I can’t imagine a greater contrast than the behavior of Westminster Theological Seminary and the attitude of F. F. Bruce (whose autobiography I recently reviewed). F.F. Bruce guided the evangelical community away from anti-intellectualism and showed the value of historical research in the Bible. He showed that a historical-critical approach to the Bible is compatible with faith and an aid to faith in helping us understand the Bible properly. He celebrated the freedom provided to him in his own church affiliation and in his working environment.
Professor Bruce began his career as a professor of Classics. He believed that the Greek and Latin literature from the centuries before and after the events of the New Testament is the best guide to understanding the setting of the events and literature of early Christianity. Peter Enns undertook a similar type of study of the Old Testament–he studied the ancient literature from the region and time of the Old Testament events–ancient Babylonian literature, for example.
Petter Enns has written a very helpful guide to some difficult historical issues relating to the Old Testament, called Inspiration and Incarnation. He never calls into question the truthfulness or authority of the Bible for believers, but he does raise questions about its interpretation. He argues that we have to understand the understanding of the first readers and writers if we are going to understand the message of the Bible.
I have read his book, and many of the ancient writings to which he refers, and the Westminister Confession of Faith–I can find nothing in Enns’ book that contradicts what that 17th century document teaches “Of the Holy Scripture“.
I know that the seminary named after the Westminster Confession has held traditional (not to say rigid) theological positions; in particular some of their opinions expressed by Westminster faculty on issues related to gender and freedom seem quite retrograde to me. When I read Inspiration and Incarnation I changed my opinion of the seminary–there is evidently some academic freedom there, I thought.
Evidently I was wrong. On All Fools Day this month the administration of WTS gathered their students in the chapel and announced that professor Enns had been suspended pending further investigation into his orthodoxy.
(See Peter Enns website here.)