Andrew Wilson’s review in Christianity Today of Peter Enns’ The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It, endorses seven important hermeneutic points that Enns makes:
“The Bible is, and functions like, an ancient book (chapter 1). God lets his children tell the story, and what they mean isn’t always what we assume it means (chapter 2). The Old Testament narrates different stories in different ways, with specific circumstances in mind (chapter 3), and it offers different perspectives on all sorts of things, including the nature of God (chapter 4). Jesus didn’t read his Bible in the same way we often do (chapter 5). Paul read the whole Bible afresh, in light of Jesus (chapter 6). And we need to let the Bible be the Bible, rather than what we want it to be (chapter 7).”
Wilson comments that evangelicals have often missed these points. My own view is that the best conservative scholars already incorporate these insights into their hermeneutic, but at the more journeyman level, yes, indeed – much Bible study is done and many doctrinal opinions are dogmatically formed in ignorance of those seven factors.
I even more emphatically agree with other points that Wilson goes on to make, however, in the penultimate paragraph of his review:
“…it is never clear what it actually means for the Bible to be the Word of God. How might the Scriptures call us to repent, to die to ourselves, to change, or to do anything other than listen to a spiritual conversation? …. There is no account of how doctrine should be formed, no discussion of what biblical authority really looks like, no real engagement with the teachings of the church (which has often read the Bible rather differently…), and no examples of biblical ethics beyond what The New York Times would freely endorse.”
Wilson is critiquing Enns, specifically. As I have not yet read Enns’ book, I cannot affirm those criticisms of him personally, hence some of the ellipses in the above quote. However, that kind of criticism is part of what I had in mind when I wrote as follows in a response to someone who made a comment on my Motion 30 Playing Field: post
“…it seems to me that they [Christians who have a “progressive” attitude toward the Word of God but aspire to be true to the historic Christian faith] apply a different meta-hermeneutic to the question of how the word should be discerned and applied in each succeeding generation of the Church. I don’t think they have succeeded in enunciating their meta-hermeneutic clearly enough for anyone but themselves to understand it, but nor do I think they are operating from deliberately humanistic presuppositions.”
It seems to me that there needs to be a wider understanding among evangelical Bible students of the seven points that Wilson endorses in Enns, but the progressive camp also desperately needs to listen to input from conservatives, to prevent flights of fancy replacing the hearing of the Word of God.
I therefore ask again the question that closed my Motion 30 post. Assuming that a two-integrities solution is found and staves off schism, “The great ecumenical councils of the early Church – Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus and Chalcedon – defended the faith against errors that in various ways would have silenced God and/or stripped Christ of his eternity. The Church Fathers assumed and used the Word of God in their deliberations, but they did not give us a creed or a synodical letter that summarises what they believed the orthodox doctrine of the Word should be. Can the ACANZP work now to produce a unified statement regarding the word of God – a statement that is scrupulously careful not to destroy the ramparts that those early councils raised, and that will allow us to hear the Word of God together once again?”