;
(4) a lack of clarity;
(5) the appearance of speaking for the entire faculty.
The present document is designed to supplement and illustrate the above basic concerns outlined in the initial presentation, focusing on the foundational theological and hermeneutical problems that appear to us to bring I&I into conflict with WCF, chapter 1. 3 Our primary focus, therefore, will be on (1)-(3) above, with some reference to (4) as well.
This expression of our concerns is not to say that the book is without value. A concern “not to shirk the difficult questions” (R. D. Wilson), such as those addressed in it, is in the WTS tradition. For instance, various interpretive strategies used by the NT authors have long raised questions for readers and need to be addressed. Also, the book is helpful in alerting uninformed readers to some of the historical data that biblical scholars have to wrestle with in understanding the biblical documents in their original settings. Further, its Glossary at the end provides much useful information, particularly for others than the OT scholar. Its strengths, however, are overshadowed by the following concerns.
The concerns of the HTFC can be stated under two broad categories, categories that are in keeping with the book’s title. These two broad categories include subdivisions as well, and are listed in order of importance. I. Inspiration: It appears to the HTFC that I&I compromises the doctrine of Scripture as presented in WCF I. The two particular points to be made in this regard focus on the divine authorship of Scripture, and on its unity. II. Incarnation: It seems to us that the Incarnational model advanced in I&I is confused at best, and serves to contribute to I. There are two concerns relative to this confusion. The first concern is illustrated in the notion of apostolic hermeneutics presented in I&I. The second concern is the apparent affinity with post-conservative evangelicalism of I&I. If II is true, then the Incarnational model utilized in I&I contributes to the incompatibility of I&I with the doctrine of Scripture as presented in WCF I (specifically, at least, WCF 1 4/5).
The initial focus of the HTFC is on the doctrinal (and methodological) formulations offered in I&I. This concern is parallel to the announced purpose of I&I in the opening sentence of the first chapter:
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 (13; emphasis added).
One of the main focuses of the book, in terms of its own stated purpose, reflected in its title is that it is doctrinal. What I&I undertakes, as one of its primary objectives, enters into the specific domain and concerns of systematic theology. The book is clear: doctrinal implications are one of its central concerns. Though we understand that I&I hopes to help strengthen confidence in the Bible in the face of certain difficulties encountered within it, in this undertaking the book itself raises important doctrinal concerns which create serious problems and, therefore, which we feel must be addressed.
In my view, however, what is needed is not simply for evangelicals to work in these areas, but to engage in the doctrinal implications that work in these areas raises (13; emphasis original).
I&I focuses precisely on evangelicals who want to maintain “a vibrant and reverent doctrine of Scripture...” (13; emphasis added). In this focus, we ask, what is it about a traditional evangelical doctrine of Scripture that I&I is eager to affirm? I&I says,
...I am very eager to affirm that many evangelical instincts are correct and should be maintained, for example, the conviction that the Bible is ultimately from God and that it is God’s gift to the church. Any theories concerning Scripture that do not arise from these fundamental instincts are unacceptable (13-14; emphasis added). 4
In articulating what I&I means by “doctrine,” fundamental instincts (as opposed to exegetical conclusions?) seem somehow primary. But regardless of precisely how I&I understands the nature of doctrine, 5 the focus of the book is on the formulation of an improved doctrine of Scripture, specifically on implications of the problems it discusses for the doctrine of Scripture. This focus, in the way that it is expressed and worked out, is a deep concern to the HTFC.
Along with our general concern, what becomes a more particular matter of concern with respect to the methodology employed in I&I arises when I&I adds comments to the effect that,
...my aim is to allow the collective evidence to affect not just how we understand a biblical passage or story here and there within the parameters of earlier doctrinal formulations. Rather, I want to move beyond that [emphasis added] by allowing the evidence to affect how we think about what Scripture as a whole is [emphasis original] (15).
This statement raises a number of troubling questions. For example, what “earlier formulations” are in view here? Why is the very thing I&I wants to “reassess” (i.e., an evangelical doctrine of Scripture) not ever set out or expressed? Precisely in what sense does I&I envision “moving beyond” previous doctrinal formulations in coming to an (always provisional) account of what “Scripture as a whole” is? Perhaps I&I doesn’t mean to encompass all previous doctrines of Scripture, such as what we find at Old Princeton and Westminster, but then it would be necessary to clarify the “that” of “beyond that” from the start.
Given the focus on a “reassessment” of the doctrine of Scripture (14), central and crucial problems become evident. The proposals of I&I with respect to the doctrine of Scripture imply various denials of the historic, Reformed doctrine of Scripture. These denials emerge in a number of ways.
I.1 Divine Authorship — First, it seems to the HTFC that I&I effectively denies, in that it does not presuppose in its argumentation, that Scripture is foundationally and essentially divine. There seems to be a fundamental incoherence between what I&I offers and what is affirmed in WCF I/4. 6 It is worth noting that in WCF I, there is no mention of the human authors of Scripture. This is not an oversight in the Confession; it is not that the Reformers and their progeny did not recognize the human element of Scripture. It is not that they were not privy to extra-biblical sources and other cultural, contextual and human elements. Rather, it is in keeping with the testimony of Scripture itself about itself that the WCF affirms that Scripture is foundationally and essentially divine (though contingently, secondarily and truly human).
For the Reformed, God was the author of Scripture, and men were the ministers, used by God, to write God’s words down. Scripture’s author is God, who uses “actuaries” or “tabularies” to write His words, who are themselves instrumental secondary authors. 7 Reformed thought has been careful to see God as the primary author, and men as instrumental secondary authors. And, if instruments, then what men write down is as much God's own words as if He had written it down without human mediation (a point that will be mentioned below with respect to Kuyper’s discussion of an Incarnational analogy). So, WCF I/4 notes that Scripture's author is God, not God and man. “The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, and obeyed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man, or Church; but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof...” This notion of divine authorship is in keeping with the Scripture’s notion of itself, i.e., that it is theopneustos (“God-breathed,” 2 Tim 3:16); it is not theo- and anthropopneustos.
This means for the WCF (and Reformed theology faithful to it) that the doctrine of Scripture is to be formulated and framed only according to itself as God’s word (i.e., its self-witness). According to Richard Muller:
The entire discussion [of the causes of Scripture] appears to be an outgrowth of the language of Scripture as the self-authenticating and self-interpreting ultimate norm for faith and practice — and, therefore, the sole norm for the framing of a doctrine of Scripture. 8
That such seems to be denied in I&I is attested to, for example, in the statement that we need to determine what the Bible as a whole is “on the evidence that comes from within the Bible itself, as well as from the world surrounding the Bible.” (15; emphasis added).
I.1.a Scripture’s Self-Witness — Second, and building on the first point, I&I’s proposals with respect to “evidence” do not presuppose the truth of WCF I/4, but rather lay out a methodology that, if applied, would deny it. It does this by allowing cultural phenomena, rather than Scripture’s self-witness, to establish a doctrine of Scripture. The “evidence” in view is both internal to Scripture and external to Scripture (i.e., the surrounding cultural milieu). In other words, I&I reasons that we must be willing to “engage the evidence and adjust our doctrine [of Scripture] accordingly.” (14; emphasis added). I&I also adds, “Rather, I want to move beyond [understanding stories within the parameters of earlier doctrinal formulations] by allowing the evidence [emphasis added] to affect how we think about what Scripture as a whole is [emphasis original]” (15). The “evidence” we are to consider includes ANE sources that are meant to contribute to what Scripture essentially is. This methodology incorporates cultural phenomena in order to determine what the Bible is, rather than affirming Scripture as the sole norm for the framing of a doctrine of Scripture.
Elsewhere I&I says, “What the Bible is must be understood in light of the cultural context in which it was given” (41). While it is appropriate and important to seek to understand biblical passages in terms of their cultural context, it is inappropriate, in a Reformed, confessional context, to let those phenomena determine what the Bible is (i.e., a doctrine of Scripture). Such a methodology denies that we determine our doctrine of Scripture in terms of its self-witness alone; it denies that a doctrine of Scripture is gleaned by virtue of what Scripture says about itself.
It is difficult to see how the previous statements found in I&I can be made compatible with the classical Reformed position, as understood, for example, by B.B. Warfield.
If they are trustworthy teachers of doctrine and if they held and taught this doctrine (i.e., of inspiration), then this doctrine is true, and is to be accepted and acted upon as true by us all. In that case, any objections brought against the doctrine from other spheres of enquiry are inoperative; it being a settled logical principle that so long as the proper evidence by which a proposition is established remains unrefuted, all so-called objections [based on the data or “phenomena” of Scripture] brought against it [Scripture’s self-witness] pass out of the category of objections to its truth into the category of difficulties to be adjusted to it. ... The really decisive question among Christian scholars (among whom alone, it would seem, could a question of inspiration be profitably discussed), is thus seen to be, “What does an exact and scientific exegesis determine to be the Biblical doctrine of Inspiration?” 9
I&I’s espoused methodology seems to fall under Warfield’s criticism because the relationship between the doctrine of Scripture and its phenomena has been fundamentally reversed. For I&I, contrary to Reformed orthodoxy (as represented not only by Warfield, but by Kuyper, Bavinck, R. D. Wilson, Young and others), it is not the biblical self-witness alone which determines the doctrine of Scripture. In fact, I&I is virtually silent on that self-witness and its role in articulating a biblical doctrine of Scripture. Instead, I&I is explicit: it is data deriving from the humanness of the biblical authors and of what they write as well as extra-biblical evidence that is to determine what Scripture, as a whole, is as God’s word. Entirely missing, even implicitly called into question, in I&I is the note sounded by the apostle in his assessment of his own preaching, an assessment that is directly applicable to Scripture as a whole, that, ultimately considered, it is to be received “not as the word of man, but as it is truly (alethos) the word of God” (1 Thess. 2:13).
I.1.b Unqualified Provisionality — (This will be discussed again under III so is simply introduced here). Third, and following from the previous two points, it seems clear that because of the notion of “evidence” given in I&I, and of the intrinsic humanness of Scripture, the concept of truth, and its content, appear to us to be anti-confessional. For example, in the estimate of I&I “...attempts to articulate what God’s word is have a necessarily provisional dimension” (49, “a provisional quality,”167). 10 This seems to indict confessional and Reformed theology, which has thought it has something final to say on what the Bible is — it is the very Word of God. And this affirmation has meant that the words given were themselves God’s words, in the text itself. As we will note below, in the context of the rest of the book, this attitude toward truth seems consistent with post-conservative evangelical (PCE) notions of theology (as in J. Franke, for example). Elsewhere the fundamentally provisional nature of all doctrinal assertions is expressed again: “One would have to be somewhat self-absorbed to think he or she can have anything final to say about what the Bible is and what we should do with it” (167). It is difficult to see how one can hold to the theopneustos of Scripture and affirm such unqualified provisionality. 11
To summarize, the consensus of Reformed thought has always been that Scripture is the Word of God; God is its primary author. Problems, interpretive and otherwise, are understood and worked out within that overarching context, so that evidential and extra-biblical phenomena are never meant to determine the doctrine of Scripture. In that sense, just how one handles extrabiblical material (important as those data are for other matters) is irrelevant to the doctrine of Scripture. However one chooses to work with those issues, the Reformed have insisted that, when working with Scripture, one is handling the very Word of God written. Thus, the doctrine of Scripture is something that can be gleaned only from Scripture itself. To move, even slightly, beyond Scripture in order to re-formulate a doctrine of Scripture is to take away from Scripture’s authority.
I.2 The Unity of Scripture — Fourth, and this seems to follow from the analysis above with respect to WCF I/4, HTFC believes that the unity of Scripture, as expressed in WCF 1/5, is also at variance with certain affirmations of I&I. Following on WCF I/4 and its affirmation of one primary author of Scripture is the notion, in I/5, of the unity and perfection of Scripture. I&I affirms a unity of Scripture, but the unity affirmed in I&I does not reside in the text of Scripture itself. Rather unity is to be found only in the person of Christ. 12
For example, I&I implies that the meaning of Scripture passages can be ascertained by virtue of what a particular passage says, regardless of what the rest of Scripture, taken as a unified whole, might say. So, in trying to understand the meaning of a passage in Gen 6:1-4 for example, I&I says:
(1) God creates everything good; (2) wickedness and evil enter; (3) God reacts (emphasis original) by intending to wipe out everything he made. Of course, it is possible to say that God already anticipated step 3 in step 1, that is, he knew what was going to happen, and so step 2 does not take him by surprise. That may be so, but that is only a guess that goes far beyond what we read (emphasis added). The story is told in such a way... (104).
Is it really “only a guess” that God knew what was going to happen? If all that we have is "the story," then perhaps. But, we only have "the story" if the individual, human authors of Scripture, as well as the immediate context of the passage, take precedence over (or even determine) what the divine Author is saying. It is “only a guess” if “the story” is so locked into its own culture and context as to be indeterminate with respect to anything else that other passages, with their own authors, contexts, circumstances, etc. say. So also, I&I says:
So, for the Old Testament to speak of God as changing his mind means that this is his choice for how he wants us to know him. ...Christian prayer...operates on the assumption that our words will have some effect on God. But do they really? That is for God to know, not us ... . There are diverse portrayals of God in the Old Testament. He is, on the one hand, powerful, one who knows things before they happen and who causes things to happen, one who is in complete control. On the other hand, he finds things out, he can feel grieved about things that happen, he changes his mind. If we allow either of these dimensions to override the other, we set aside part of God’s word in an effort to defend him, which is somewhat of a self-contradiction (106-07). 13
But what if we allow all dimensions to speak? Do we then conclude with some kind of human, “such-is-life,” result that God changes his mind and that he doesn't? Are we simply left with contextual, human, evidential contradiction because of what the Bible says in one place, with one author and context, compared to what it says in another, with another author and context? Conclusions of this nature surely cannot be helpful to evangelicals for their doctrine of Scripture.
Further, I&I states:
The messiness of the Old Testament, which is a source of embarrassment for some, is actually a positive. On one level it may not help with a certain brand of apologetics, where we use the so-called perfection of the Bible to prove to nonbelievers that Christianity is true. But this method is as wrongheaded as it is to argue that Christianity is true by downplaying the humanness of Christ (109).
In Van Til's approach, and behind him the entirety of Reformation thought, it is just the perfection of Scripture that, in part, attests it to be the word of God and constitutes it as the principium cognoscendi. Without this perfection, there can be no knowledge of anything, and certainly not of God. The natural question might come — just how do we prove to nonbelievers that Christianity is true if not by the fact of Scripture's self-attesting perfection?
These examples indicate that I&I denies what is affirmed in WCF I/5 (emphasis added), i.e., that in Scripture we have “the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is, to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man's salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof...” Is it really the case that we do not know if prayer has some effect on God, or if God changes His mind? This leaves the question of whether an Arminian or a Reformed view of God is correct open to anyone's particular “guess.” Not only so, it gives the impression that such debates are far from the concerns of Scripture, as those concerns are conceived in I&I. At best it indicates that such debates are so grounded in modernist notions as to be far from the concerns of the Bible.
In keeping with its denial of WCF I/5, I&I affirms that the unity of Scripture rests in its “Christotelic” focus. That is, to put the matter plainly, the unity of the Bible is found in Christ, rather than in the text of Scripture itself. According to I&I, “(T)he unity of the Bible is sought in the living Christ. It comes together in Christ “(110). 14 This has the effect of denying the unity and coherence of the text of Scripture, referring such unity instead to the “living Christ.” I&I does give some expression to the unity of the text: “...what gives the written word its unity is not simply the words on the page, but the incarnate word who is more than simply the sum of the biblical parts” (110). In the context of this affirmation, however, the “words on the page” are those that “bear witness” to Christ. Given the rest of the context of I&I, it is difficult to separate this notion of “bearing witness” from a neo-orthodox construal of revelation. 15 I&I’s unity, therefore, undermines the unity of biblical teaching as a whole, and so the systematic theological task as well. There is no room for such a notion in a confessionally Reformed context.
It would seem then that I&I’s notion of unity and coherence seeks to replace the unity found in Scripture (according to WCF 1/5), a unity grounded in divine authorship (1/4). This confessional unity is replaced with a notion of unity that is somehow found in the person of Christ. However, rather than Christ as the unity to Scripture, which is understood to overcome the essential, textual “messiness” 16 of Scripture as a collection of humanly and historically conditioned documents, WCF sets forth a unity of Scripture that rests on inspiration, as theopneustos, and an affirmation of one primary, divine author. This affirmation, though formally present in I&I (as in Barth), is not brought to bear on the doctrine of Scripture it presents and argues. It is difficult to see how the methodological commitments present in I&I and the “doctrinal implications” it hints at allow for an affirmation of textual unity. The unity of Scripture in I&I is conditioned in such a way that it is not found in the text of Scripture itself (as a result of the primacy of divine authorship and thus of divine inspiration) but located rather in the “living” Christ. We maintain that the divine authorship of Scripture (WCF I/4) is the proper starting point for understanding the difficulties of theological diversity within the Scripture. I&I’s “living Christ” unity displaces the confessional, textual unity of Scripture. 17 This seems inconsistent with an ex animo subscription to WCF 1/4, 5.
In an effort to employ an Incarnational analogy 18 with respect to Scripture, I&I rightly affirms emphatically that Jesus is “both God and man”:
... as Christ is both God and human, so is the Bible ... Jesus is both God and human at the same time. He is not half-God and half-human. He is not sometimes one and other times the other ... Rather, one of the central doctrines of the Christian faith, worked out as far back as the council of Chalcedon in AD 451, is that Jesus is 100 percent God and 100 percent human — at the same time ... . In the same way that Jesus is — must be — both God and human, the Bible is also a divine and human book (17; emphasis original).
This is basically true (although the language of “100 percent” can be confusing). But statements of this kind do not even begin to stipulate precisely how Christ is both God and human and further how the divine and human relate. Therefore, even the statement that Christ is “both God and human” is insufficiently precise to help us apply such an analogy to Scripture. What is troubling in the discussion of I&I, is that the relation of the divine and human in the Incarnation, and thus analogically in Scripture, is confusing at best. What is not affirmed in I&I is that the locus of the unity of the divine and human in Christ is the essential divinity of the person of the Logos.
This is all the more important, since the Incarnational analogy, according to I&I, is the contextual starting point in terms of which the doctrinal formulations, proposals, reassessment, etc. in I&I proceed. I&I explicitly identifies this analogy as its starting point:
The starting point for our discussion is the following: as Christ is both God and human, so is the Bible. In other words, we are to think about the Bible in the same way that Christians think about Jesus. Jesus is not half-God and half-human. He is not sometimes one and other times the other. He is not essentially one [emphasis added] and only apparently the other (17).
The Incarnational analogy is accordingly of central significance for the formulations, proposals, etc. that are given in I&I. It is therefore critical that the Incarnational analogy as utilized in I&I avoid fundamental ambiguities or errors.
This analogical way of reflecting on Scripture’s attributes has precedence in the Reformed tradition. This tradition has, in the past, argued in a way that offers penetrating applications of the Incarnational analogy to the doctrine of inspiration. However, a couple of caveats are in order with regard to the Incarnational analogy.
First, as B. B. Warfield notes,
It has been customary among a certain school of writers to speak of the Scriptures, because thus “inspired,” as a Divine-human book, and to appeal to the analogy of Our Lord’s Divine-human personality to explain their peculiar qualities as such ... But the analogy with Our Lord’s Divine-human personality may easily be pressed beyond reason. There is no hypostatic union between the Divine and human in Scripture; we cannot parallel the “inscripturation” of the Holy Spirit and the incarnation of the Son of God. The Scriptures are merely the product of Divine and human forces working together to produce a product in the production of which the human forces work under the initiation and prevalent direction of the Divine ... . Between such diverse things there can exist only a remote analogy; and, in point of fact, the analogy in the present instance amounts to no more than that in both cases Divine and human factors are involved, though very differently. 19
Any analogical use of the Incarnation, therefore, is tenuous and at best loosely illustrative. It is likely for this reason, at least, that Warfield preferred to talk of “concursus” with respect to the Divine-human activity of inscripturation. Concursus is typically discussed within the context of causality with respect to God’s providence, and is set against such notions as occasionalism and conservationism. Warfield used the word to highlight the fact that God used secondary causes in much of the process of inscripturation, and did not eliminate or override (occasionalism) the human elements, neither did the human elements take precedence (conservationism). It should be noted that concursus is another model for thinking of the writing of Scripture, and in that sense is not easily included in an Incarnational analogy.
Second, and following on the first, with regard to the limitation of the analogy between incarnation and inspiration, we can never lose sight of the central point of the Incarnation, i.e., the radical centrality and essential divinity of the Logos, who (contingently, but really) assumes a human nature. But, as Warfield says, no hypostatic union of divine and human occurs in the act of inspiration.
In light of a biblical, Chalcedonian and Reformed Christology, the divine is essential and the locus of personality, and the human is contingent, dependent on the divine (yet real). At least along these lines, Christology can, if carefully and accurately applied, prove useful in demonstrating more concretely both the limitations and utility of the Incarnational analogy. Though there is no hypostatic unity with respect to the divine and human in Scripture, it is, nevertheless, (as Reformed theology has historically affirmed) the case that in Scripture the divine is essential, the human is contingent (yet real). Abraham Kuyper’s application of an Incarnational analogy is helpful in pointing out this crucial distinction.
When discussing the authority of Scripture, Kuyper reminds us that “(t)he speaker in the Holy Scripture is not a creature but God himself.” 20 Kuyper notes that the Word of God can, and in fact at times does, come to creatures “without instruments (sine instrumento). This could happen, not only because of his omnipotence but also in view of the luchoth.” 21 Kuyper elaborates this point as follows,
In Christ and in Holy Scripture we have to do with related mysteries. In the case of Christ there is a union of divine and human factors. The same is true of Scripture; here, too, there is a primary author and a secondary author. To maintain properly the relationship between these two factors is the great work of dogmatics .... Everything depends here on the right insight that the Word has become flesh in Christ and is stereotyped in Scripture. 22
As Gaffin comments,
The basic thrust of these passages is plain: Scripture, like Christ, is both truly human and truly divine. 23 Yet in the case of Scripture, as for Christ, these two factors are not equally ultimate; the priority and originating initiative belongs to the divine, not the human. Specifically, the Word, in his antecedent identity as the Word, became flesh; and God is the primary author of the Bible, in distinction from the secondary human authors. This specifies the “related mysteries” of Christ and the Bible. 24
Thus, the priority and originating initiative belongs to the divine, not the human. And this entails that God is the primary author of Scripture, with human authorship being contingent (yet real) and secondary.
However, this necessary and central distinction — a distinction between that which is primary or essential and that which is secondary or contingent, a distinction entailed by Chalcedonian Christology and present in the Reformed tradition’s use of the Incarnational analogy — is not only absent in I&I, but is, in effect, denied at critical junctures.
II.1 Analogical Heresies
Here, then, is the concern of the HTFC with respect to the Incarnational analogy: To the extent that one’s understanding of the Incarnation is orthodox/unorthodox, to that extent will the analogy with respect to Scripture be orthodox/unorthodox.
I&I understands this concern in that it seeks to tie an orthodox view of the Incarnation to an orthodox view of Scripture. For example, in its use of an Incarnational analogy, I&I notes that we should avoid a Docetic view of Scripture. That is, as go Christological errors, so (analogically) go errors with respect to Scripture:
The ancient heresy of Docetism stated that Christ was fully divine and only seemed to be human (the Greek verb dokein [“to seem”] is the root of the word Docetism). The Council of Chalcedon rightly concluded that if Christ only appeared to be human, then the death and resurrection are not real ... . when confronted with some of the problems addressed in this book, “scriptural Docetism” rears its head (18).
This concern to avoid the Docetic heresy is apparently motivated, at least in part, by the audience I&I has in view, i.e., evangelicals. It may be that there are evangelicals who tend toward a theology of Scripture that is Docetic. Given the lack of references to such people, we are simply left to guess who these Docetic evangelicals might be. 25
To the extent that one can apply Christological heresies to aberrant views of Scripture, we agree with the concern to avoid a Docetic view of Scripture; that concern is commendable. But it seems to us (to use the categories of I&I with respect to an Incarnational/Christological analogy) that I&I is not equally concerned to avoid the problem of kenoticism 26 with respect to Scripture.
Let us examine two statements that seem to us to indicate a kenotic view of Scripture. The problem emerges in the statement that Christ is not “essentially one [i.e., divine] and only apparently the other” (17; emphasis added). This is at best confusing, given the methodology of I&I discussed above, regardless of additional statements and qualifications that follow in the coordinating conjunctive clause. As the Son of God, Christ is essentially divine, given his preexistence as the divine Logos, and he assumes a contingent, yet true, human nature in the Incarnation. It is not helpful, even if qualified, to assert that the Son of God, as Christ incarnate, is not essentially divine, since that is precisely what he is. A denial that the Son of God is essentially divine is a fundamental tenet of kenotic Christology (since Christ could empty himself of his deity), and such a mistake made at the level of the Incarnation betrays a lack of agreement with Chalcedonian Christology and falls outside the parameters of catholic orthodoxy. 27
If one were to use Christological heresies to point out deficiencies in a doctrine of Scripture, the formulation could be properly restated in a couple of ways. First, “The incarnate Son of God is not merely essentially divine, and only apparently truly human.” Or to put the second clause positively, “The Son of God is not only essentially divine but is also contingently and truly human.” Chalcedon has helped us understand without ambiguity that the Son of God is the preexistent second Person of the ontological Trinity and contingently, yet truly, human, given the reality of the hypostatic union.
In other words, it is to the extent that we seek to employ an Incarnational analogy, so that we are to understand “the Bible in the same way that Christians think about Jesus” (17; emphasis added), that we are obligated to begin with the essential divinity of both the incarnate Word and the inscripturated Word — the precise place where WCF I begins in its discussion of Scripture. Scripture is therefore essentially divine in its origin, meaning and reliability, while remaining contingently (yet truly) human.
To the extent that the Incarnational analogy can participate in Christological heresies (and I&I believes that it can, at least to some extent) I&I offers a doctrine of Scripture analogically comparable to a kenotic Christology; Scripture seems to be empty, at least functionally, of its essential divinity. A truly Chalcedonian and Reformed Christology must affirm explicitly and at every point the full implications of essential divinity, contingent humanity and unipersonality in the God-man. A failure to affirm these entails a formulation that falls prey to some form of thinking that submerges the divinity for the sake of humanity, i.e., kenoticism. 28 We may not fail to state or at least clearly imply — we may not remain ambiguous about — the essential divinity and contingent, yet true, humanity of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 29
II.2 Apostolic Hermeneutics — This kenoticism with respect to Scripture appears when the Incarnational analogy is applied to the issue of inspiration and the NT use of the OT. The particular problem of non-functional divine authorship (i.e., an Incarnational analogy that is kenotic in function) is explicit in the discussion of “Apostolic Hermeneutics” in chapter four of I&I. Put succinctly, the functionally kenotic Incarnational analogy yields final formulations in chapter four in which divine authorship plays no role in accounting for the NT use of the OT.
I&I seems to be in a completely different theological paradigm when it speaks of the apostles as possessing “an intuitive, Spirit-led engagement” of Scripture with “minds ... illumined” (160), as witnesses to the “event by which God himself determined to punctuate his covenant: Christ”(154). This language, without additional qualification and clarification not provided in the book, is in conflict with Reformed thinking on the Incarnational analogy in relation to inspiration, and seems to display basic affinity with a Barthian view of Scripture.
It is not adequate to say that “the driving force behind their Old Testament interpretation was their belief that Jesus of Nazareth was God with us and that he had been raised from the dead” (152; emphasis added). Hence, “the reality of the risen Christ drove them to read the Old Testament in a new way” (153; emphasis original). What else “drives” the apostolic hermeneutic? Answer: “Spirit-initiated intimacy with the crucified and risen Christ”(152; emphasis added).
So, piecing together the notions above, the thrust of this discussion of apostolic hermeneutics is that the apostles possessed an intuitive, Spirit-led engagement with Scripture based on a Spirit-initiated intimacy with Jesus. When the pneumatic category is invoked in this way, it is not with respect to the Spirit of God as the primary author and producer of Scripture; rather, the Spirit is merely the illuminator of the apostolic consciousness who leads them into fresh engagement with the OT text in light of the Christ-event.
It is at this point that I&I sees continuity with the apostolic hermeneutic and the church’s attempt to follow it. The same Spirit who leads the apostles, also leads the church in an intuitive, Spirit-illumined acquaintance with the biblical text (and Jesus). Hence, there seems to be no substantial distinction made in I&I between apostolic interpretation and our own. This indicates that the reference to “illumination” in the case of the apostles is likely not an unfortunate terminological slip, but is a consistent outworking of I&I’s Incarnational analogy (and Barthian view of Scripture?). In other words, precisely where we would expect a discussion of the sensus plenior — the hermeneutical implication of inspiration that requires us to deal with the dual authorship of Scripture in which God is the primary author and the human agent the secondary author — we find no mention of either inspiration or the sensus plenior. In classical categories, Spirit-led illumination cannot be in any sense equated with inspiration and the divine authorship of Scripture. 30 But a bona fide Incarnational analogy must account for both primary divine authorship and secondary human authorial instrumentality in the production and meaning of Scripture (with primacy given to the essentially divine origin and meaning of Scripture).
Richard Muller points out that the implications of sensus plenior, as a function of divine authorship, provided deep structures in the Protestant Scholastics’ reflections on topics pertaining to inspiration and hermeneutics. He observes,
The inspiration of Scripture appears in the debates of the seventeenth century not only as a doctrinal but also a hermeneutical issue. An inspired text can — more easily and predictably than an uninspired one — point beyond itself and its original situation. When the human author of the text is an instrumental cause and God is identified as the auctor primarius, the historical situation of the human author cannot ultimately limit the doctrinal reference of the text. 31
How would I&I’s formulation look with a robust affirmation of inspiration, dual authorship (with primacy given to the divine) and the sensus plenior in the tradition of a Reformed Incarnational analogy? It would reckon with the fact of divine authorship as the ultimate explanatory context for the way the human authors in the NT interpret the OT, with other features (e.g., historical and psychological factors) being important, yet secondary.
Abraham Kuyper again offers characteristic insight regarding the implications of a Reformed Incarnational analogy for our theology of inspiration that has decisive significance for the way the NT authors use the OT. He says that, whether or not OT or NT authors were conscious of the reality,
the Holy Spirit directed them, brought to their knowledge what they were to know, sharpened their judgments in the choice of documents and records, so that they should decide aright, and gave them a superior maturity of mind that enabled them always to choose exactly the right word ...
He [the Holy Spirit] caused such thoughts, meditations, and even words to arise in their hearts as the writing of the New Testament Scripture required. And while they were writing these portions of the Holy Scripture, that one day would be the treasure of the universal Church in all ages, a fact not understood by them, but by the Holy Spirit, He so directed their thoughts as to guard them against mistakes and lead them into all truth. He foreknew what the complete New Testament Scripture ought to be, and what parts would belong to it. 32
Apostolic interpretation as a human activity is therefore at the same time (and essentially) divinely inspired revelation — of divine origin, character and reliability (2 Tim. 3:16 and 2 Pet. 1:20-21). I&I does not seem to apply this Reformed notion of dual authorship in the context of the most vexing of hermeneutical issues that arises from a robustly Chalcedonian and Reformed Incarnational analogy.
These insights are perfectly compatible with the thought of John Calvin on the matter. 33 These theological and hermeneutical structures are resident at the deepest level of Reformed theology and hermeneutics, whether the Protestant Scholastics, Old Princeton, Old Amsterdam or Westminster comes into view.
I&I does speak of divine authorship (160); however, it seems to have no hermeneutical function in I&I and is not a central theological and hermeneutical category. 34 I&I does not account for this entailment of a full-orbed, Reformed Incarnational analogy. Insofar as divine authorship is mentioned once in passing and is missing altogether as foundational in the discussion of apostolic hermeneutics in chapter four of I&I, we detect the application of a functionally kenotic Incarnational analogy that mutes the divine origin, authorship and meaning of Scripture.
Along these lines Vern Poythress offers some useful comments when warning about a neo-orthodox view of biblical interpretation. He suggests a skewed formulation that seems to us to be consistent with the approach in I&I, for which he offers a sobering warning:
But couldn't we still stick to a single interpretation? Couldn't we say that interpretation in the light of the human author is all that we need? Then, after we complete the interpretation, we assert that the product is, pure and simple, what God says. First, the strongest starting point of the “single interpretation” approach is its insistence on the importance of grammatical-historical exegesis. But it has now ended by hedging on one of the principles of grammatical-historical exegesis, namely the principle of taking into account the person of the author. When we come to interpreting the Bible, we must pay attention to who God is. Secondly, this view seems dangerously akin to the neo-orthodox view that when God speaks, his attributes of majesty are somehow wholly hidden under human words. 35
Poythress’ remarks seem pertinent to the formulations found in I&I. This Incarnational analogy yields a doctrine of Scripture that seems to us to be consistent with a Barthian understanding of Scripture as a Spirit-led, human witness to the Christ event. And the failure in I&I to offer additional, and foundationally important, information regarding precisely how the truly human instrumentality of Scripture relates to the essential divinity of Scripture (as “breathed-out” or authored by God; cf. 2 Tim. 3:16; WCF I, 4) only compounds the problem. Given Poythress’ comments, it seems to us necessary that I&I be explicit about precisely how its proposal for reformulating the doctrine of Scripture differs from a Barthian view. 36
The failure in I&I to distinguish its doctrine of Scripture from a neo-orthodox (Barthian) view of Scripture is confusing, at best, particularly when I&I offers a theological method that is incompatible with WCF 1/4.5. And since I&I’s focus is on reformulating or reassessing the doctrine of Scripture as traditionally understood by evangelicals, it is necessary to show in sufficient detail how the formulations do not concede the neo-orthodox view of Scripture — also a (radical!) reformulation of the standard evangelical view.
To summarize, the Incarnational analogy in I&I is kenotic in function. The primacy of essential, divine authorship is not relevant to the hermeneutical task. 37 Given the clear articulation of the Incarnational analogy in the Reformed tradition, exemplified by both Kuyper and Bavinck, it seems clear to us that the Incarnational analogy in I&I is not Chalcedonian or Reformed in any functional way. In this sense, then, the affirmation of divine authorship in I&I (160) appears to have no function in the hermeneutical and theological formulations offered in the book. There is a troubling incoherence between what I&I offers and what is affirmed in the relevant sections of the WCF.
Thus far, the concerns we have addressed in I&I have been more or less theologically or doctrinally driven. The problems addressed now, while having serious and deep theological implications, might be best placed in the context of cultural concerns. We see these concerns, not as tangential to the previous ones, but rather as perhaps providing one of the reasons why I&I’s views, discussed above, are beyond the pale of Reformed orthodoxy.
The particularly troubling cultural concern is the fact that I&I offers a doctrinal reformulation of Scripture in the language and conceptual framework that is utilized by Post-Conservative Evangelicalism. 38 PCE positions itself theologically in such a way that it seeks to move beyond a “modern” view of Scripture (whether Liberal or Conservative formulations come into view). For instance, in the opening pages of I&I, we read the following,
Much of the evangelical theological landscape of the twentieth and into the twenty-first centuries was dominated by a ‘battle for the Bible.’ The terms are familiar: liberal vs. conservative, modernist vs. fundamentalist, mainline vs. evangelical, progressive vs. traditionalist. Such labels may serve some purpose, but they most often serve to entrench rather than enlighten .... I want to contribute to a growing opinion that what is needed is to move beyond both sides by thinking of better ways to account for some of the data, while at the same time having a vibrant, positive view of Scripture as God’s word (14-15; emphasis added).
This description of “moving beyond” the old conservative/liberal divisions appears at least seven times in I&I (14-15, 21, 47,48, 73, 107-108, 171). 39 And this language of overcoming the modernist/ fundamentalist impasse introduces an over-arching context for I&I. The desire, then, is to move beyond the previous theological impasse that separated evangelicals from liberals on the doctrine of Scripture. This forces us to ask a fundamental question: Who shares this “growing opinion” to which I&I alludes? Who else desires to move beyond the so-called conservative/liberal divide? What are the implications for this new movement?
The late Stanley Grenz and John Franke, who are together representative of a PCE approach, write as follows:
The results of the foundationalist approach of modern liberals and conservatives have been astounding. In different ways both groups have sought to respond to the challenge of the Enlightenment and rescue theology in the face of the secularist worldview of late modernity. Although the liberals and conservatives routinely dismiss each other’s work, they share the single agenda of seeking to maintain the credibility of Christianity within a culture that glorified reason and deifies science. 40
PCEs such as Grenz and Franke argue that the postmodern context paves the way for non-foundationalist approaches to theology. This approach is thought to move us beyond the rigid theological divisions of the modern era. Grenz and Franke continue:
... a growing number of theologians are coming cognizant of the demise of foundationalism in philosophy and are increasingly concerned to explore the implications of this demise for theology. They believe that theology must take seriously the postmodern critique of Enlightenment foundationalism and must capitalize on the attempts of philosophers to formulate alternatives. Convinced that the quest to move beyond foundationalism [i.e. Conservative and Liberal theologies] is crucial for theology, they draw insights for their own work from the emerging nonfoundationlist theorists. 41
In critiquing the liberal and conservative doctrines of Scripture, I&I follows the same PCE method. I&I says,
It is somewhat ironic, it seems to me, that both liberal and conservatives make the same error. They both assume that something worthy of the title word of God would look different from what we actually have. The one accents the human marks and makes them absolute. The other wishes the human marks were not as pronounced as they were. They share a similar opinion that nothing worthy of being called God’s word would look so common, so human, so recognizable (21).
I&I proposes to construct a doctrine of Scripture that will overcome both of these errors. Like the PCE theological project, it hopes to construct a doctrine that discards liberal and conservative distinctions. Here the similarity between I&I and the PCEs is more than just language and method. I&I displays a more substantive agreement with PCEs on the nature of theological doctrines. I&I claims,
All attempts to articulate the nature of Scripture are open to examination... I firmly believe ... that the Spirit of God is fully engaged in such a theological process and at the same time that our attempts to articulate what God’s word is have a necessarily provisional dimension. To put it succinctly: the Spirit leads the church into truth — he does not simply drop us down in the middle of it (48-49; emphasis original).
Such a bold and unqualified statement seems to open up a host of theological problems. That Scripture is divine — is that open to examination? That Scripture is authoritative — is that also open to examination? This is a common theological claim consistently advanced by PCEs. Franke makes the same sort of claim in his critique of traditional confessional systematic theology. He writes,
Such an approach is characteristic among those who hold confessional statements in an absolutist fashion and claim such statements teach the “system” of doctrine contained in Scripture. The danger here is that such a procedure can hinder the ability to read the text and to listen to the Spirit in new ways. 42
Franke likewise concludes that confessions (which potentially include all doctrines) have a second- order, subordinate and provisional character. 43 I&I argues that any doctrine of Scripture must be provisional; Franke comprehensively claims that all doctrines are provisional. In fact, as we noted earlier but do so again, I&I comments, “One would have to be somewhat self-absorbed to think he or she can have anything (emphasis added) final to say about what the Bible is and what we should do with it” (167; emphasis original). 44 Can such a statement cohere in any sense with an ex animo subscription to WCF, 1?
It is important to note that the HTFC recognizes that the catholic creeds and the Westminster Standards were formulated in various historical contexts. But the HTFC also affirms that catholic creeds and the Westminster Standards faithfully summarize the unchanging and infallible system of doctrine set forth in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Furthermore we recognize that creeds and confessions are subordinate standards; yet there is no intrinsic incompatibility between their historically conditioned character, on the one hand, and the theologically perennial system of biblical truth that they summarize, on the other. The Westminster Standards express a theologically perennial system of biblical truth in the form of fully historical (17th century) documents. John Murray summarizes this well:
What of the consideration mentioned ... that every creed is historically complexioned in language and content, that the progressive understanding of the truth of which the Confession is a conspicuous example did not terminate with 1646, and that the Confession is fallible and shows the marks of human infirmity? When the Confession is examined carefully in the light of Scripture and in relation to the demands of confessional witness in the church today, the amazing fact is that there is so little need for emendation, revision, or supplementation. And of greater importance is the fact that justifiable or necessary amendments do not affect the system of truth set forth in the Confession. In other words, the doctrine of the Confession is the doctrine that the church needs to confess and hold aloft today as much as in the 17th century. 45
Likewise Harvie Conn, while emphasizing the need to contextualize Reformed theology, affirmed the binding authority of historic confessions:
Creeds, as an expression of the confessional character of theologizing, are "historically situational." They are human acts of confession of God's unchanging good news, addressed to specific human cultural settings. Insofar as they reflect divine teaching they demand binding commitment from those who have made them theirs. ... None of this [the contextual character of confessions] is meant to deny the continued validity of any biblical truth the confessions seek to convey. Neither do we question the right of churches or theological institutions to demand adherence to them as the confession of one's faith or as a "summary and just exhibition of that system of doctrine and religious belief, which is contained in Holy Scripture, and therein revealed by God to man for his salvation" (the language of the vow I am required to take as an instructor at Westminster Theological Seminary). Nor do we question the propriety of their doing so. 46
Contrary to the confessional Reformed tradition, the PCE agenda displays hostility towards Christian confessions as subordinate standards or normed norms (along with an uncritical appropriation of the theology of Karl Barth). 47 Given the close association between I&I and Post-Conservative Evangelicalism, 48 I&I seems to be endorsing, whether consciously or not, the same PCE agenda in the attempt to move beyond the divisions that previously divided conservative and liberals over the doctrine of Scripture.
Therefore, there seems to us to be a connection between the PCE method and the doctrine of Scripture set forth in I&I. It is precisely in the attempt to move beyond the Liberal/Conservative impasse that I&I comes into sharp conflict with WCF I/4. 49 How is it possible to affirm ex animo that which is self-consciously to be passed beyond? Without additional clarification that is not provided in the book, the HTFC believes one cannot reasonably distinguish I&I’s basic theological orientation from the PCE project, as elaborated by Grenz and Franke. Moreover, it is not possible to subscribe ex animo to the WCF while maintaining a PCE theological methodology.
I&I seems to us to position itself, both rhetorically and substantively, in terms of the basic commitments outlined in popular PCE theological literature. As such, I&I is explicitly precommitted to a theological methodology that seeks to move beyond the impasse of liberal/conservative debates over the nature of Scripture. Insofar as WCF I tersely articulates a clear statement of the so-called “conservative” or “fundamentalist” theology of Scripture that lay at the heart of the Liberal/Conservative debate in the 19th and 20th centuries, we are reluctantly brought to the conclusion that I&I is committed in principle to moving beyond the biblical and Reformed view of Scripture expressed in that chapter. 50
Finally, we are troubled by the dismissive approach that the book exhibits towards other well-respected scholarly evangelical positions with which I&I disagrees. We are also troubled that at several points those scholars who hold these views are described variously as being irresponsible and verging on the intellectually dishonest, without citing any representative names, offering any evidence for this startling claim, or attempting in any way to outline their alternative positions or to engage constructively with their arguments (e.g., 47-48, 107). To give a specific example, I&I declares, “It is a distortion of the highest order to argue that Jesus must have cleansed the temple twice” (65). This position is, in fact, held by, among others, B F Westcott, R V G Tasker, Leon Morris, D A Carson, and Andreas Kostenberger; while Craig Blomberg considers the evidence to be indecisive and Ridderbos is ambiguous. It is regrettable that I&I makes such a categorical dismissal of a position held by such respected scholars (particularly given its claim to be writing for a broadly evangelical audience) and that it does so without any interaction with the relevant arguments of those with whom I&I disagrees. This is most surprising and unfortunate, given that it simply contradicts I&I’s closing appeal for theological discussion to proceed by means of humility, along with charitable listening to, and conversation with, the positions of others (172-73).
Additional Specific Concerns 51
April 4, 2006
1 Peter Enns, Inspiration and Incarnation (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2005).
2 I.e., where and when Old Princeton is consistent with WCF I.
3 Because the "Proposed Statement on Scripture by the Biblical Studies Department” of 10/19/2005 (PS) approaches its subject matter primarily psychologically, there is little to which to respond directly. That is, our concerns are not with attitudes toward Scripture. It is good, therefore, that PS sees itself as "Pre-committed..., awed..., bound to be diligent..., convinced..., aware..., grateful..., and confident..." Just how these attitudes are expressed is of central concern. Because, as well, the concerns below are made with reference to the doctrine of Scripture, and not specifically to our attitudes toward Scripture, I&I will be our central concern, with tangential reference, at points, to PS.
4 The language of something being “ultimately from God” and “God’s gift to the church” is fuzzy at best in that it can accrue to an almost infinite number of things. In that sense, it is not an affirmation of the church’s historic understanding of inspiration.
5 This is one illustration of basic ambiguity (see #4 on p. 1 of this document) in I&I. Is doctrine the settled result of exegesis, as expressed normatively in confessional symbols and elaborated by systematic theology, or is doctrine a basic “instinct” internal to the believer or believing community? Are confessions, which express doctrine, really the expression of basic instincts? Are doctrines religious feelings or instincts set forth in speech (cf. Schleiermacher)? Is doctrine the socially and linguistically embedded expression of basic religious instinct (cf. analogous to Lindbeck’s Post-Liberal proposal)? If not, why not? This ambiguity proves quite unhelpful to the reader.
6 Therefore, it is difficult to reconcile I&I, especially with respect to sections 4 and 5 of WCF I, with PS in the latter’s assertion that it can uphold, "the affirmations outlined in the Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 1.”
7 Muller observes that: “(T)he Protestant scholastics [which includes the Divines at Westminster] looked both to the medieval scholastic tradition and to the works of the Reformers. From the medieval teachers they received the definition of God as the auctor principalis sive primarius Scripturae and of human beings, the prophets and apostles, as secondary authors or instruments. From the Reformers they received no new language, but they did find confirmation of the point in the repeated identification of Scripture as God’s Word, as given by God.” Richard A. Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy, Ca. 1520 to Ca. 1725, 4 volumes (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 2003), II.226.
8 Muller, PRRD, II.230 (emphasis added).
9 B. B. Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible (Philadelphia, Pa.: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1948), 174-75 (emphasis added).
10 Is this what PS means when it states that it is “Aware that we, like all other fallen human beings are quite capable of erroneous interpretation...”?
11 Note, for example, the same emphasis from Karl Barth. To use just one example, according to Barth, “...a biblical theology can never consist in more than a series of attempted approximations, a collection of individual exegeses” (Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics; Eds. G. W. Bromiley and T. F. Torrance [2nd ed.; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1975)], I/2, 483).
12 The notion of unity present in I&I is also present in Barth. In his affirmation that Scripture is the Word of God, Barth is also opposed to any notion of a unity to the text of Scripture. Rather, for Barth, unity resides in God’s revelation, which, for Barth, is only and always in Christ ; see Church Dogmatics, I/2, 482f.
13 It should be said here that one of the chief characteristics of Reformed and evangelical thought is that it has sought, not to “set aside” any part of God’s word with respect to the matters at hand, but rather to show how all of these elements cohere. To think otherwise is to think that Reformed and evangelical theology has ignored a full-orbed doctrine of God. On the other hand, just what does I&I mean when it speaks of allowing “either of these dimensions to override the other”? Surely, in all of Reformed thought, the “dimension” of God’s sovereignty “overrides” the dimension of his covenant interaction with his people in such a way that his plan and purposes do not, and have not, changed, even from eternity.
14 Is this what PS means when it states that it is “Confident that only in the light of Christ and the Gospel that the majestic coherence of the Old and New Testaments will be fully displayed”?
15 See, for example, Barth’s section, “Scripture as the Word of God,” Church Dogmatics, I/2, 473-537.
16 See, in particular, 109-11, where this “messiness” is accented (the word is used three times) and discussed.
17 Lurking in the background of this discussion is the question: “Can I&I distinguish its view of Scripture from Barth’s?” Barth himself referred to the Bible as the Word of God. He says, “Scripture is holy and the Word of God, because by the Holy Spirit it became and will become to the Church a witness to divine revelation” (Church Dogmatics, I/2, 457). Elsewhere Barth says, “A free divine decision is made. It then comes about that the Bible, the Bible in concreto, this or that biblical context ... is taken and used as an instrument in the hand of God, i.e., it speaks to and is heard by us as the authentic witness to divine revelation and is therefore present as the Word of God” (Church Dogmatics, I/2, 530). Barth’s esteem for the Bible as Word of God is so high that he says at one point, “We have been speaking of three different forms of the Word of God and not three different Words of God. In this threefold form and not otherwise — but also as the one Word only in this threefold form — the Word of God is given to us and we must try to understand it conceptually. It is one and the same whether we understand it as revelation, Bible, or proclamation. There is no distinction of degree or value between the three forms”(Church Dogmatics, I/ 1, 120; emphasis added). Is this, in effect, the “high view of Scripture as the Word of God” advocated in I&I? If so, we must also remember that Barth views the essence of Scripture in the fact that it is “fallible human witness” to revelation, but not intrinsically or essentially the Word of God. In this regard, we note, unless we have missed it, that I&I nowhere clearly affirms biblical infallibility or inerrancy. Certainly it is not discussed.
18 A brief word of clarification with respect to the notion of “model” and “analogy.” As it is used here, a model is designed to give an account of just how something could be true. The notion of analogy, as used here, posits a similarity between things otherwise dissimilar. An Incarnational model/analogy, then, is designed to show just how Scripture, as a divine and human document could be similar to Christ as a divine and human person. In this sense, the analogical aspect of comparison with respect to the Incarnation is primary, whereas the notion of the Incarnation as model is secondary. We will use the term “analogy,” therefore, rather than “model.”
19 Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, 162 (emphasis added).
20 Richard B. Gaffin Jr., “Old Amsterdam and Inerrancy — I,” Westminster Theological Journal 44 (1982): 266 (emphasis added).
21 “OAI,” 266. Gaffin (n.66) notes that luchoth refers to “to the tables on which the Lord wrote the Ten Commandments, without human mediation of any sort.”
22 “OAI,”267 (emphases added).
23 According to Kuyper, “The Logos is incarnated in Christ, but is likewise engraved in Scripture” (“OAI,” 267, n. 37).
24 “OAI,” 267 (emphasis added).
25 The HTFC knows of no published evangelical who advocates a Docetic view of Scripture, although many Barthians believe this is precisely the problem of the evangelically Reformed tradition. Such a concern should have been documented so that the readers are made aware of just exactly what this problem looks like in specific individuals.
26 I&I does not employ the notion of “docetism” extensively with respect to one’s views of Scripture, and wisely so. To the extent that such labels (docetism and kenoticism) are meaningful within an analogical model, they may be useful. However, they are only minimally useful given the discontinuities between the divine and human in Christ, on the one hand, and the divine and human in Scripture, on the other. Nevertheless, since I&I uses such labels, we will employ them here. Here kenoticism is meant to include any notion with respect to Scripture where the divine is in some way inoperative (as, for example, in a Nestorian or Ebionite view of Christ), even if affirmed in some form. We are using it, therefore, in a less precise way than it is used with respect to the Incarnation per se. This looser usage is not inappropriate, since I&I uses the notion of “docetism” with respect to Scripture rather loosely.
27 And such a fundamental oversight does not cohere well at all with the other apparent affirmations of Chalcedon in the book. Perhaps I&I is not familiar with the details of what it seeks to affirm in principle, yet denies in formulation and implication.
28 In other words, a more adequate understanding of the Incarnation would have enabled I&I to avoid a confused or misapplied Incarnational model. Orthodox Christology affirms that the human nature of Christ has no personality or subsistence of its own, but subsists only in its union with the Logos. But the same cannot be said of the divine Logos. Instead, the divine Logos is both the locus of personality in the incarnate Son, as well as the ground for the subsistence of the human nature, which itself does not exist apart from the union with the Logos.
29 Again, this is not to be taken in such a way that Christ did not assume a true human nature. Christ is essentially and eternally the second person of the Godhead, and his humanity is contingent, assumed, and wholly dependent upon the union with the divine Person of the Logos. It is simply not competent to assert that Christ is not essentially divine, even if the concern is to avoid Docetism (i.e., and only apparently human). We do not avoid Docetic Christology by in any way compromising the essential deity of the Son of God. Docetism is avoided by a clear affirmation that the Son of God is essentially divine in the sense that the divine Logos preexists the assumed human nature, and the preexistent divine Logos assumed a contingent, yet truly human nature, in the hypostatic union.
30 Old Princeton carefully distinguished between illumination and inspiration: Inspiration "differs from spiritual illumination, in that spiritual illumination is an essential element in the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit common to all Christians. It never leads to the knowledge of new truth, but only to the personal discernment of the spiritual beauty and power of truth already revealed in the Scriptures ... Inspiration is a special influence of the Holy Spirit peculiar to the prophets and apostles, and attending them only in the exercise of their function as accredited teachers" (A. A. Hodge, Outlines of Theology [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1983 reprinted], 68-69).
31 Muller, PRRD, II.254.
32 Gaffin, “OAI,” 270 (emphasis added).
33 “No other word is to be held as the Word of God, and given place as such in the church than what is contained first in the Law and the Prophets, then in the writings of the apostles; and the only authorized way of teaching in the church is by the prescription and standard of his Word. From this we also infer that the only thing granted to the apostles was that which the prophets had of old. They were to expound the ancient Scriptures and to show that what is taught there has been fulfilled in Christ. Yet they were not to do this except from the Lord, that is, with Christ’s Spirit as precursor in a certain manner dictating the words,” (Institutes of the Christian Religion, vol. 20 of Library of Christian Classics, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, Library of Christian Classics [London: SCM Press, 1960], IV.viii.8). Richard Muller explains Calvin as follows: “Calvin assumed both that Scripture was ‘dictated’ and that it was reflective of the individual style and characteristic patterns of perception belonging to its human authors. Thus ... Calvin argues a verbal, both not a ‘mechanical’ inspiration” (PRRD, II.237).
34 In his “Apostolic Hermeneutics and an Evangelical Doctrine of Scripture: Moving Beyond a Modernist Impasse,” Westminster Theological Journal (Fall 2003): 274, 279, Enns shows awareness of sensus plenior, even though he does not develop it in line with a Chalcedonian Incarnational analogy. The omission of this category in I&I suggests a basic dissatisfaction in light of the implications of its own reductionistic Incarnational analogy.
35 Vern Poythress, “Divine Meaning of Scripture,” in The Right Doctrine from the Wrong Texts? Essays on the Use of the Old Testament in the New, ed. G. K. Beale (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books House, 1994), 93-94 (emphasis added).
36 Troubling in this regard are the following: language akin to neo-orthodoxy’s view of Scripture is not clearly distinguished in I&I from that view. In using such language, it is crucial and necessary to articulate precisely where a Reformed and Neo-orthodox view of Scripture differ. Second, Enn’s endorsement of Franke’s The Character of Theology, as “self-consciously and broadly Calvinist in orientation” — a work that explicitly articulates and applies core Barthian premises to a PCE understanding of the nature and task of theology — suggests some affinity with that view. It is worth noting in addition the forthcoming work by John Franke, entitled The Promise of Postmodern Dogmatics: Karl Barth and the Future of Theology (Eerdmans, forthcoming). The title seems to indicate a positive connection in Franke’s mind between PCE dogmatics and the structural significance of Karl Barth’s theology. See also Franke’s “God Hidden and Wholly Revealed: Karl Barth, Postmodernity and Evangelical Theology,” Books and Culture: A Christian Review, 9:5 (Sept/Oct. 2003), 16-17, 40-41.
37 This is not to deny that Christ is “essentially human” if we mean by essential that he lacks no properties that constitute true humanity. Rather, it is to affirm that the person of Christ is essentially divine, and the human nature that the Logos assumes is real, yet contingent, subsisting in his eternal person.
38 Without arguing that I&I is consciously PCE in its formulations, if the language and conceptual framework used is identical to that used in PCE literature, then it is, consciously or not, embedded in, and thus participant with, much of what PCE wants to do.
39 This same language emerges in the subtitle of the WTJ article “Apostolic Hermeneutics: Moving Beyond the Modernist Impasse.”
40 Stanley Grenz and John Franke, Beyond Foundationalism: Shaping Theology in a Postmodern Context (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 2001), 37. It should be noted that the Grenz-Franke thesis is a repristination of Nancey Murphy’s Beyond Liberalism and Fundamentalism: How Modern and Postmodern Philosophy Set the Theological Agenda (New York, N.Y.: Continuum International Publishing Group-Trinity, 1996).
41 Grenz and Franke, Beyond Foundationalism, 46.
42 John Franke, The Character of Theology: An Introduction to Its Nature, Task, And Purpose (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2005), 135. Two things are worth noting here: first, as noted earlier (n. 36), this book has been endorsed by Enns as providing a “self-consciously and broadly Calvinistic” approach; second, Franke’s reference to “those who hold confessional statements...” is a direct reference to, and indictment of, all confessional churches and theology since the Reformation, including WTS as an institution.
43 Character of Theology, 111.
44 Remember also Barth’s assertion, quoted above (n. 11), “...a biblical theology can never consist in more than a series of attempted approximations, a collection of individual exegeses.”
45 John Murray, “The Theology of the Westminster Confession of Faith,” Collected Writings: 4, Studies In Theology (Edinburgh, 1976), p. 261.
46 Harvie Conn, Eternal Word and Changing Worlds: Theology, Anthropology, and Mission in Trialogue (Grand Rapids, 1984), 242-43.
47 Franke, Character of Theology, 110-11, 135. As we have said, we wonder if I&I does not offer a doctrine of Scripture that cannot be distinguished in any meaningful sense from a Barthian, Neo-orthodox view.
48 An association evidenced additionally by the endorsement , noted above, of a PCE theologian’s book.
49 Along these lines it is worth noting that Old Princeton (Warfield’s Inspiration and Authority of Scripture) and Westminster (The Infallible Word; Thy Word is Truth, to name no others) were at the very center of the Modernist/Fundamentalist or Liberal/Conservative debate in the 19th and 20th centuries. Likewise, it is improper to assume that the doctrine of Scripture articulated by Old Princeton and Westminster was somehow tainted by the rationalism of modernity. There is a historical and theological continuity in the Reformed doctrine of Scripture, continuity that can be traced from the early Reformers, through the post-Reformation 17th century scholastics, to Old Princeton and Westminster. For a defense of this continuity see John Woodbridge, Biblical Authority: A Critique of the Rogers/McKim Proposal (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1982), 69-140.
50 As already indicated, Old Princeton and Westminster are centrally significant in the conservative defense of the Bible in the Modernist/Fundamentalist controversy.
51 Here we plan to discuss the issues of Genesis and myth and of theological diversity in the Old Testament.
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