May 03, 2008

The Doctrine of Scripture at Westminster

Those of you who read Biblioblogs have probably followed the saga unfolding at Westminster Theological Seminary over the past year regarding Peter Enns, prof of Biblical Studies, and his book, Inspiration and Incarnation. In that engaging and thoughtful book, Enns tackles head on "problems" in the Scriptures that are often glossed over in formulating our doctrines. In short, he looks at the phenomenon of Scripture (that is, what Scripture actually is and says and does) to see what it has to contribute to a doctrine of Scripture. This is opposed, or maybe better, in addtion, to focusing on the "self-witness" of Scripture, that is, what Scriptures specifically says it is. This discussion has led to the dismissal of Professor Enns from Westminster, after the decision that he has gone outside the bounds of the Westminster Confession. Many learned people on all sides of the discussion have commented at great length. I recommend, among others, the round-up by Michael Bird of Euangelion, and the comments by Ben Meyer of Faith and Theology, though many others have commented as well. Especially interesting is also the fact that Westminster has now released the theological documents surrounding the dismissal, which shed some interesting light on the split within the faculty. The Hermenutics Faculty Committe precis is especially interesting.

I myself have been wrestling with how to forumlate the doctrine of Scripture in light both of what Scripture says and what Scripture is, and I personally really enjoyed Enns' honest approach to the phenomenon of Scripture, taking him at his word that it was an investigation into these matters with an eye to how they may contribute to a doctrine of Scripture, and not a full-blown doctrinal statement. And while I don't necessarily completely agree with how he has used the incarnational anaolgy, nor necessarily agree with all of his points, I thought his book was well done and much needed study into these matters.

I'm saddened by the tone much of this discussion has taken, and hope it can open up some fruitful dialogue on what it means to be confessional but also Biblical, on what it means to be evangelical without closing off continued study and learning. I think this controversy simply extends one that has been going on in evangelicalism for a long time, in organizations such as the Evangelical Theological Society and elsewhere. I have profound respect for many of the traditional formulations of the doctrine of Scripture, but also hope our investigations can continue.

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