Monday, March 31, 2008

Peter Enns' Misfortune?

I was surprised to learn about Peter Enns' book Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament (USA: Baker Academic, 2005) some months ago. I was suprised because Peter Enns being a faculty at Westminster Theological Seminary (WTS) could publish such book.

So I thought WTS has shifted its paradigm. Thus I didn't think much about it. Thought there is hope for the seminary to cultivate critical scholarship. But, disappointingly, I came across the news that Peter Enns will be suspended from the seminary just now:
"That for the good of the Seminary (Faculty Manual II.4.C.4) Professor Peter Enns be suspended at the close of this school year, that is May 23, 2008 (Constitution Article III, Section 15), and that the Institutional Personnel Committee (IPC) recommend the appropriate process for the Board to consider whether Professor Enns should be terminated from his employment at the Seminary."
I'm in total sympathy with WTS to want to preserve its theological position, but I can't help but mourn over the fact that the reputable seminary is still not ready to move on to critical biblical studies.

So, in the end, is the suspension a misfortune to Peter Enns or the seminary? To me, it's the latter.

This unfortunate affair reminds me of Robert Gundry who was being kicked out from Evangelical Theological Society for his commentary on Matthew's gospel in the 1980s.


Kar Yong said...

Hi JW,

This is one of my concerns - sometimes this reminds me that we are not too different from our Islamic authorities - who ban books in order to "protect" the adherents from being "misguided." By doing so, we may shut ourselves from critical studies and inquiry - e.g., we are not supposed to question our holy book; we are not supposed to even doubt our faith; and we are not to even compare our holy book with other myths in the ANE, etc.

I think by restricting ourselves, we are poorer in the faith. I have always told my students that if you believe what you believe in is the truth, then the truth should be able to withstand any investigation and enquiries. We should not even shrink from asking valid questions.

The scary thing about Peter Enn's episode is that many evangelicals will hit out at him, without even engaging in his book. Same goes for Bob Gundry - I had his commentary in my office. Some have asked me why I even bother to have a copy of his book. My standard answer is this: Have you read Gundry? Why don't you do so and then decide whether ETS did the right thing or not.

Anonymous said...

Sigh...syiok sendiri...syiok sendiri...

KY, make sure our seminaries don't end up like that...


Sze Zeng said...

Hi KY,

You are right. Not sure if this trend of suspending or terminating membership/tenure popular in the US seminaries/theological societies, but compared to the UK, the US scene is rather dramatic and comical. I'm speaking generally here, knowing princeton, fuller, etc are not playing those games.

UK seems to be more nuanced in their theological engagement. Perhaps, that why you chose to be groomed in the UK?

Kar Yong said...

Hi JW,

Well....I guess the significant difference of doing theology in seminary and univeristy is this: the former is faith based (ie you may need to subscride to the theological persuassion of the seminary) while the latter is "secular". If Enns is in a Theology Dept or Divinity School within a university, I believe he would not be suspended.

In the UK, theology is done mainly in the university setting - which means it is "academic" and "secular" and one's presupposition or faith is never a criteria for assessing one's research (although there might be some exceptions in some of the more evangelical theological colleges which are independent and not part of the university).

I chose UK simply because I was awarded a full scholarship - so I went where the money was - not very "spiritual" but rather "carnal", don't you think? Haha

And the second reason is that I would like to do a full research PhD, and the US does not offer that.

Third, I want to experience somethig different - having done theology in the US, I thought that a different exposure in the UK would be nice.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi KY,

>I chose UK simply because I was awarded a full scholarship - so I went where the money was - not very "spiritual" but rather "carnal", don't you think? Haha

I think that is no less spiritual!! :)