The hype has come and gone regarding Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament,the book that many see as being the the reason for the parting of ways between the author, Peter Enns, and Westminster Theological Seminary, yet the impact it will have on future evangelical thought may have only just begun. This is not to say that Enns says anything so new or outrageous. It is to say that people have now seen through Enns that you can be wholly evangelical while maintaining the ability to participate in critical thinking exercises.
The purpose of Enns’ work is to “bring an evangelical doctrine of Scripture into conversation with the implications generated by some important themes in modern biblical scholarship–particularly Old Testament scholarship–over the past 150 years” [p.13] Enns suggest that there are three areas that evangelicals have not handled very well: (1) The Old Testament and other literature from the ancient world. (2)Theological diversity in the Old Testament. (3) The way in which New Testament authors handle the Old Testament. [p. 15-16] In order for the evangelical view of Scripture (a high view maintaining inspiration, and often inerrancy) to interact with the developments of modern scholarship in the aforementioned areas it is suggested that we understand the Scriptures, as the Word of God, much like we understand Jesus, as the Word of God made flesh. [p. 17] In other words, Jesus was limited to human reality, although being God-incarnate.
Scripture also must therefore be seen in this framework. While the Spirit did inspire the Scriptures, and while we can accept that it is true in all it teaches, we should accept that this revelation is tucked inside the jargon, the idioms, and the worldviews of those who first received these texts. Thus it is not a problem for Enns that Genesis 1 reflects Babylonian creation myths such as Enuma Elish. The truth that the God of Israel is the creator of all things is found within language reflecting common ideas regarding origins that may not meet modern sensibilities.
This plays out intertextually within the Old Testament as diverse perspectives on reality and God come together to form a canon (think of the perspectives of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes). It also appears when New Testament authors such as the Apostle Paul or the Evangelist quote the Old Testament using methods that would have been very familiar to the hermeneutics of the day, but that appear to clash with our own grammatical-historical approach. The Spirit used the people and the culture of the day to declare eternal truth to the people of God. We should not be upset that the text do not appear as we would have written them today; we should realize that God has always been patient with humanity as He revealed Himself to us where we were and to the extent that we could handle.
While Enns does not answer all, of even most, of the questions that his book asks, he does allow evangelicals the freedom to hold to our commitment to the Scriptures as the revealed Word of God without resorting to blind apologetics when the text does not seem be as tidy as we might imagine a book “breathed” by God to be. At the very least this work allows for the perspectives of others, like Brevard Childs or John Sailhamer, to have a contrasting voice for us to listen to and glean from.