Friday, January 17, 2014

Is Pete Enns a Marcionite?

Hi, Pete. Ok, I will take up the challenge, just so you're not surrounded by an adoring crowd of groupies. :) Part of the problem here is that even though you say you have articulated this 47 billion times, you still pepper the discussion with vague generalities. You talk about different portrayals, profound discontinuities, what the Gospel and the New Testament leave behind, etc. But, with these generalities, you really end up avoiding and dodging the question. Your dichotomy between different Gods versus different portrayals of God is not a true dichotomy. To be sure there are discontinuities, even "profound discontinuities" between the Testaments, but this does not address the question as to whether what is being discontinued is necessarily being evaluated negatively. In other words, it is very much possible to argue that the people of God, NOW, are to leave behind violent ways, without at the same time condemning the people of God in the OT for being violent, or negating the portrayal of the OT deity as a deity who does indeed engage in violence.
Furthermore, your reading of the NT is highly selective. There are, of course, violent texts in the New Testament. There are NT texts that implicitly put their imprimatur on the actions of OT characters who were engaged in violence. There are no texts--none, nada, zilch, zero--which do anything to condemn either what you refer to as a violent "portrayal" of God in the OT, or a violent God in the OT. Rather, God's prerogative to execute vengeance, wrath, and violent punishment of the wicked is both upheld and serves as a reason why God is to be worshiped.
So, here's a test for you. Is the God who is "portrayed" as giving both Moses and Joshua battle plans for warfare against the Canannites, the same God who is "portrayed" as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ? If the answer to that question is "No," then, at the very least, we are indeed talking about a "quasi," or "latent," or "incipient" Marcionism. I simply think there is no way to avoid that conclusion. The New Testament gives no evidence whatsoever that Jesus rejected the revelation of the character of God in the Old Testament, or would have concluded after reading these "portrayals" of God in the Old Testament, "that's not my Father."
I am completely convinced that you are not an extra-terrestrial. :) I am not convinced that you can so easily dismiss, at least, an "incipient" Marcionite label.


  1. Excellent comments by Jerry.

    Enns said:

    "To say that there are two Gods, one of the Old Testament and one of the New, is Marcionism. To say that the one God is portrayed in various–even conflicting–ways is simply a matter of reading the Bible in English with both eyes open."

    It seems to me Marcion took the OT more seriously than Enns does (and Marcion thought the OT God was a buffoon). Marcion rejected the OT because of it's "tribal" depiction of God as a warrior deity, but he believed the OT God was real. That he actually did that stuff. Not very Marcionite at all.

    On the other hand, according to Enns, God allowed the Israelites to preserved incorrect information about who God is and what God did. Presumably (I have never read any of Enns' work) he would argue that Jesus' ministry and teaching, whether intentionally or as a positive side-effect, correct the OT's portrayal of God. And this definitely bears resemblance to Marcion's teachings

    Enns said:

    "My big concern in all this is that the charge of Marcionism simply deflects from the real theological/hermeneutical problem of divine violence by giving a false sense of having solved the problem."

    I wonder what Marcion would have said to his detractors before he reached the nadir of his journey into a bona fide heresy based on personal, extra-biblical revelation:

    "My big concern in all this is that the charge that I don't take the Jewish Scriptures seriously deflects from the real theological/hermeneutical problem of divine violence (not to mention the ridiculous anti-Gentile laws) by giving a false sense of having solved the problem."

  2. Marcion was closer to Christianity than Enns. Marcion at least thought along the same lines as the Jews and the Church Fathers, that the purpose of Scripture was having actual truth about God, not mere human "portrayals". Marcion took the Scriptures seriously and therefore reinterpreted the ones he accepted or canned the ones he didn't think were legitimate revelation. Enns doesn't even bother, since to him it's all just a human collection of various primitive peoples' ideas about God, which is a less rational view than Marcion's. If Scripture is what Enns thinks it is, why bother believing Paul got it right any more than Ezra? Just because he came on the scene later? In fact, why think that any biblical author gives a more accurate "portrayal" of the divine than the Koran, the Gita, or Deepak Chopra for that matter?

  3. And NT calls for us to show mercy and loving your enemy, though at times grounded in God's grace and mercy, are sometimes grounded in God's vengeance, which we are to leave to him.

  4. Enns stands in the shoes of those OT professors at WTS like OT Allis, and EJ Young. They were men who took the OT far more seriously and were far better theologians than Enns can ever dream of. Mastering tens of languages each and familiar with all the liberal arguments they could blow Enns out of the water with the same ease Bruce Lee could knock a 300 lb. bag to the ceiling. A 300 lb. bag is quite the complement for Enns and they probably have more use than Enns does in theology.

  5. "John, the disciple of the Lord, going to bathe at Ephesus, and perceiving Cerinthus within, rushed out of the bath-house without bathing, exclaiming, “Let us fly, lest even the bath-house fall down, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within.” And Polycarp himself replied to Marcion, who met him on one occasion, and said, “Dost thou know me?” “I do know thee, the first-born of Satan.” Such was the horror which the apostles and their disciples had against holding even verbal communication with any corrupters of the truth; as Paul also says, “A man that is an heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject; knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself." -Irenaeus of Lyon