Saturday, June 17, 2006

The angry young man syndrome

The Blue Raja (hereafter TBR) has responded to my comments.

A few remarks are in order:

1. There’s a disconnect between what he says he intended, and what he actually said. For example, he now tells us that “I hadn't intended anything like what Steve fears I meant - namely that Carson is somehow ‘out of touch’."

But this is what he said before:

“One wonders if Carson has ever been to an average conservative church meeting in his entire life.”

“Though Carson’s first criticism is that Enns doesn’t really understand his audience, the shoe appears to be on the other foot…”

He now tells us that “Neither my review, nor the book, implies that there haven't been real attempts to solve the kind of universally acknowledged theological and hermeneutical difficulties which Enns discusses, that Enns is somehow dealing with issues no one has ever dealt with before, or that conservatives have somehow "locked away evidence" you'll not find any of those sentiments in my review, and Steve's recitation of well-known books and authors don't refute claims that I never made.”

Yett this is what he said before: “…but also because of the degree to which apologetics has defined the agenda in conservative sectors of OT studies, and have fueled the very excesses the book seeks to curb. “

“"The result of such modern formulations is that interpretation becomes an exercise in a rather shifty brand of apologetics – ANE parallels are completely ignored in order to make the Bible appear culturally timeless; texts with genuinely different perspectives are forcibly crammed into a homogenized goo in order to make the Bible appear seamlessly harmonized; the hopelessly unscientific method with which Scripture uses Scripture is either dressed up as historical-grammatical exegesis or unconvincingly privileged as a non-repeatable apostolic privilege – all from a desire to rid the Bible from any signs of being a genuinely human (as well as divine) production."

Sorry, but it looks to me as if TBR is now attempting to cover his tracks with a backdated reinterpretation of his original remarks.

2. “He's a Reformed, conservative evangelical speaking to conservative evangelical students.”

Except that Enns is clearly not a “conservative” evangelical. He’s a moderate. To take TBR’s own example, just compare him to Archer.

I’m not using labels to solve problems or adjudicate debates. And I’m not saying that Archer is always right.

But let’s have the honesty to recognize people for what they are. Enns clearly represents a left turn from the conservative Reformed tradition of Warfield or Allis or Young.

You can also see this shift on higher critical issues between E. J. Young’s introduction to the OT and the Dillard/Longman introduction to the OT. And you can also see this reflected in Waltke’s commentary on Genesis, among other things.

If you want a contemporary example of the old school approach, just read O. Palmer Robertson’s criticisms of the Dillard/Longman volume in Robertson’s The Christ of the Prophets.

So let’s not debate the semantic value of theological coinage any further by issuing funny money as the gold standard.

3.My impression of TBR isn’t limited to his review, or his association with the BHT. I’ve read a lot of his exchanges with Phil Johnson, and they fall into a very familiar pattern.

It’s just like an adolescent son challenging his old man at the dinner table. When the kid was 5, his dad was always right—but now that our kid is 15, dad is always wrong. Amazing how much his old man could change in just 10 years time!

4.I think one reason that Phil and I react to theological “revolutions” like the new perspective or the emergent church movement so very differently than TBR does is that Phil and I are old enough to have a sense of déjà vu.

Both of us lived through the Sixties. We’ve seen the Counterculture in action, with its millennial pretensions. Woodstock. The Summer of Love. The “consciousness” revolution. The Fourth Great Awakening. “Climb every mountain.” “Puff the magic dragon.” “Lucy in the sky with diamonds.”

Well, the Age of Aquarius was a washout. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band disbanded. The strawberries fields were paved over to make way for Wal-Mart.

The Emergent church movement is a B&W version of The Yellow Submarine.

Phil is also a student of church history in general, and Victorian Christianity in particular. I can’t speak for him, but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if he doesn’t see today’s slogans as having much in common with yesterday’s slogans—minus the petticoats.

You know the saying about something so old that it’s new again. Well, if you’ve been around the track a few times, you can’t get that excited over the latest theological fad, because it bears an uncanny resemblance to something you’d buy at an antique shop.

5.Which brings us to the next problem: “"The helpfulness of the book is its honest presentation of the challenges presented by the Old Testament - a presentation that may linger irritatingly for OT scholars to whom the issues are old hat (and to a more educated audience like Steve, who are anxious to rush to their preferred answers to long-known questions). But for new students who are newly coming to grips with these glaringly terrestrial marks of Scripture, it is an exceedingly wise introduction because it takes their context seriously - namely that of the raging Bible wars between liberals and conservatives, marked by a posture of defense in conservative evangelical churches."

No, this is what is wrong with the book, and not what is right with the book. The problem is that Enns is giving the wrong answers to old questions—something I pointed out in the review I wrote a while ago:

If new students are dependent on this book for their initiation into biblical hermeneutics and comparative Semitics, then they will received a systematically skewed impression of what the real challenges are, and where to find the best available answers.

An “incarnational” model of inspiration, even if it were otherwise sound, is useless to address the “phenomena.” A model of inspiration doesn’t answer any detailed questions.

And what’s the “modern” theory of inspiration that TBR objects to? Warfield’s? But Warfield was an advocate of the “organic” model of inspiration. Warfield had no problem with the historical character of revelation.

Does the TBR object to the Chicago Statement on inerrancy? Does he regard that as too “Docetic”?

6.Finally: “But I should probably end my explanation with a reminder about the mode of communication being utilized here. Blogs, for me, anyway, are somewhere in between an email and an essay, both in their manner of expression and their content...After feeling thoroughly clobbered by his comments it did me some good to remember the distorted images which are refracted by what bloggers write during a few minutes of distraction from the rest of their busy lives.”

This is a classic copout. On the one hand, TBR indicates that I mistook his meaning at various points. On the other hand, he issues this all-purpose disclaimer.

So does he stand by his original words, or not? If he succeeded in expressing himself the first time around, then he’d hardly feel the need for a fallback position.

Indeed, one of the problems is precisely the way in which some Christians treat blogging as if it were the same thing as private email. Well, it’s not.

A blog is a public forum. And there are certain responsibilities when you speak in public to choose your words with care and say what you mean. This is especially so in the case of blogging because you don’t have any idea who will read your material.

Does TBR want his words to be taken seriously, or not?

Apparently, he wants to be taken seriously as long as you agree with him, but if you disagree, then you’re taking him too seriously.

I have a bit of advice for TBR: you’re not a minor any more. This isn’t High School. Time to grow up.

Everyone is busy. Is the TBR any busier than D. A. Carson?

The difference is that some men manage their time better than others. One reason F. F. Bruce could write so many books is because he turned his course lectures into books. For him, teaching and writing weren’t two different things. One was not a distraction from another.

And a man who takes sermon preparation seriously can post his sermons online.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Keep up the apologetics, Steve...
    YOur Brother in Christ,
    Jimmy Li

  3. You know, it actually IS possible to disagree with someone without treating them like a jerk. Do you think God is any less concerned with your tongue than he is with your theology (or that of The Blue Raja)?


  4. This is the most jaw-droppingly mean-spirited theological article I've ever read.

  5. All this hand-wringing over my tone is amusing when you consider that TBR is a team member of BHT. My tone never descends to that level.

  6. All this hand-wringing over my tone is amusing when you consider that TBR is a team member of BHT. My tone never descends to that level.

    Nor do your posts descend to that level in terms of vacuous content – but what should one expect from a bunch of boorish bar hounds.

    And in any event, if it's any consolation, I don't think you're as much of a meanie as I am.

  7. So would BB Warfield represent a left or right turn from Calvin? And why are we still using the metaphorical language of French politics to talk about theology?