A Critique of Dr. Peter Enns’ Book The Bible Tells Me So

Should We Expect Inerrancy from the Bible?

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Abstract

What we know of Jesus Christ’s love and grace comes to us through the reliable testimony of God’s Word. That simple and beautiful biblical truth, summed up in the familiar phrase “The Bible tells me so” from the hymn “Jesus Loves Me,” introduces many children to the love of Jesus. This sweet refrain also reminds adults that God’s revelation to us in His Word is the foundation for faith and the ultimate source of truth. A new book capitalizing on the familiar song—The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It by Dr. Peter Enns—is a collection of compromises, written for the layman. The book wastes a great deal of ink claiming that the Bible is simply not to be trusted or taken seriously. In it Dr. Enns continues his destructive influence on the Christian faith and biblical understanding through his relentless assault on God’s Word.

Introduction

“The Bible tells me so” is a familiar phrase. It comes right after “Jesus loves me! This I know” and right before “Little ones to Him belong; they are weak but He is strong.” The familiar hymn, written in 1860 to comfort a dying child, has brought assurance to countless children and adults through its reminder that what we know of Jesus’ never-failing love and grace comes to us through the reliable testimony of God’s Word. That biblical truth is under attack in a book by Dr. Peter Enns that effectively mocks it in its title: The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It. As a Bible teacher at Eastern University and a producer of homeschool Bible curriculum, Dr. Enns through this book continues his destructive influence on the faith and biblical understanding of countless children and adults. He does this by sharing, in a conversational, lighthearted style, why he believes right-thinking people should simply discard the history presented in the Bible by relegating it to the status of Israel’s national myth.

Creeping Compromises

As I read The Bible Tells Me So and thought of how to review it fairly and honestly, I knew I would receive some letters from fellow Christians exhorting me to be less critical of our brother in Christ. After all, Dr. Enns does let us know in his book that he believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God come in the flesh, that Jesus died for us on the Cross, and that He rose from the dead. Like many others who profess faith in Christ while compromising God’s Word, Dr. Enns indicates he hopes his work will “help others meet God,”1 or at least be happier Christians, through his convenient method of denying that any parts of the Bible that seem troubling or that disagree with millions-of-years evolutionary thought are actually historically factual, divinely inspired truth. In essence, Dr. Enns grants us the freedom to take the parts of the Bible that he does not like—including some of Christ’s own words2—and to say, in effect, that God didn’t really mean us to take those parts seriously, as they didn’t really come from Him anyway. However, I still believe the Bible is God’s infallible Word (2 Timothy 3:16–17), and I cannot accept the idea that the Savior who died for my sins would be unable or unwilling to honestly (John 17:17) communicate with us through the written Word of God. Therefore, I must follow the exhortation of Jude 3 and “earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints,” the revelation of God that He communicated to all of us through the writers of the Old and New Testaments that He chose for the work (2 Peter 1:20–21).

The great danger of countenancing Scriptural compromise is that each compromise leads to others. As man’s fallible notions—philosophical, scientific, theological, moral, or otherwise—are forced into the Bible, a wedge is driven into the truth of God’s Word. For instance, progressive creationists accept the big bang (cosmological evolution) and millions of years (geological evolution) and deny the global Flood, but still deny biological evolution and consider Adam and Eve to be historical people. Theistic evolutionists add biological evolution to the mix, though some still accept the idea that Adam and Eve were real though highly evolved people, descendants of ape-like ancestors. Such compromisers typically reinterpret the Bible in an effort to make room for their incompatible notions. Another generation of compromisers—exemplified by Dr. Enns in this case—blithely do away with a literal Adam altogether.

Dr. Enns has taken the theistic evolution compromise to its next logical step. Unlike some compromisers, he doesn’t believe the Bible teaches either evolution or millions of years. But, at least partly because he believes those unbiblical teachings are undeniably true, he has convinced himself that the Bible is a collection of backdated stories designed to give the nation of Israel a history like other nations, and that God somehow used those stories to tell the tale of Christ. This would clearly make out both Jesus Christ—who spoke of numerous Old Testament events as if they were factual—and the New Testament writers who did likewise to be liars, deceivers, or at best ignorant. But Dr. Enns conveniently relieves Jesus and the New Testament writers of the guilt of presenting their subterfuge or misinformation as revelation from God by claiming that Jesus and Paul were merely communicating within the cultural tradition of their time.

Now don’t get the idea that Dr. Enns explicitly says that the Bible isn’t really God’s Word. He, like the greatest of deceivers (John 8:44) has always done, is subtle (Genesis 3:1) as he (perhaps, and hopefully, unwittingly) casts doubt on the testimony of the God who cannot lie (Titus 1:2). Instead of blatantly denying the Bible is God’s Word, Dr. Enns says that when we read historical statements as if they actually happened, we are putting words and meaning into God’s mouth that He never intended. And he accuses those who consider the Bible’s history to be historical of having a naïve “rulebook view of the Bible,” and of “regulating the faith of those who read it.”3 Yet the Bible is not a collection of random rules but a divinely inspired record of the true history of man, of sin, of God’s justice, of God’s work of redeeming love and grace culminating in the sacrificial death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. In Romans 10:17 the Apostle Paul reminds us of the importance of God’s Word in building faith. Jesus Christ prayed that the Father would sanctify us through the truth of the Word of God (John 17:17). What other source should the Christian trust to inform his or her faith with God’s truth?

Dr. Enns indicates Christians should use the Bible to help them get to know God, but at the same time he tells them to disregard the parts they don’t like. Of course, Peter Enns is not the first learned man to deny the truth of God’s Word even while claiming (and likely even intending) to defend it. The Bible offers an excellent example of this sort of thing in an account of Jesus with the Pharisees. Jesus Christ accused the Pharisees (Mark 7:7–13) of replacing God’s truth with man’s fallible notions. In doing this, He said they rendered God’s Word ineffectual (Mark 7:13). And that is exactly what Dr. Enns’ approach to the Bible does.

Would Jesus Lie? Did the New Testament Writers Get It Wrong?

Dr. Enns believes that we should stop trying to view the history in the Bible as actual history. To support this claim, he points out that no one person or historian is ever in possession of all the facts of a matter. Therefore, he implies that all reports of events—even the reports in God’s Word—are biased stories that should be taken with a huge grain of salt. He denies that they were recording anything they ever witnessed themselves and suggests they merely recorded—and embellished at their own discretion—traditional tales and did so long after the actual events occurred. He writes, for instance, that they “clearly crafted two very different birth stories” for Jesus and that they fabricated the rest of the Gospels by “adding to, adjusting, and even creating portions of the life of Jesus as they see fit.”4

A little bit of ancient history quickly puts the lie, not to the New Testament writers, but to Dr. Enns himself on his claim that the Gospels were written long after those who knew Jesus had died by those who just wanted to manufacture retrospectively the view of Jesus they wanted people to believe. Ignatius, martyred around AD 115, and many other leaders of the early church in the century after Christ’s Crucifixion referred to and quoted the four Gospels and other writings of the apostles, recognizing that they were the “New Testament” preserving the accounts and letters from the apostles who knew the Lord Jesus during His earthly walk. (Read much more about the details in the Gospels that affirm the authenticity of the contemporaneous eyewitness claims they contain in “Is the New Testament Reliable?”)

So were the Gospel accounts contradictory? Dr. Enns claims they were. Yet what we read in the Gospel accounts are the true accounts of many words and works of Jesus Christ from four different perspectives. They never contradict one another, but—when read as a whole—present a far more comprehensive view of the life of Christ than a single account could provide. One of the writers, John, even tells us that Jesus did and said far more than could be recorded in these books (John 21:24–25).

But Enns sees all sorts of supposed contradictions between the Gospels, writing, “Just read the Gospels. They clearly give us very different portraits of Jesus” instead of “one, clean, accurate version of the story.”5 Indeed, it has become popular to assume that any place in the four Gospels in which the same words appear is evidence that the writers merely copied one another or a common source and that they should therefore be disregarded. Conversely, any event reported with differing details is automatically thought to be falsified because the reported details are not the same and may appear contradictory. Both of these notions are fallacious. Just as with true accounts of modern events (e.g., of a five-alarm fire or a presidential speech or a football game), so too the gospel accounts provided from different perspectives should be expected to contain some parts in virtually verbatim agreement and other parts in which one writer focuses on certain details that another excludes. And in some cases the Gospel writers record accounts of two different though similar events—such as the cleansing of the Temple at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and again at the end, or the feeding of the 4,000 and the feeding of the 5,000 in which the details will naturally differ. These are the hallmarks of authentic historical accounts, not proof of dissimulation.

Jesus and a Messianic Myth?

What of prophecy? Dr. Enns points to the numerous prophecies Bible-believers see that Jesus fulfilled and discounts them.6 He instead claims that Jesus and the New Testament writers creatively reworked Old Testament traditions to make them fit the sort of Messiah God had sent. While it is clear from reading the New Testament that many of the Jewish people had a wrong view of the sort of Messiah God would send them, Dr. Enns denies the Old Testament writers were prophesying under God’s guidance at all. For instance, Dr. Enns writes, “You can read the Old Testament as carefully and as often as you want—standing on your head, backward, with special decoder glasses, or in Klingon—and you won’t find anything about a future messiah dying and rising from the dead on the third day, the very thing Jesus says you will find there. Not a word. Don’t even bother looking.”7 After thus implying that Jesus was either lying or unable to understand the use of language, he adds, “You will only see Jesus there in hindsight and under the surface, where your reading of the Old Testament is driven by faith in Christ, where Jesus has become the starting point for re-understanding Israel’s story, not the logical conclusion of Israel’s story.”8 Dr. Enns concludes, “The need to explain Jesus as both surprise ending and deeply connected to Israel’s story drove the Gospel writers to do some creative reading.”9

Yet as we look at the words of Jesus Christ—who claimed that Moses had written about Him (John 5:46–47)—and the New Testament writers who referred to Old Testament prophesies and historical events, we see nothing that should make us believe they were simply reworking the national myths of Israel to make them fit a Savior for the world. It is clear from Scripture that the prophets of the Old Testament wrote under God’s guidance (2 Peter 1:19–21) of coming events they did not fully understand. For instance, as Daniel’s book closes he asks God for additional information about the future but is told “the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end” (see Daniel 12:8–10). And in the New Testament we read the following:

Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things which angels desire to look into. (1 Peter 1:10–12)

But because all Scripture is inspired by God, who knows all things (2 Timothy 3:16–17) including the future, God’s Word does contain a great deal of prophecy—all true whether the prophet through whom He gave the prophecy understood it fully or not. The Bible is also the record of a great deal of actual history from which we are supposed to gain valuable insight. The Apostle Paul recorded the fact that events described in the Old Testament had actually happened:

Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. (1 Corinthians 10:11)

National Myth

Though the New Testament is clear that the historical events recorded in the Old Testament scriptures are preserved there for our learning and hope (Romans 15:4), Dr. Enns maintains that the Old Testament writings were recorded to create a national myth for Israel. From the beginning of his book he demonstrates his acceptance of the so-called Documentary Hypothesis—the idea that the historical accounts in the Old Testament were written centuries later than the writers claim in order to make it appear that God was with the nation and that He had even sent prophets to predict the things that had happened to His people. This notion has long been discredited by evangelical scholars. Nevertheless, by choosing to believe the Old Testament writers simply made up a bunch of stories and legends that included both fact and fabrication, Enns can conveniently ignore any parts he wishes.

For instance, Dr. Enns says he found himself unable to see how a God of love could order the Israelites arriving in the Promised Land to slaughter people. His solution to the problem is to simply say that God did not tell them to do that, claiming instead that the Israelites could only understand a warrior God and that those crafting a national myth for Israel, many years down the road, saddled God with the blame, or rather the credit. Dr. Enns writes, “God never told the Israelites to kill the Canaanites. The Israelites believed that God told them to kill the Canaanites.”10

As many other writers have explained, God is not only a God of love but also a holy and just God. He is also the One with the authority to define what is right and good and what is despicable and evil. And if God is holy, just, and omnipotent, then He must justly punish wickedness or make provision for its atonement. This is part of the answer to the Canaanite concern. But there is more.

The same God who loved the world enough to send Jesus Christ as Savior (John 3:16) needed to prepare and preserve the people of Israel to be the nation through whom Jesus Christ could come as the Light of the World (John 1:9–13) and to be the people set apart to continue recording and preserving God’s Word (Romans 3:2). The Canaanites occupying the Promised Land during the centuries that the people of the fledgling nation of Israel were in Egypt were not unacquainted with truth about God and sin. Abraham had lived among them, as had the priestly king Melchizedek. God made clear in Genesis 15:13–16 that He would allow the people of the land 400 years, during which their “iniquity” would become “full.” What would have happened if they had repented of their extreme wickedness during that time? We could speculate, but clearly God, who is just and holy and who knows all things, knew that as a nation they would not. At the end of the time, God promised the land to Abraham’s descendants, and through them God promised to establish a nation through whom the Savior Messiah would come, as promised to Abraham in Genesis 12:1–3. Had Israel not destroyed the worship of idols and the ritualistic evil practices, such as child sacrifice, performed in the name of false religion, God knew that Israel itself would copy those behaviors. In fact, He warned them about this. (See for example Deuteronomy 7:3–4 and 20:17–18.) That Israel would do so is not speculation and indeed, because Israel ignored God’s command to remove all idol worship from the land, we see that many people, including the leadership, did become corrupt and repeatedly suffer judgment and punishment as a result (e.g., 2 Kings 16:2–6, 21:1–12) .

What would have happened if the Canaanites had repented and changed their wicked ways? Would He have spared them?11 We have two historical accounts to indicate that God is a God of mercy who, as it says in Ezekiel 33:11, has “no pleasure in the death of the wicked” but desires “that the wicked turn from his way and live.” The New Testament reinforces this truth in Peter’s epistle: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). The testimony of Rahab and the response of Nineveh to Jonah’s warning both attest to God’s willingness to make provision for those who repent.

Rahab, as recorded in Joshua 2:8–13, reported that her people in Jericho had heard about the way God was giving the Hebrews victory. While the city-state of Jericho could have, but did not respond by humbling itself before such a powerful God, Rahab did. Scripture records that she and those with her were spared when Jericho fell. (For more on the archaeological affirmation that the biblical fall of Jericho was a real event, see the DVD Jericho Unearthed.)

The book of Jonah contains a later example suggesting that God would have been merciful if the whole population of Jericho had responded as Rahab did. Under the preaching of a reluctant Jonah, Nineveh—from top to bottom—repented and was spared God’s judgment (Jonah 3). Only in a later generation, when the nation reverted to its former wickedness, did God judge it by permitting another nation to overrun it and destroy it.

In any case, God raised up the nation of Israel as a theocracy for a particular purpose and carved out a place for it by driving out the utterly corrupt nations that inhabited the land. Prior to the Israelites’ arrival in the Promised Land, they fought against several groups that either attacked them—Amalekites (Exodus 17:8–13; Deuteronomy 25:17–19), Amorites (Numbers 21:21–24), Bashan (Deuteronomy 3:1–3)—or in the case of the Midianites attempted to pervert Israel into becoming idolatrous (Numbers 25:16–18). When they arrived in the Promised Land, God did order the destruction of the powerful walled city of Jericho—though Rahab and those who threw in their lot with her were spared—as well as some other cities in the land.

God commanded the utter destruction of idolatrous worship centers and their evil practices (Deuteronomy 12:2–3). These corrupting influences could not be allowed any place in the theocracy He was establishing. However, while war was the method by which God had the young nation of Israel enter the land, He did not send Joshua’s army out on a genocidal rampage to stamp out all Canaanite people from the Promised Land. There are numerous references to the idolatrous inhabitants being “driven out” (such as Deuteronomy 11:23, 12:2–3; Joshua 3:10, 13:6, and 23:5). Many cities were to be given the option of surrendering rather than being destroyed.

Doubtless the defeat of Jericho and Ai struck fear in many, building on the fear that news of the Hebrew’s God’s power had already produced (Joshua 2:8–22). Thus, we learn in Joshua 9:3 that some in the region (the Gibeonites) heard about these defeats and how the hand of God was with Israel, and sought another way out and their cities were spared. Based on Rahab’s remarks (Joshua 2:8–11) and the repeated promises of God to drive out the idolatrous people from the land, we must consider the strong possibility that the fear of the Hebrews’ God, the defeat of key cities, and the destruction of the centers for the barbarous worship of the Canaanite gods may have been the catalysts that evacuated many of the pagans and established the Hebrews in the Promised Land. In fact, this is mentioned in several passages of Scripture: that the fear of God, or of some of the physical agents He sent upon the inhabitants, drove out the Canaanites as much if not more so than the armies of Israel (Exodus 23:28; Deuteronomy 7:20; Joshua 2:9, and 24:12).

We cannot be dogmatic about exactly what happened in each location where specifics are not provided in the biblical record—for instance, about how many lives might have been spared (whether by being driven out, by accepting terms of peace, or any other reason)—or about God’s response to hypothetical situations. However, unlike Dr. Enns, we can be confident that the accounts given in His inspired Word are accurate, and that our God is a holy God of both justice and mercy. We also need to humbly acknowledge that since the rebellion of Adam and Eve we have all been rebellious sinners, unwilling to bow to our Creator’s will. The Canaanites of Jericho continued with this rebellious spirit when they trusted the walls of their city to withstand what they knew (Joshua 2:8–11) to be the will of God concerning the area they inhabited and desecrated after Jacob and his sons left it. This propensity to continue in sin is characteristic of man and is deserving only of death, not mercy. Yet many lives were mercifully spared, or else God would have had no reason to repeatedly refer to “driving out” idolatrous people from the land. Likewise today, we all deserve death, not just in this world but for eternity, yet through Jesus Christ salvation with eternal life is available to us (Romans 6:23).

Dr. Enns, however, rather than accepting the veracity of the history in God’s Word—including the fact that a holy and just God used the nation of Israel and the tools of sword and war as instruments of His judgment on a land full of idolatry and vile practices (Leviticus 18:24–30)—adopts the discredited notion that the leaders of the nation of Israel, many centuries later, wanted their nation to have a good national myth on par with those of other nations. So they made up a warrior God to justify their takeover of their neighbor’s land. In other words, Dr. Enns’ solution to the uncomfortable truths of history—truths that taken in the context of the whole of Scripture teach a great deal about the character of God, the wickedness of man, and the nature of holiness, sin, justice, and mercy—is to pretend they never happened.

Creation and Flood “Myths”?

So how does Dr. Enns use his “national myth” thesis to throw out two of history’s most controversial and universally important events—the Creation of the world and the global Flood? For this he must resort to some literary tricks.

While context clearly reveals that some things in Scripture are similes, metaphors, and parables, context also reveals that the Creation account of Genesis 1 and 2—the first chapter presenting an overall view of the six days of creation and the second a focused view explaining more about the creation of man—are intended to be historical. Context likewise indicates that the Genesis 6–9 account of the global Flood is intended as the history of a real event. The rest of Scripture confirms this as all other biblical writers who refer to Genesis 1–11 clearly take it as literal history. (Incidentally, because this real global Flood is the backdrop for the tower of Babel dispersion, it is embedded deeply in the cultures of countless people groups around the globe, all of whom descended from the Flood’s eight survivors. Therefore it is no surprise that many ancient cultures have flood legends resembling to various degrees the Bible’s historical account of the real disaster.)

Dr. Enns is not particularly troubled by the fact that the Bible records the Creation Week and the global Flood as history. Why? Because he believes the writers very late in Israel’s history meant the accounts to sound like history but crafted them chock full of imagery. Literal-sounding symbols like “water” were presumably meant to spiritualize the national mythology they had created (a recurrent theme in Enns’ book that even has a section devoted to it titled, “What’s with All the Water?”). After all, he thinks, they needed to show that God’s hand had always been on them. Whether he believes that was true or not, Dr. Enns doesn’t make clear, but so long as he can picture them making all that stuff up, he’s content to leave us to make up our own minds whether God cared what happened to them or just co-opted their stories later to make the messianic account work out.

And what does Dr. Enns think of the Creation account? In comparison to his extensive attack on the first two chapters of Genesis in The Evolution of Adam, which is reviewed in “The Enns Justifies the Means?” and “A Response to Peter Enns’s Attack on Biblical Creationism,” Dr. Enns addresses Creation only briefly in this book. But he lets his readers know early on that he certainly does not accept the Genesis account as an authoritative word from God (even though Jesus Christ, according to the Bible, treated it as historical!). He writes the following:

You don’t have to go beyond the first two books of the Bible, Genesis and Exodus, to find stories that are hard to take at face value and read more like scripts for a fairy tale. Adam and Eve, the two first humans, live in a garden paradise with not one but two magical trees, and lurking nearby is a talking serpent with an ax to grind. God shows up on a semiregular basis and chats with humans—as if, what could be more normal?12

From Genesis 1–3 we infer that God had a special relationship with Adam and Eve in the beginning in the very good world He created. God speaks with them and ultimately makes coats of animal skins to cover their nakedness after they rebelled before He ejected them from Garden of Eden. There are portions of the Bible that by context are clearly poetic and metaphorical, but the Genesis narratives are not; they are historical. Dr. Enns presumes God’s fellowship with Adam and Eve and their temptation as recorded in Genesis 3 were mythological, and he completely misrepresents other aspects of the world God created and described in Genesis. He does this by treating later poetic references to Creation as if they were intended to be literal rather than metaphorical. And though evolution cannot explain how life could evolve from non-living elements or demonstrate any mechanism by which organisms could acquire the genetic information to evolve into new, increasingly complex organisms from a common ancestor, Dr. Enns accepts biological evolution as fact and mocks the account in God’s Word. He writes the following:

The “science” of the biblical writers was also ancient. Creatures didn’t evolve but were made by God as we see them, like a potter molding clay, in male and female pairs. The world was flat, probably a round disk, created by God a few short thousand years ago after holding at bay a watery chaos. Above the earth was a solid dome of some sort, held up by pillars (mountains), that held back the “waters above” (hence, the blue sky).13

Never mind that biologists observe that life only arises from other living things and that animals only reproduce and vary within their created kinds. Dr. Enns takes fallible man’s evolutionary claims over God’s Word.

Rather than accepting as factual the Bible’s historical accounts of three of God’s extraordinary actions—Creation, the parting of the Red Sea, and Noah’s Flood—Dr. Enns takes their common element, water, as evidence that once upon a time Israel’s poets and scribes wove a national origins myth around water. And out goes God’s truth with the bathwater!

“Thy Word Is Truth” (John 17:17)

To review each of Dr. Enns’ claims about the Bible would require an entire book, and most of the barbs he hurls at the Bible are dealt with in articles we already have on this website. The bottom line is that Dr. Enns has a very low view of Scripture. He places man’s fallible opinions, especially those of secular evolutionary scientists, above the Word of the very God he says he worships. He disregards most of the miracles and prophecy in the Bible. He treats the Bible as no more than a work of man that God decided to somehow use in a mysterious and ever-changing way to help people groping to grow in their relationships with Him.

Yet astonishingly, after over 200 pages of writing that the Bible is a product of imaginative people trying to create an inspirational history for Israel, he still concludes, “The Bible is God’s Word.”14 This conclusion is at odds with the entire premise of the book. When he then advises, “Don’t try to explain it. Just accept it,”15 he seems to be advising Christians to check their brains at the door.

At Answers in Genesis we instead try to show people that they can trust God’s Word to tell them the truth from the very first verse. Scientists who accept the young age of the Earth and the Bible’s accounts of Creation and the global Flood understand that, while the Bible is not a science textbook, all that it contains pertaining to history and science is a true and valid yardstick against which man’s ideas should be measured. (Read for example “Can Bible-Based Predictions Lead to Scientific Discoveries?” to learn how the Bible can even contribute to the development of testable and true scientific predictions.) We believe that it is important, especially in light of the exodus of so many people from modern churches, to provide valid answers to life’s important questions from Scripture and biblically consistent scientific models that demonstrate that there is actually no conflict between observational science and the Bible.

But What Then About the Resurrection?

One final note has haunted me as I contemplated Dr. Enns’ many compromises. Though Dr. Enns accepts that fact that Jesus Christ is God’s Son, who came in the flesh, and that He died and rose again, I wonder how he can justify his belief. Since he has chosen to disregard a Bible full of history, how can he then think the history of our Savior’s coming into the world is factual? Since he has chosen to disregard a Bible full of prophecy, how can he then think that Jesus is the Messiah from God? Since he has chosen to disregard a Bible full of miracles, how can he think that Christ’s Resurrection actually happened? If the rest of God’s Word should be taken with a grain of salt, why not discard the supernatural conception, life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ also?

The Bible tells a coherent history of humanity and God’s just, gracious, redemptive dealings with us from Creation to the Cross and beyond. If the Bible is nothing more than a devotional book wherein “People just keep right along meeting God there,”16 how can Dr. Peter Enns, or any of us, decide which parts to believe? But if the Bible is really God’s Word—and it is and Dr. Enns even says so—then why doesn’t Peter Enns believe it?

I shudder to think of the damage Dr. Enns has done to the children and college students he has influenced through his books, curriculum materials, and teaching. The Bible teaches, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). The Bible also says, “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment” (James 3:1). But Dr. Enns has taught them that there is very little worthy of their faith in God’s Word. As compromises tend to creep and grow and spread like leaven, when this generation grows up, how many of them will even believe the rudiments of the gospel? After all, dead people don’t ordinarily rise from the dead; why should they believe that Jesus did? And if they then conclude, capitalizing on these earlier compromises, that Jesus Christ wasn’t really “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep,” as taught in 1 Corinthians 15:14–22, then the original purpose for the hymn “Jesus Loves Me”—to comfort a dying child—will be lost.

For more information:

Answers in Depth

2015 Volume 10

Footnotes

  1. Peter Enns, The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It (New York: HarperOne, 2014), 3.
  2. Dr. Enns titles some of his book’s chapters “Jesus Gets a Big Fat ‘F’ in Bible” and “Jesus Messes With the Bible.” In these and similar chapters he notes that Jesus creatively handles the Old Testament, both the Pentateuch and the Psalms, justifying claims about Himself by claiming the Scriptures said things the writer never wrote or intended. And while Dr. Enns admits that Jesus was justified in giving the Old Testament a fresh interpretation, the fact that Dr. Enns has rejected much of the literal history of the Old Testament (including a literal six-day creation week, a literal Adam and Eve, a literal Fall, and a global Flood)—history that Jesus Christ Himself spoke of as literal—leaves us with the clear idea that Dr. Enns believes Jesus Christ simply passed off the Old Testament history as historical to please His first century audience, not because the history was true. This is discussed further in “Was Jesus Wrong? Peter Enns Says, “Yes”.”
  3. Enns, The Bible Tells Me So, 4.
  4. Ibid., 85.
  5. Ibid., 89.
  6. For further reading about many of the prophecies showing that Jesus is the Messiah of Israel, Dr. Terry Mortenson of Answers in Genesis suggests a book by Messianic Jew and Old Testament scholar Arnold Fruchtenbaum, Jesus was a Jew (San Antonio, TX: Ariel Ministries, 2010).
  7. The Bible Tells Me So, 202 (emphasis Enns’). The remainder of this section in Dr. Enns’ book makes it clear that it is not the “third day” that he says is missing from the Old Testament but any references to “a dying-and-rising-from-the-dead messiah” (but see Psalms 16:9–11, 22:16–18; and Isaiah 53:5–12). Of course, the death and Resurrection of the Messiah is the focus of Jesus’ discussions with His disciples. Jesus does indicate, however, that even the “third day” aspect of His coming Resurrection is present in the Old Testament in the form of a sign: the account of the prophet Jonah in the belly of the fish (Matthew 12:38–40).
  8. Ibid. (emphasis Enns’).
  9. Ibid., 205.
  10. Ibid., 54.
  11. God’s prophetic promise to Abraham concerning the inheritance of the Canaanites’ land by his descendants was unconditional. God is all knowing, and as such He knew that the Canaanites would continue on their ruinous corrupt path rather than repenting. All people are sinners deserving God’s judgment. But God chose to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’s descendants a land that—as described in Leviticus 18:24–30—was exceptional in its level of corruption.
  12. Enns, The Bible Tells Me So, 4.
  13. Ibid., 69 (emphasis Enns’).
  14. Ibid., 236 (emphasis Enns’).
  15. Ibid.
  16. Ibid.

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