Peter Enns accused of heresy for The Bible Tells Me So

I confess, I have not read this book nor do I plan to. I’ve read a few different books published by HarperCollins and they generally do not mix well with what I expect from a book. Largely, because as someone who appreciates wittiness, books published by HarperCollins actually generally have the normal folks as their target audience. I would rather eat a gourmet feast when it comes to Biblical theology than something published by HarperCollins. However, I did happen to give this book a perusal and I’m astonished to see that The Gospel Coalition has implied that the book is heretical.

Oh boy…the first part of The Gospel Coalition’s article is to highlight how Enns’s book does to the Bible what Bell’s book Love Wins did for Hell. When I read that part, I was wondering what the problem with it was. I have read Bell’s book back when people were still worked up about him being a universalist and all and what I found out is that Bell’s book, contrary to promoting universalism (re-read chapter four if you haven’t read it!), actually vindicates Hell in a C.S. Lewis line of reasoning (read The Great Divorce). Even more ironically, Bell has been questioned as to whether he is a universalist or not and has explicitly denied it. Apparently, chapter four wasn’t clear enough for some people but some just like to make accusations where there really is no point to it.

Don’t get me wrong, I support heresy-hunting. However, if you’re going to be heresy-hunting, make certain to have heavily excluded all possible alternatives and have investigated well enough to clarify that someone is a heretic. One man’s heretic is generally another man’s martyr. In this case, with both Bell and Enns, neither has been factually accused of being a heretic. Which is a tragedy because not only will people trying to demonize them completely miss their points, people making them into heroes will think that they agree with them point-by-point and will be shocked when they find out they actually disagree with them more so than ever (such was my reaction after reading Love Wins–I thought Bell was on my side in favor of universalism and he wasn’t!).

From what I have read of Peter Enns though, it seems that there will be many who disagree with a point he makes in Inspiration and Incarnation in which the Hebrew word ezer actually is also used to describe God so why for women does this mean they are subordinate? I’d imagine the Christian Patriarchy movement is going to be greatly disturbed by this. Maybe some who are against the ordination of women. But notice that Enns does not actually make a point about whether women should be ordained or not but rather as to whether using the term “helper” to prove they have a subordinate position in role to men is a mistake. Ironically, since the word ezer is clearly applied to an ontological superior, this could actually support many arguments against the ordination of women and also show that women and men are not actually ontological equals (a point generally agreed on by radical egalitarians and the Christian Patriarchy movement alike but not by Catholic standards).

The only controversial thing I see about Enns’s view on the Bible is the entirely Christocentric view he takes on it. Christocentrism is more dominant in Western Christian understandings and approaches to theology but is generally absent in Eastern Christian approaches. As the Christian faith is Trinitarian and not Christ-onlyist, there could be some theological dispute about the overall soundness of such an approach to the Bible. However, I do recall Enns having stated somewhere that Christocentric hermeneutical methods are not the only applicable and that Trinity-centered hermeneutics are sound as well. Enns is a scholar, not an advocate. I’m not certain where The Gospel Coalition got its ideas from about Enns’s The Bible Tells Me So.

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About newenglandsun

A student. Male. Passionate. Easily offended. Child-like wonderer. Growing in faith, messing up daily.
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