For the past several months Pete Enns has been hosting a series of posts on his blog entitled, “aha moments.” The series (to which I also contributed a post) consists of honest and (to my mind) compelling reflections from biblical scholars who have a credible connection to conservative evangelicalism and have moved to a more nuanced understanding of the Bible.
Michael Kruger, who is both a NT scholar and president of Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, has recently announced that he will be hosting a series of responses to the 16 or so posts that have already appeared on Enns’ blog. Among the potential contributors he mentions are Greg Beale, Darrell Bock, Craig Blomberg, Andreas Köstenberger, and D. A. Carson. I am interested to see the turns this discussion will take as it seems that Kruger has decided to turn to the “elder statesmen” of conservative evangelicalism to enter into this dialogue.
In the comments section of his initial post, I wrote to Dr. Kruger, expressing my hope that this would be an irenic and charitable series. To his credit, he responded that that was his hope as well. Disappointingly (from my perspective), the very first post in the series (written by Greg Beale of Westminster Theological Seminary, Enns’ former institution) seems to be a direct response to Enns more than a specific argument for a particular approach to interpreting the Bible. I wouldn’t quite call it “Enns-bashing” but the condescending and dismissive tone of the post is troubling enough. However, what is more troublesome from an academic perspective is that Beale’s response, while rigorous and rooted in a thorough understanding of textual criticism and other principles of modern biblical exegesis, completely ignores the issue of whether such a reading would have even been possible within the context of Paul’s Jewish thought world. Sure, we can force our square pegs into round holes, but wouldn’t it be preferable to find square holes?
While I hope for genuine dialogue between those on both sides, I’m not naive enough to think that this will actually happen. One can already perceive a deep sense of entrenchment from some of the comments on the first two posts. A persistent comment among some is particularly troubling to me. Those who are anxious to “defend” their understanding of the nature of scripture accuse Pete (and presumably others) of wanting to sidestep the truth of the Bible or, as one comment intones, “escape Biblical authority.” Do the motivations for these serious and sober discussions really need to be issues of personal unrighteousness among the dialogue partners? Other comments suggest how perspicuous Beale’s reading is vis-a-vis Enns’ flawed reading. The texts discussed in these first aha moments–and presumably in the response series–are a lot of things, but none of them are CLEAR. That’s why we continue to have the discussions.
I fear that, despite Michael Kruger’s best intentions, this series of responses will become an exercise in shouting past one another rather than entering into meaningful dialogue, though I hope to be proven wrong.