Friday, April 06, 2012

Peter Enns and a different god

While waiting for inspiration to come for my papers, I decide to go back to my neglected blog. And it seems that Peter Enns has provided some material to comment on.

Enns has recently written a blog post with the title "You and I Have a Different God, I Think." I must say I concur with his statement, but for different reasons.

According to Enns,

The reason for the differences is not simply that people have different theological systems or different ways of reading the Bible. A more fundamental difference lies at the root of these (and other) differences.

I think we have a different God.

Christians are supposed to think about God they way Jesus showed us to think about him.

That God does not hesitate to participate in the human drama, to encounter humanity within the limits of the human experience. That means that biblical writers wrote about the God they encountered as they understood him within their cultural limitations.

True encounter with God, expressed in truly human, cultural, terms.

That’s why I have no problem reading the Adam story as a story of origins like other stories of the ancient world, or understanding Paul’s take on Adam as an outworking of his Jewish world (where biblical texts are molded to fit an argument), and calling this kind of writing “God’s word.”

The Gospel teaches me that this kind of Bible reflects the character of God. This kind of Bible is what I have come to expect.

The Gospel does not teach me that it is a problem for God to enter into the human experience and allow that human experience to shape–from beginning to end–how the Bible behaves. The Gospel teaches me exactly the opposite.

And the Gospel certainly does not teach me that God is up there, at a distance, guiding the production of a diverse and rich biblical canon that nevertheless contains a single finely-tuned system of theology that he expects his people to be obsessed with “getting right” (and lash out at those who don’t agree).

When it comes to things like Adam and I hear how people explain their position, the question I ask myself now is “what kind of God are you presenting to me here when you say X….?” Is it

an incarnating God–Immanuel, God with us, or

a Platonic god–where you have to peel off the obscuring “down here” hindrances to get to the untainted “up there” god, with the Bible as an encoded inerrant guidebook to get you there.

I don’t like the platonic god. I don’t think Jesus did either.

Enns caricatures those who reject his theistic evolution as those who believe in a Platonic "god" as opposed to the God who incarnates into the world. The question is not only whether this is fair, but what shall be said in response.

To be certain, no Christian will ever believe in a platonic "god." Christian Platonists are seriously in error in their philosophy, but none of them believe in a "god" where reality is all emmanations of some kind from his univocal and universal being. What Enns portray as Platonism has only surface similarity with true Platonism in the area of form, and even then the idea that the Bible is word-for-word dictation, a pure form of God's word, is a notion that only the most misinformed anti-intellectual Christian may hold, and more a caricature created by liberals than anything resembling true reality.

Right off therefore, Enns is pandering to the worse of liberal misrepresentation of the position taken by those he disagrees with. Maybe Enns have encountered them, but I really would love to meet this creature known as the dictation theorist. It seems that they are almost as visible as the emperor's new clothes, and almost as ubiquitous as true healing in a Benny Hinn's "crusade."

The problem with Enns is that his "god" does not control culture. Culture in his view is autonomous of God in some sense. Therefore, God cannot convey true truth because of the limitation of culture, but must convey truth in the form of myths. First of all, his "god" does not rule over the myths of ancient men. His "god" is apparently unable to stop the fabrication of creation myths like the Enuma Elish, the Gilgemash Epich and others like them as a total fabrication of what actually took place, which according to Enns is the evolution process. Instead, we have the sad spectator of a "god" who looks on in horror as the Sumerians and Babylonians and other ancient peoples created myths that speak of the creation of mankind when actually they have all evolved from monkeys.

Next, his "god" is apparently so tied to culture that he cannot portray reality to Israel but must rely on myths so that these ancient people continue to stay deluded together with all the other ancient peoples. Apparently, his "god" does not mind lying to the ancient Israelites, since the Hebrew language is perfectly capable of conveying evolution if that is what actually took place. (Whoever disbelieves them can go and find modern evolution textbooks written in Hebrew) Instead, incarnating in culture requires lying also. One wonders if when Jesus proclaimed that He is the way, the truth and life (Jn. 14:6), why is Jesus not using mythic language of his time to convey a deeper (read inclusivist) reality? After all, why stop at Genesis? Maybe all of Scripture is "mythic" language and an "analogy" of some deeper truth?

God certainly incarnates into the world, but the incarnation comes only in the form of the person of Jesus. Nowhere does the Bible teaches that God "incarnates" into language, but rather He rules over language and culture as Creator and through His Providence.

Enns' position is therefore the denial of God's lordship as Creator and His Providence. I would certainly think that denial of these two aspects/ works of God quality as believing in a different "god."


Joel Tay said...

Read about it through Charlie's blog.

It is sad. But at least now he has "come out of the closet" and admit to what he really believes rather than try to say he believes in a historical Adam and all that. I actually agree with what he says here: that his god is a different god altogether.

PuritanReformed said...


well, yes. I think we all agree.