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I’ve blogged about Peter Enns many times because of his very public compromise on Genesis. (And many of you may recall the debacle between me and Peter Enns at a particular homeschool conference last year.)
Dr. Enns, who used to work with the theologically liberal group BioLogos, has written books and articles denying the historicity of Genesis, and he encourages fellow Christians to do the same. And now he’s resorted to a tactic similar to that of secularists—Enns says that any Christian who takes Genesis as history is reading the Bible in a “childish” way.
Dr. Enns’s recent blog post is titled Reading Genesis: Let’s be Adult about this, Shall We? He centers his argument on a statement made by Hermann Gunkel, a late nineteenth century to early twentieth century German Bible scholar. Gunkel claims that “A child, indeed, unable to distinguish between reality and poetry, loses something when it is told that its dearest stories are ‘not true.’ But the modern theologian should be further developed.” Gunkel goes on to say that Genesis is made up of “legends” and the church should not promote Genesis as historical.
And Dr. Enns has bought this argument hook, line, and sinker! There are many problems with this, but the most glaring one is Dr. Enns’s exaltation of a man’s idea about the Bible over the Word of God itself. What makes Hermann Gunkel more trustworthy than Genesis? What gives him more insight than the authors of Scripture, who were directly inspired by God to write what they did?
The second issue with Dr. Enns’s argument is his assertion that Genesis contains legends and myths. What a low view of Scripture! (See my article A Low View of Scripture.) Enns writes that his view of Scripture again stems from Hermann Gunkel’s beliefs:
Gunkel called these stories “legends” and, along with pretty much every Old Testament scholar since, said, “Yeah, these stories and the Bible are similar enough to say they are connected somehow. We need to think about how this information helps us understand what Genesis means and what we can expect from it.”
Of course, Dr. Enns has completely missed the point. There are many flood legends and creation legends around the world, but Genesis is not a compilation of those legends adjusted for the Hebrew mind. We know that Moses authored Genesis, likely working with written documents that had been passed down for generations and recounted the Creation, the Fall, the Flood, and so on. (This is known as the Tablet Model of Genesis; for more information, see the article by Dr. Terry Mortenson and Bodie Hodge, Did Moses Write Genesis?)
Is it reasonable, then, to say that Moses simply grabbed a bunch of Egyptian or Babylonian myths and decided to write a false (called “mythical” by Enns and Gunkel) account of our origins? Absolutely not! If that were the case, Christians would not be able to trust any of God’s Word because God would be a liar. But this idea that Genesis is just a collection of legends is exactly what Dr. Enns—a professing Christian—is advocating in his blog post.
The events in Genesis 1–11 would have been remembered and passed down for generations. But, as man multiplied after the global Flood, later generations that embraced false gods would have every reason to corrupt those accounts and attribute them to their own idols. Hermann Gunkel and Dr. Enns get it backwards: Genesis is not a collection of legends—those legends, such as the Epic of Gilgamesh or the Enuma Elish, are corrupted versions of the accounts in Genesis!
The final problem with Dr. Enns’s argument is that he resorts to a form of mudslinging to make his point. When an atheist doesn’t like that I teach a literal, six-day creation, he often says I’m engaging in “child abuse.” When Peter Enns doesn’t like the fact that church leaders hold to the authority and inerrancy of Scripture, even in Genesis 1–11, he calls the church “childish.” Enns discusses students having a crisis of faith at church and Christian colleges or seminaries once they find out their “childish” reading of Genesis is incorrect. And of course, Enns wants such places to help young people have what he calls an “adult” reading of Genesis—which means to reject it as history!
Actually it is people like Dr. Enns and his compromising views who really cause a crisis of faith in many young people! How we need to stand on the authority of God's Word and equip the current and coming generations to be able to defend the Christian faith against the attacks of the secularists—and the attacks of Bible compromisers like Enns.
Dr. Enns writes that when people are told they should trust the authority of Scripture on origins, “you are asking of people to make a choice between remaining a childish reader of Genesis in order to stay Christian, or to become an adult reader and an unbeliever.” And, of course, Dr. Enns believes that meshing evolutionary ideas with Scripture is the proper alternative and still allows you to be “faithful to the Bible.”
As I was reading Peter Enns’s blog post, I kept thinking of Matthew 18, which says, “Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 18:2–4).
Dr. Enns will be humbled as a child one day when he, like everyone, will bow and kneel before the King of creation. Oh that he would come as a child right now and trust the Word of the King as every child of God should!
Please pray for Peter Enns.
Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,
I thank Steve Golden for his assistance in preparing this blog item.