Renewing the Evangelical mind: an interview with Peter Enns

Renewing the Evangelical mind: an interview with Peter Enns

 

In what follows, I had the immense privilege to interview Peter Enns (links), who is undoubtedly the leading progressive Evangelical theologian in the whole world.

Here are the topics we touched upon, albeit not necessarily in a chronological order.

 

1) Where Peter Enns comes from and how his thoughts evolved with time

2) How is evolution currently perceived among American Evangelicals?

a) Young Earth Creationism

b) Old Earth Creationism and Concordism

c) His own approach

3) What were likely the intentions of the original authors as they wrote the text?

4) One of the very foundation of Evangelicalism is the idea that God cursed us with a sinful nature, making misdeeds deserving an eternal punishment inevitable.
Can we find this concept in the very text of Genesis?

5) If Paul thought it was the case but the authors of Genesis 2 and 3 didn’t hold this view, what should we believe as modern Christians?

6) What is inerrancy and why is it viewed as the very foundation of Christianity by so many people?

7) What about God inerrantly gathering errant texts for His own purposes, as Professor Randal Rauser thinks it’s the case?

8) Many people say that if there is only a small mistake in one obscure book of the Old Testament, we can no longer trust the resurrection. What’s Peter’s response to this?

9) Problem of divine hideness:

Why would God not have given us an inerrant text rather than leaving us stabbing in the dark?

Why did He allow so many people to mistakenly assume its inerrancy?

10) What did God REALLY do during the history of Israel? Did He reveal Himself to a real Abraham and a real Mose?

11) Given the results of modern critical scholarship, what makes the Protestant Canon so special?
What does it mean to say that the imprecatory psalms were more inspired than books of C.S. Lewis on pain and love, and writings of Martin Luther King on non-violence?

12) Currently, there is a massive exodus from young people out of Conservative Christianity?
What are the causes of this?

 

https://i2.wp.com/randalrauser.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Peter-Enns.jpg

 

For those interested by our conversation, I recommend the following resources:

 

Peter’s blog containing many insightful posts and Peter’s website full of great academic writings.

The following books are also worth looking:

The Evolution of Adam : What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins.
Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology).
Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament.
Telling God’s Story: A Parents’ Guide to Teaching the Bible (Telling God’s Story).
Ecclesiastes (Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary).

UPCOMING: The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It.

 

6 thoughts on “Renewing the Evangelical mind: an interview with Peter Enns

  1. Hi Marc,
    Just finished listening to the interview and enjoyed it very much. Great questions and Peter gave some excellent answers I thought. You really touched on a wide variety of important subjects, so thanks! Pete has risen in even higher in my opinion (which I hadn’t thought was possible…) Seems like a very decent guy.

    So… C.S. Lewis as part of the Biblical canon? Hmmm…maybe George MacDonald, but not Lewis!😉

    Anyway, great job!🙂

    Steve

  2. Interesting interview.

    I’ve been researching lately to form an opinion regarding the truth claims of Christianity. I think at this point I can say I “used to be” an evangelical Christian.

    The points raised in the interview against fundamentalism / evangelicalism / a literalistic reading of the Bible seem like worthwhile points. What I have trouble understanding is–after considering points like those (and others)–why keep any of it? More to the point: why *should* we suppose that the Bible is really any sort of divine revelation? That it relays any supernatural truths?

    As I find out more about the Bible outside of the narrow evangelical view, why should I stop at progressive/liberal Christianity at all–instead of continuing straight on to agnosticism / agnostic atheism?

    I really don’t get progressive / liberal Christianity. So I’m here asking. The above are not meant to be rhetorical questions.

  3. BTW, IDK why, but the comments on this article are only showing up for me using the WordPress app for Android–not using my desktop web browser (IE 11 & Firefox).

  4. Hi ratamacue🙂 – I think that’s a question from an ex fundamentalists who is still influenced by the mindset that they have rejected (that’s not an aggressive statement btw – it’s one of great sympathy. I’ve been there myself – long ago now – and I’ve seen others go through it who have been dear friends).

    Fundamentalists often goes hand in hand with evangelicalism in the USA certainly – but not necessarily elsewhere.

    Fundamentalism is a relatively new phenomenon – and presuppositionalist literalism only does back to the second (or even third) generation of Calvinists. And persuppositionalist literalism actually isn’t true literalism – its a way of arranging texts in a certain order of priority that seems literal but is actually imposing syllogistic logic on the text. That is why it can be engaged in by people with intellectual acuity like Francis Schaeffer, Carl Henry, Cornelius van Til etc can remain fundamentalists with a selective, faulty non historical understanding of their faith and tradition while still using their minds to maximum capacity.

    The wider Church from its earliest time s has not seen ten books of the Bible in flat literalistic terms. For starters the revelation of God in Christ narrated in the Gospels has always been seen as new light that radically alters the dimmer understanding of earlier sculpture (even if the light gradually gets brighter in these too). There has always been some sort of recognition that the Word is not identical with the letter of Scripture and that the Word is still present in Christ’s Church as it grapples with questions of doctrine and ethics in its ongoing tradition. And that the Word scripture is present to the faithful as part of the liturgy, sacrament in worship where the words of the Bible are preached. And since the Reformation as well as scripture and tradition have been complemented reason,/conscience and reflective experience – and even the Catholic Ecumenical Churches now have a place for these.

    Christianity like any faith is complex – it can’t be simplified because human experience is complex (and the incarnation is Christianities’ message that God takes human experience seriously). We can be true to what has been handed down to us but we will bring new questions to tradition and scripture that our forefathers and mothers had not anticipated. It is right this should be so.

    • dickwhittingtonuk, thanks for your answer. Sorry for my delay in replying; I didn’t receive any notification alerting me to your comment.

      With all due respect, I fail to see how this answers my question. Mind you, what I write below may seem a bit frustrated. It’s not meant to be a personal attack. I mean to subject truth claims to scrutiny, in order to discern truth. Also, I am frustrated with the Church that it seems to me is likely perpetuating falsehoods–by which I was taken in for many years.

      God has not manifested himself to us in a way we can detect with our five senses. As an evangelical, I had figured that a presupposition of God’s existence (supported by the argument from design, and now I would add fine tuning), plus an inerrant, cohesive, prophetic Bible was evidence enough to convince me. Now I see that at least those points regarding the Bible are incorrect, and I will neither presuppose God’s existence nor his non-existence. The argument from design seems to fall rather flat. Fine tuning may stand up well, but it’s quite a leap from there to a god, let alone Yahweh or Jesus as his son. So, why should I believe any of Christianity’s or the Bible’s claims?

      If I’m reading you right, you seem to be using the errant Bible as a pointer, but mainly leaning on church tradition. But what if the church founders got it wrong? On the basics, or even the whole basis (the resurrection)? Nowadays, cults still form, and people still have visions, but we don’t trust that their spiritual interpretations and claims of ghosts are true. Why should a game of “whisper down the lane” (a.k.a. “telephone”) convince me?

      And you add “faith is complex”. I might rephrase that as “it’s complicated “, which could be interpreted as a dodge. I think that if God is love, and if he’s revealed his truth to us (somehow), and if he wants us to know it, then at least the basics ought to be well-supported by evidence of some sort. I’m okay with logic in there. But I find little evidence, and the divergence if opinion is so wide that there’s little consensus, i.e. it’s not obvious, and thus the God hypothesis seems poorly supported to me.

      I’m OK with faith that “fills in the gaps”. But faith *as a foundation* for belief seems to me like a way to hold on to falsehood or conjecture in spite of lack of evidence–or even in the face of evidence to the contrary.

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