I have finally started reading Peter Enns‘ book, Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament (2005).* I have been meaning to read this book for some time now, but I have simply not had the time to give it the attention it deserves. That time has changed (obviously). Admittedly, I am only a preface and one chapter into the book, which means I will not be able to speak fully at this point. However, I can say that what I see so far is reasonable and quite good.
The first chapter lays the groundwork for the approach Enns seeks to take as he explores the manifold nature of the Bible, especially the Old Testament. Specifically, Enns wants to examine the (striking) similarities between what is found in the Bible/OT and what appears in similar genres and texts from the ancient Near East (ANE). Two seemingly contradictory things stand out for me in this regard: 1) Enns is not denying the unique quality of the Bible/OT by doing this comparison; 2) Enns wants to understand how to deal with the similar form and content between the Bible/OT and texts from the ANE in a way that maintains the uniqueness of the former. Or to oversimplify: Enns want to understand how the Bible/OT is like other texts from the ANE but at the same time unlike those texts. When I was working on my MA thesis in Seminary, I found myself wrestling with the same sorts of questions/issues and wanting to come out of the stuggle in a similar way. While I am not entirely sure how well I came out in that process, I do know that I have a greater sensitivity and respect for this type of discussion. (I now wish I had Enns’ book during that writing stage).
One final thought on the opening of this book deals with something just below the surface–something easily overlooked if one is not paying close enough attention. I have read a few articles by Enns and they carry with them a deep sense of clarity and what I would call a ‘humble boldness’. In other words, Enns is ‘to-the-point’ and incredibly insightful but not in a way that reeks of academic smugness. In his book (at least the preface and first chapter), there is a slight sense of vagueness and what could be termed, ‘humble reserve’. I get the the impression that Enns knows his argument is controversial and even difficult to address in an honest fashion. However, that he expresses himself with this humble reserve tells me that he is not dealing with this material lightly nor is he wanting to be seen as a ranging liberal bull in a quaint little conservative china-shoppe. At the very least, Enns should be commended for that; and I do.
* As many will know, this book was the shot heard ’round the world in that it ultimately (and sadly) led to Enns losing his position at Westminster Theological Seminary.