Monday, April 4, 2011

Paul Was Wrong (?)

Many of you have heard of the kerfuffle with Ken Ham and Peter Enns over invivtations to speak at certain homeschool conferences. In researching some information for Ken (in full disclosure, he is my boss) I dug into an essay by Enns posted on the BioLogos website. Many Christians within the homeschool movement, some who agree with Ken’s young earth position, have been defending Enns and his view of the inspiration of Scripture as orthodox and have chastised Ken for calling Enns a compromiser. Having read this article, Dr. Enns clearly understands
the nature of the debate at hand. He is very intelligent and presents his arguments clearly. There is a bit of loaded language in his essay, but we all carry a bias that can be seen between the buttons on occasion.

In his article "Evangelicals, Evolution, and the Bible: Moving Toward a Synthesis," Dr. Enns suggests we need a new hermeneutic, or at least a reorientation, to solve the issues at hand. He rightly frames the debate as being between Christianity and evolution, not science and faith. He then goes on to accurately explain the connection that most see between Adam and Christ and the implications for the gospel. He gets it! There is no straw man in his argument.

Enns sets up four basic options as solutions to the tension between evolution and Christianity:
1. Accept evolution as valid and embodying tremendous explanatory power, and reject Christianity on the whole as untenable;
2. Develop a true scientific model, open to peer review, that supplies Christian theology with a first pair of some sort and so reconcile Christianity and evolution;
3. Rethink the biblical origin story and related passages so as to synthesize Christianity with scientific reality;
4. Accept Paul’s understanding of human origins as scientifically accurate and reject evolution.
I'll overlook the loaded language for now and let you see the conclusion Enns reaches in his own words.
The fourth option is untenable as members of the human race in the twenty-first century. Ignoring the scientific and archaeological evidence is not an option.
The first option, rejecting Christianity, is more viable than the fourth and does not suffer from the ad hoc posture of the second, but it is certainly not the necessary one. Another option remains, the third listed above: synthesis. In my opinion, it is with this third option that our intellectual energies are most profitably expended, and that should be the focus of future theological and hermeneutical work.
In a rich twist of irony, Dr. Enns informs his readers that to embrace option four, a young-earth view of the Bible with a real man Adam created from the dust of the Ground, is to either not be human or to not be living in the current century. I think option four is quite tenable and so I am either living in another century or I am not a human. I will let you decide which is true.

So what’s the irony? Ken was chastised for “calling names” and pointing to Enns as compromising the authority of the Word of God. So it is acceptable for Enns to refer to those who hold a young earth position as non-human (or possibly not living in the current century), but unacceptable for Ken say that he believes Enns has compromised the truth of Scripture by saying that Paul was wrong “scientifically” when he made the connection between Adam and Christ in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15. He was correct “theologically,” but he didn’t know about human evolution what scientists have “proven” to be true to date. (If you like, you can find a video of Dr. Enns teaching at Westmont College on the typology of Adam and Israel or read his other essays on his personal website or the BioLogos website.)

In my understanding of Christian orthodoxy, to say that it would be better to reject Christianity and accept evolution than to accept that Paul meant what he said is out of bounds. This approach undermines the authority of Scripture placing “science” as the authority. If this is not compromise, I don’t know what is. This is nothing new in evangelical circles, but it is the present danger that faces those of us who are jealous for the gospel. I stand with Ken in calling out such error within the church and pray that it can be done with love and humility. May Christ be honored as this battle continues.

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