Center for Ethics and Leadership

Monday, July 28, 2008

Seminary Makes a Bad Decision

A few hundred years ago, the Westminster Confession of Faith declared Scripture to be God's infallible word. About 100 years ago several professors of theology from Princeton wrote the Fundamentals (five of them) in response to the growing popularity of critical methods of reading Scripture championed mainly by German scholars. About eighty years ago, some Princetonians founded Westminster Theological Seminary in suburban Philadelphia, a seminary dedicated to teaching the Fundamentals. About a week ago, a solid Scripture scholar, Peter Enns, resigned from Westminster after a career of nearly 25 years because the Westminster board has decided that his work violates the Confession. Below follows a headline from Enns's website that states his methodological assumption clearly:

The Authority of Scripture is a Function of Its Divine Origin, not Its Cultural Expression, Although the Bible that the Spirit Has Given the Church is a Thoroughly Encultured Product

There is nothing theologically objectionable about this statement. It does not compromise the principle of Scripture's infallibility, nor does it cast all Biblical theology into the murky waters of modern scientific contingency. On the other hand, the refusal to move forward on the part of any of our Christian churches threatens the faith's credibility in an age of increasing epistemological eliminative materialism.

The Church, especially those denominations which emphasize the primacy of Scripture, needs more scholars like Peter Enns, not fewer. Here is a sincere wish that Prof. Enns quickly finds another position in clerical formation at an institution in his ecclesiastical tradition. And here's Enns's URL:

On a related matter, Christians must always be careful about how they apply their creeds, confessions, and canons to contemporary questions. Again, the Church's preservation from error provided by the Holy Spirit does not encourage simplistic correlations from one age to the next.


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