The Inerrancy Battle Renews – or does it?

Al Mohler recently argued that we continue to face an attack on inerrancy. Here’s his take on Pete Enns’ Inspiration and Incarnation.

Recently, Professor Peter Enns, formerly of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, has argued that the biblical authors clearly erred. He has argued that Paul, for example, was clearly wrong in assuming the historicity of Adam. In Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament, published in 2005, he presented an argument for an “incarnational” model of biblical inspiration and authority. But in this rendering, incarnation — affirming the human dimension of Scripture — means accepting some necessary degree of error.

I’m not sure I accept his depiction of Enns’ work. Much of what Enns does is point out what most evangelical scholars agree about on how scripture was (or at least most likely was) created and interacted with surrounding culture and suggest we haven’t really thought about what this means for our theology of inspiration. While I’d quibble here and there, his larger point is right and his intent as I understood it was to help encourage people wrestling with these real problems. I’ve had conversations with scholars at several very conservative/fundamental schools who found Enns not that threatening. Perhaps they and I are wrong, but the varied responses to the book suggest something else may be at work.

At the other extreme, Roger Olson (a former colleague at Bethel University) argues that inerrancy isn’t really that important. His evidence is worth considering. On the one hand, by the time it is qualified and we hear all the actual understanding of many inerrantists, they might as well not even argue for the position. On the other hand, many historically venerated evangelicals did not affirm inerrancy; making it a shibboleth may be a mistake.

I wonder if these quite divergent arguments and the energy surrounding them may be symptomatic of deep fault lines within the evangelical tradition. I guess we will see…

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