Pete Enns Takes on John Piper over Scripture

Pete Enns critiques John Piper’s recent remarks about the Jewish conquest of Canaan in the Old Testament. Piper argues that God’s judgments are just and shouldn’t be questioned. Enns objects and argues that the biblical accounts are historically inaccurate and at odds with Jesus’ ethic in the New Testament. In other words, Enns response presumes that the Bible has mistakes in it. Enns questions whether or not the conquest even happened. He writes:

Piper would need to take seriously the conclusion drawn overwhelmingly by archaeologists that the systematic slaughter of the population of Canaan around 1200 BC did not happen. As with many issues surrounding archaeology, there is further discussion to be had, and I am guessing that Piper will not be swayed but what archaeologists say.

No matter what the archeologists say, the Bible says that the conquest happened. Moreover, the Bible sets forth the conquest of Canaan as proof that God is faithful to His promises to His people. Here’s how Joshua 21:43-45 describes the matter:

So the LORD gave Israel all the land which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they possessed it and lived in it. And the LORD gave them rest on every side, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers, and no one of all their enemies stood before them; the LORD gave all their enemies into their hand. Not one of the good promises which the LORD had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass.

Not only does Enns place archeological data over the plain statements of scripture, he also invokes “diversity” within the canon to show that the biblical accounts of conquest disagree with Jesus’ love ethic and indeed with other voices within the Old Testament.

Enns wants to pitch this dispute as if Piper has a deficient view of God’s sovereignty over the world. But that is not at all what this argument is about. This is about the inerrancy and authority of scripture, which Enns seems to call into question at every turn.

If your view of scripture is deficient, then it’s no surprise that your view of God’s sovereignty might be deficient as well. Enns falls short on both counts.

60 Responses to Pete Enns Takes on John Piper over Scripture

  1. RC jr July 17, 2012 at 3:18 pm #

    Well said. I read Dr. Enns piece, having only a vague understanding of his history at Westminster Phila. and his work with Logos. I certainly hope, for Westminster’s sake that this piece is evidence of a precipitous slide post WTS and not the kind of nonsense he taught while there. Ghastly stuff. Thanks for pointing it out brother

  2. Brian MacArevey July 17, 2012 at 3:33 pm #

    Well, one can deny that there is diversity in the teachings of scriptures, but that doesn’t make it dissapear. In the end, John Piper is simply picking and choosing those pictures of God given to us in the bible that agree with his preconceived notions about God.

    I have to wonder whether Piper’s theology can accurately be called Christian (to be clear, I am not questioning his sincerity or his “salvation”) in light of the fact that Christ means so little with regard to his understanding of God.

    We all must pick and choose when it comes to biblical teachings. I am thankful that Dr. Enns makes Jesus the priority and the key to understanding the scriptures.

    • Denny Burk July 17, 2012 at 4:07 pm #

      I don’t deny that there is diversity. The devil is in the details, however, of how you define “diversity.” Enns seems to define diversity as discrepency, such that there are errors and contradictions in the Bible. I’m happy to recognize diversity in the Bible if by that you mean that different authors bring different perspectives to their writings. It’s unorthodox, however, to suggest that the authors are contradicting one another. That’s what Enns seems to be saying.

      • Brian MacArevey July 17, 2012 at 6:15 pm #

        With all due respect, unorthodox according to who’s standard?

        It would be very difficult (if not imposible!) to argue that the early church held to inerrancy as defined by modern fundamentalist standards. That is a real stretch. And no church creed demands adherance to inerrancy.

        So seriously, unorthodox according to who’s standard?

        I’m sure you’ll say the bible, but we would disagree there. I agree with Enns understanding of diversity (errors and contradictions) and do not believe that inspiration is equivalent to innerant.

        If you would humor me, why is Enns’ position so threatening in your view? Would you still believe in Jesus Christ if the bible did have errors or contradictions?

        • Brian MacArevey July 17, 2012 at 7:39 pm #

          that should be *whose* standard ;)

        • Ben Edwards July 18, 2012 at 11:35 am #

          Unorthodox according to the orthodox position of Christians throughout history. That’s typically what unorthodox means.

        • Chip Van Emmerik July 18, 2012 at 3:59 pm #

          It would be difficult (if not impossible) to argue that the early church held to anything other than inerrancy as defined by modern fundamental and conservative evangelical standards. Jesus and the apostles all quoted from the OT as something to be understood authoritatively and without error. (consider Matthew 12:40 and Matthew 19:4)

    • Greg Dills July 17, 2012 at 6:41 pm #

      Very well said Brian.

    • Jack Riley July 18, 2012 at 3:16 pm #

      Brian, If Enns made Jesus as much of a priority as you think he does, he might understand the redemptive historical model of interpretation that is able to detect the strand of Christ that runs from the Genesis 1 all the way through Revelation 22.

      In this particular case, we can take a parallel incident in 1 Samuel 15:2-3, where the Israelites did not obey the Lord’s command and from this get a picture of why God would have commanded such a thing at all. (He said to Samuel, “Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.”).

      Several hundred years later, a descendant of Agag the Amalekite, Haman, was elevated by the pagan king to a seat of honor higher than that of all the other nobles (Esther 3:1).From the beginning, Haman was bent on exterminating the entire Jewish people (see the book of Esther). So, Saul’s disobedience to this difficult command of God almost resulted in Israel’s destruction.

      Israel’s destruction in the OT = No Messiah. It goes back to the original promise of the Messiah in Genesis Chapter 3:15:
      “I will put enmity between you and the woman,
      and between your offspring[e] and her offspring;
      he shall bruise your head,
      and you shall bruise his heel.”

      God knew that the seed of the devil would be at war with the seed of the Jews until the promised deliverer was born. God commanded the extermination of the Amalekites and the Canaanites ahead of time, because He knows the end from the beginning.

      After Jesus was born, there was no longer a need for enmity between the physical seeds. Now, we have the spiritual seed battled – the seed of the evil one does battle against God’s seed which abides in us, because we have been born of God. In this war, we are called to extermine every false thought and every sinful thing that sets itself up against the knowledge of God. We fight the good fight and take no prisoners in our battle for faith and holiness in the One who has redeemed us from the blood bath of sin and death. Praise be to God in Heaven for sending His Son Jesus Christ to live in us, so that we are now holy temples who offer ourselves as living sacrifices, to be conformed to His image – not the world — transformed by the renewal of our minds, that by testing we may discern the good and acceptable and perfect will of God!

      That, my friend, is what I call making Jesus the Priority!

      • Brian MacArevey July 18, 2012 at 6:12 pm #

        Chip, Ben and Jack,

        I could not disagree more strongly.

        I think that the main difference between my position and your own (and I assume Dr. Enns as well, but you would have to ask him yourself) is that I believe that Christ is above the scriptures and the lens through which the scriptures must be understood (which is how the early church was able to find prophecies of Jesus in the OT that frankly, were not there until after the Christ event) and you believe that Christ is equal to or the sum total of the scriptures. Is that a fair representation? I think that it is.

        If my position is close to Enns’ (and I believe that it is) how is this unorthodox? It is a position well grounded in the bible and history, and it has never been condemned as heretical except apparently by modern American conservatives and fundamentalists. Why should this tiny group relative to the great body of tradition (including the bible) be allowed to define orthodoxy for everyone else?

        • Jack Riley July 19, 2012 at 6:55 pm #

          Brian, I’m not completely sure that I understand you position, but I do respect where you’re coming from. GK Beale recently published a volume on Biblical Theology called The New Testament Use of the Old Testament in which he elaborates extensively on the hermeneutical method of New Testament authors.

          Dr. Beale has also answered most of Enns’ complaints about inerrancy in several of his academic works, such as: “The Right Doctrine from the Wrong Texts?” and “The Erosion of Inerrancy”. Both of these books deal directly with problematic statements in the published works of Peter Enns. I commend any of the above works to you, but most especially “Erosion”.

        • Jack Riley July 20, 2012 at 11:20 am #

          Sorry, I had to go back and re-read your statement to see if I could understand better.

          You stated: “how the early church was able to find prophecies of Jesus in the OT that frankly, were not there until after the Christ event”. The logic here eludes me. Since a prophecy is a prediction of something to come, then by definition, any given prophecy was always “there” from the time the original author recorded the words. The “Christ event”, as you have called it, was the fulfillment of prophecy, sustantiating the veracity and specificity of the prophecy.

          Again, this whole discussion lends itself to Hermeneutic. When you say that Christ is above the scriptures, that sounds rather pious at first, but after further reflection, instead it apears to let you off the hook for believing the scriptures are in fact the Word of God. You see, I am of the mind -that Jesus actually IS the Word of God, because that is what He said. So it’s not a matter of pitting one against the other as I think you are suggesting. Thanks!!

  3. Scott Lencke July 17, 2012 at 3:33 pm #

    Denny –

    Would God ask us, as His people, to slaughter those of other cultures or faiths today?

    • Denny Burk July 17, 2012 at 4:04 pm #

      No, Israel was constituted as a theocracy and had a special commission from God to be the sword of His judgment among the nations. The church does not have that commission. Instead, God has delivered all judgment over to the Son (John 5:22), who will come back one day to mete out a terrible judgment at the end of the age:

      “The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thes. 1:7-9).

      This judgment will be more terrifying than anything we see in the Old Testament, but it is coming. But it’s all been given over to Jesus to mete out. It has not been given to the church. Until that day, we have been given the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18) so that we might plead with sinners to repent and believe and to flee the wrath that is to come (Mark 1:15; Matt. 3:7).

      • Derek Taylor July 17, 2012 at 5:46 pm #

        Amen, Denny. Just days ago I read and meditated on that passage (2 Thess. 1) and the boldness of it kind of took my breath away, even though I’d read it many times before. It does put this particular debate into context and it should also sober us greatly about the importance of the Church’s mission.

      • Blake Reas July 18, 2012 at 2:42 am #

        Good answer Denny. I would also respond to the question with the fact that whatever God commands is good, because it comes from his nature. We always want the why, and what for, but God is not necessarily obligated to reveal why, or the reason he does something. Of course people get upset about this, but why? Does it reveal something more about their heart? After all, “Did God really say?”

      • Jack Riley July 18, 2012 at 3:32 pm #

        Amen, Denny! Because of the birth of the Messiah, our battle is no long with flesh and blood, but rather in the spiritual realm. We need to put to death sin and unbelief by faith in Jesus Christ – trusting in Him alone for redemption.
        Your words were right on. Excellent.

  4. johnson pang July 17, 2012 at 3:33 pm #

    Thanks for the post!

    This has been a helpful quote regarding the “trustworthiness” of archaeology, though I’m sad I have forgotten the source:

    “Only a fraction of all of the remains from Ancient Near Eastern societies have survived, and only a fraction of that has been surveyed. Then, only a fraction of that fraction has been excavated and examined. Finally, only a fraction of that has been published.”

    As foolish as it already is to step away from the authority and sufficiency of the Word, it seems even more foolish to question it based upon limited finds in archaeology.

  5. Dan Phillips July 17, 2012 at 3:36 pm #

    I’m starting to think of this as Enns’ “Fire me? Why Did Westminster Ever Hire Me In the First Place?” tour.

    • Jack Riley July 18, 2012 at 3:20 pm #

      Exactly.

    • Jack Riley July 18, 2012 at 3:20 pm #

      Exactly. Thanks, Dan.

  6. Marty Schoenleber, Jr. July 17, 2012 at 3:37 pm #

    Dr. Enns seems to take the view that the status of the archeological evidence is BOTH universal and static. In addition, he late dates the Exodus in the mid thirteenth century B.C.

    Point: “Overwhelming” is not “universal”.
    Point: Archeological studies are not science; are not static; are often changed and revised; are subject to interpretation; and have often times been “overwhelming” in one direction, only to become “overwhelming” in a completely opposite direction (For example the existence of Pontus Pilate).
    Point: It may be that the scholars are looking at the wrong strata (150 years too late).

    Shouldn’t we trust the Scriptures more than this?

    Note: Enns is not representative of Westminster.

    • Rick Evans July 18, 2012 at 8:23 am #

      Thanks for mentioning that. The discussion of the time frame of events is a big factor in this issue.

  7. Tony Campos July 17, 2012 at 3:44 pm #

    Enns wrote a terrific piece and took Piper’s loopy exegesis to task. Unfortunately, fundies like yourself can’t get past the “inerrancy” boogey-man. Circle the wagons, eh?!?

    • Denny Burk July 17, 2012 at 5:11 pm #

      Is there an argument in there? I don’t see one.

  8. Scott July 17, 2012 at 4:30 pm #

    Denny

    If God’s ultimate ethic is expressed in Jesus and his words/teachings, then did God change his mind?

    God’s ultimate ethic is that of Christ. I’m fine to speak of progressive revelation. But the slaughtering ethic in the OT was not God’s ultimate ethic. That OT ethic needed redemption. If it needed redemption itself and it was not God’s ultimate ethic, then it tells us that OT ethic paradigm is faulty in some measure. It’s not THE actual standard God desires. We know He would never ask such slaughtering to be done today. We see and know this because of Christ. So did God change, or was the OT ethic off, the commands partly broken, not fully God’s heart?

    I know this doesn’t make for tidy theology in systematic texts. But this is a lot more organic and real when we ponder God’s true and ultimate character in Christ as compared with the OT ethic that needed redemption itself.

    • Denny Burk July 17, 2012 at 4:46 pm #

      Scott,

      No, God doesn’t change His mind like we do (1 Sam. 15:29). He has a sovereign purpose, and He works all things after the counsel of his own will (Eph. 1:11).

      Having said that, I don’t think trajectory hermeneutics are very helpful for understanding the ethics of the conquest of Canaan. God has not turned back from His judgments. Read the 2 Thessalonians text that I quoted above. It says that Jesus Himself will destroy His enemies in the last day. It will make the conquest of Canaan look like child’s play. The book of Revelation describes the final judgement as a bloody affair in which the blood flows for 200 miles at the level of the horse’s bridle (Rev. 14:20). All of this shows that God’s “ultimate ethic” includes judgment–bloody, violent judgment.

      So the question is not whether or not God is a God who destroys His enemies. The question is whether or not He’s delivered that judgment over to the church to mete out on His enemies. The answer to that question is no. In salvation history, the theocracy of Israel did have that commission, but the church does not. As I said above, God has delivered all judgment over to the Son.

      When you talk about “ultimate ethic,” that is a category that suggests a change in God. What I’m arguing for is that God has never changed, though the administration of His purposes does change through the course of salvation history.

      Thanks,
      Denny

      • Scott Lencke July 18, 2012 at 9:52 am #

        Denny –

        Thank you for your gracious interaction with me. I do appreciate it. I know and appreciate some of the facets of reformed theology. I used to be a pretty strong advocate myself, but am not there now in my theological journey. In the past, I would have argued most of what you have argued.

        I find it interesting that you would emphasise 1 Sam 15:29, but not places where Scripture teaches God did change his mind. Now, I know anthropomorphisms, etc. But this is the failure of fully embracing a systematic approach to theology – picking certain verses over others to form our theological system. 1 Sam 15:29 trumps other passages. Of course, we cannot avoid it fully. But systematics will always leave us emphasising certain parts to the expense of others. Shall we miss what the author of Samuel was writing in an attempt to build a reformed system that God will never change his mind. It is interesting that even the prophets, speaking on behalf of God, spoke of judgment to come, and then the judgment did not come. Something has to be reckoned in the reality of God ‘changing his mind’.

        You remarked: So the question is not whether or not God is a God who destroys His enemies. The question is whether or not He’s delivered that judgment over to the church to mete out on His enemies. The answer to that question is no. In salvation history, the theocracy of Israel did have that commission, but the church does not.

        I also find this worth considering in light of you claiming that God does not change his mind. Did things change in regards to a particular covenant/dispensation? Of course they did. And this is the point to highlight – God did not change, but God’s purpose did change. We could argue about the why for the change, but at least we can note a change did take place. And you can point out that, no, Christ is the one who now does the judgment, but the judgment still exists. But the change still took place moving from humanity (Israel in ancient times) to God’s Son bringing the judgment.

        To this, you might also respond as you did above: What I’m arguing for is that God has never changed, though the administration of His purposes does change through the course of salvation history.

        I’m fine for us to speak of God’s immutability. But, again, his purposes did change (or progress), moving towards his ultimate ethic for humans as expressed in Christ. No longer are men to judge men. God’s Son shall do so. A change has taken place. And I think God always desired to be the one who would judge sin, not humans. This is why I believe the OT ethic was somewhat deficient, needing redemption itself. God did not err. But the humans, in their place of revelation, needed their own ethical understanding redeemed. I believe God would have desired the Christ-ethic in ancient times. They just were not there (and we could ponder why they weren’t, but that is another conversation).

        I think trajectory hermeneutics will always play a part in our interpretation of Scripture, whether we note it or not. There is a trajectory, or a progression, moving through God’s redemptive revelation in Scripture. We are even dealing with trajectories within the NT itself (commands for clothing, head coverings, etc).

      • Chris Smith July 21, 2012 at 8:58 pm #

        Hi Denny,
        In your comment your proof-text of 1 Sam 15:29 seems to raise more questions to your position than it answers, at least if you interpret it the way you do (note that it is direct speech, albeit from a prophet but prophets, but it is not a narrators comment). The verb which is translated as negated in 1 Sam 15:29 and rendered as God not changing his mind, welo’ yinahem, actually appears in Gen 6:6 as the narrator’s description for what God in fact did–they are even in the same stem!

        So, who shall we go with: Samuel’s description according to your application or the narrator of Genesis?

    • Chip July 18, 2012 at 3:45 pm #

      Scott, you wrote, “We know He would never ask such slaughtering to be done today. We see and know this because of Christ.” This is completely incorrect. We know Jesus is coming back to judge the nations, with a sword and an army. We know that the vanquished will be subject to the second death, eternal separation in hell. We know that what happens to the soul is far more important than what happens to the body. There is no dichotomy between the Father and the Son as you are trying to draw. One is just as holy, judgemental, loving and merciful as the other.

      • Scott July 19, 2012 at 5:22 pm #

        Chip –

        You didn’t engage with my whole comment. I also pointed out: No longer are men to judge men. God’s Son shall do so. A change has taken place. God wants himself, through his Son, to be the judge. Not us. This is Christ’s ultimate ethic. And this is something at the end of the age. But how does it play out now. We are not to go around slaughtering people. Why? That’s what God desires for how humans created in his image are to act.

  9. John July 17, 2012 at 4:44 pm #

    This post (by Denny, not by Enns) is misrepresentation & fundamentalism at its finest.

    Wow

    • Denny Burk July 17, 2012 at 4:49 pm #

      John, I’m happy to have you comment, but you need to use your last name. (see my comments policy)

      Also, try to engage the arguments in a constructive way. I’m not going to continue a thread with ad hominem and name-calling.

      • John Croft July 17, 2012 at 6:38 pm #

        Denny,

        Fair enough. My apologies. I’m willing to admit it was a knee-jerk reaction with little substance, but I do feel such a reaction was matching the tone set forth by the post. I feel you read Enns with a hermeneutic of suspicion, and it comes through in your response to his post. I find it common with your posts about anybody outside of your “club” and consider it sub-Christian at best. You’re trying to make this an argument rooted in the nature of Scripture, when in reality it’s an argument rooted in the very character of God. Not everything falls back on the doctrine of inerrancy, and as an observer it appears every belief you don’t agree with you attribute to a lack of belief in inerrancy, leading to a belief that Scripture is insufficient, leading ultimately to a deficient view of God that calls into account the legitimacy of the person’s Christianity.

        I think there’s a more mature way to handle disagreements, both as a Christian and as an academic.

  10. Greg Monette July 17, 2012 at 5:07 pm #

    Firstly, I like Denny. I think he is flat out wrong though when he says that Theology should be above history (They have to go hand in hand). He says that Enns goes wrong when he allows archaeology to go against scripture. That sounds like a head in the sand approach where one plugs their ears and says “the bible is true, the bible is true, the bible is true” without any concern for what actually took place historically. If you want to set people up for spiritual failure, tell them the bible is inerrant and don’t allow them to use reason or a critical historical reading of the text to know what it means and what the context is about. When they hear objections for the first time, they will either go into hiding or lose their faith (a la Bart Ehrman). Think of it like reverse apologetics: If we have mormon or muslim friends, we go to history to try and show them where they are wrong. If they say “the book of mormon (or Quran) is true because it is the inerrant word of God, and any Christian that tells me otherwise must have it wrong, no matter what their arguments are.” we would think they were a little cooky, and that their heads were stuck in the sand. Why, if the shoe is on the other foot do we say its ok to do that? What is theology anyways if it isn’t an accurate statement of God’s work in history? If you strip history from theology it collapses.

    • Denny Burk July 17, 2012 at 5:25 pm #

      I never said or meant to imply that theology is above history. Our faith is rooted in history, in the historical event of Christ’s resurrection. I am very much concerned with “what actually took place historically,” as you have it.

      On the historical issues at stake here, you should read Greg Beale’s book. Beale shows that the historical issues are not as open and shut as Enns suggests. Moreover, Enns tends to be one-sided in his presentation of the evidence. This is not a “head in the sand” approach. Evangelicals are engaging the historical issues, but Beale argues that Enns doesn’t give their work its due.

      Having said that, there are still tremendous theological problems that cannot be avoided. In his book Inspiration and Incarnation, Enns says that the early chapters of Genesis are shot through with myth and yet the biblical authors believed their accounts to have correspondence to history. That is a tremendous theological problem that can’t be brushed aside. I don’t think Enns has given a satisfactory answer to that one yet (as well as many other problems).

      • Dean Chang July 17, 2012 at 6:32 pm #

        Denny, found this site from a link at Dr. Enns’ blog, I’ve only read a couple of his books, and I’m still digesting them, but what I find most frustrating about Evangelical Christians today (which is also my background), is that I find that most of them are unable or unwilling to engage the wider world in any sort of authentic discussion about faith and science. I understand that Evangelicals makes the same claim going the other direction, but Dr. Enns and Christians like him are really trying and I appreciate their efforts. I don’t know much about your theology, but I know that most Evangelical Christians would call that “compromising the faith” at best and “heretical” at worst. Here’s the thing, the Bible does have mistakes (Bart Ehrman), God does sometimes change his mind (Greg Boyd), evolution really did happen (Francis Collins), and that includes human evolution (Peter Enns). Look, I know you probably don’t like any of these authors, but I’ve read them and they’re pretty compelling. Everything I’ve read in opposition to these claims boil down to something like the Bible is the Truth and you must read it literally (or in other words, the same way the author happens to read it). Unfortunately, that is simply not going to work for me or most educated, rational people today. For Evangelical Christianity to stay relevant, it must take it’s head out of the sand and wake up. The terrible consequence of the age of information is that everybody has access to it, everyone can critique it, and poorly supported arguments aren’t going to survive. When I hear influential pastors like John MacArthur say that the unless you believe the universe is 6000 years old you can’t believe anything in the Bible is true, it indicates to me that something is profoundly wrong with American Christianity today.

        • Jim Wood July 17, 2012 at 9:14 pm #

          Well, science says that a man cannot possibly rise from the dead, but the Bible says it happened on several occasions, including the most compelling one for any Christian, Jesus Christ rose from the dead. If you can’t believe the rest of the Bible based on current science, why in the world do you believe that Jesus rose from the dead? (At least I hope anyone who calls themselves a Christian will admit that). If science has so disproved the Bible, why believe any of it? Why not be an atheist? Seems a lot easier to me.

          • Rick Evans July 18, 2012 at 8:21 am #

            That is a weak analogy. In the case mentioned in the post, the problem is that many in archeology say evidence shows that such events did not take place in that time period. If you want to bring it to the topic of the Resurrection, it would be the same as saying the bones of Jesus were found, so the Resurrection did not take place. Clearly that is not the situation in regards to the Resurrection, and inf fact, people such as N.T. Wright use historical means to show reliability in the Resurrection.

            Enns is not saying the conquest could not take place, rather, he is saying evidence shows that it did not take place (at least in that time period). There is a difference.

            • Greg Monette July 18, 2012 at 11:29 am #

              Jason: I almost laughed when I read what you said that Enns “is deferring to “evidence” (to the degree it can be retrieved by the non-empirical means of archeology) over Scripture.” That’s EXACTLY what we are supposed to do! Evidence is what historians go on. We can’t make historical judgments based on things we have no evidence for. Even people of faith who believe certain things in the bible happened can’t say “THEY DID HAPPEN” all the time. Sometimes we have to say “I have faith that they happened but I have NO evidence that this took place.” In other words, admit blind faith here. In other cases, after doing the historical work and the evidence goes against what the bible says, maybe it’s not the bible but one’s previous interpretation of the bible that is wrong, or 2.) the bible should be understood differently in light of the FACTS. Is doing historical, critical, and textual work of the bible ONLY for apologetics? Or is it to gain knowledge into how to understand what went on. People, please get your heads out of the sand and stop wishing the real world will disappear. Sometimes our own particular and idiosyncratic readings of the bible are wrong!

          • Dean Chang July 18, 2012 at 1:44 pm #

            Jim, it sounds like you believe in what Rob Bell calls “brickianity”, because that’s the kind of language people who believe in that version of Christianity use. If you think Christianity was really a kind of game of Jenga, then it wouldn’t have survived for two thousand years across so many different cultures and time periods. Have you read any history on the Church? You can start with the History of Christianity by Latourette. Christians have been disagreeing on all sorts of stuff since day one. I absolutely believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I think that’s the foundation of our faith. But if you’re going to lump a 6-day creation in with that, a world-wide flood of which there is no evidence, dinosaurs on the ark and the whole lot, well, that’s something altogether different. That was the point of my post.

            • Jim Wood July 18, 2012 at 4:24 pm #

              I have no idea why you are willing to believe in an actual, physical resurrection when all science says that’s impossible. The Bible states certain things and current science says it didn’t happen. So why the belief in one and not the other?
              Rick, all science and historical evidence says that a man cannot come back from the dead. The Bible says it happened. How is that a poor analogy? As far as the rest of your examples, who says there wasn’t a world-wide flood? Pretty much every ethnic culture group has “myths” of an incredible flood that covered the world.
              If God lied about that, creation, etc, why in the name of sanity should we believe any of the Bible?
              As far as little Bell goes, I’m glad to be mocked by him (and by extension, you). Bell is a fool.

              • Dean Chang July 19, 2012 at 2:40 pm #

                Well, I do believe in a physical resurrection, because I think that’s the core of our faith, that is what Christianity is all about, that is the Good News. What confuses me about folks like you is expanding that to include a whole host of other things that have nothing to do with that and putting the Bible above Christ. This is idolatry my friend. I worship Jesus, not the Bible. The Bible is not some sort of magic book with powers that are supposed to trump science. It’s a product of human hands inspired by God, but it does have mistakes in it all over the place, everyone knows that. You absolutely an example of my original post, this version of Christianity simply cannot persist. 99% of the rest of world knows that the earth is billions of years old, this has been proven in every field of science over and over again. You’re basically saying nearly every scientist in the world, many of whom are Christians, are either engaged in an elaborate conspiracy or are so blinded by Satan(?) that they can’t see the “Truth” of the Bible, and only you a your select crowd of YECs can? Occam’s Razor my friend, please use it, I implore you.

                As for God “lying” about creation, may I humbly suggest that maybe you’re just reading Genesis wrong? Is that a possibility?

        • Greg Monette July 18, 2012 at 11:23 am #

          Well said, Dean! Took the words from my mouth.

  11. Don Johnson July 17, 2012 at 8:25 pm #

    Jos 23:6 Therefore, be very strong to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, turning aside from it neither to the right hand nor to the left,
    Jos 23:7 that you may not mix with these nations remaining among you or make mention of the names of their gods or swear by them or serve them or bow down to them,
    Jos 23:8 but you shall cling to the LORD your God just as you have done to this day.

    So even tho earlier in Joshua it seems to say that all the enemies were vanquished, it seems they were not.

    I do not see the question being that Enn presumes there are mistakes in Scripture, as Denny puts it, but that Enns says that Piper and co. are misreading Scripture in this case as some version of straight historical narrative due to Piper’s beliefs about inerrancy. That it, Piper is failing to correctly determine the genre of the text he is reading.

    Perhaps this is obvious to some but not others, but Joshua is a conquest text and one way to read it for understanding is to compare and contrast it with other conquest texts from the ancient near east. That is, God accomodated to the culture of the ancient Israelites in explaining things in ways they would understand. This is similar to the ideas of John Walton in reading Genesis 1, except in that case it is ANE creation/origins texts that need to be compared and contrasted as he does in his recent books.

    • Denny Burk July 17, 2012 at 8:43 pm #

      You can’t talk about genre apart from authorial intent. Enns says that the author(s) of Genesis intended to narrate history. Nevertheless, we now know that their narrative do not have extra-textual referentiality in history. If the genre is determined by the author, then he produced falsehoods under the inspiration of the Spirit. That is problematic.

      • Don Johnson July 17, 2012 at 9:36 pm #

        I am not sure I understand what you said. Kitchen says the patriarch stories in Genesis are below the level of outside confirmation (that is, what might have happened was not important to others so their not discussing it does not mean much), but that they are plausible knowing what we know of the culture.

        I agree that authorial intent is critical. I see ANY text as a part of the culture in which it was produced, because the words and phrases and literary conventions used are a part of that culture. Most people can figure out that the latter parts of Revelation are not to be read literalistically because it is apocalyptic literature, written using the conventions of such literature with some wild images. But I think it goes too far to think of them as falsehoods, they have a purpose. That is, the images in Rev. do not need to be historically accurate to be telling true things.

        That is, saying some description in Joshua either needs to be historically true or a falsehood is setting up a false dichotomy, it can be true (expressing truth) without necessarily being historically factual, if the genre (conquest narrative) does not imply it is to be read as straight narrative history but rather as a conquest narrative.

        • Denny Burk July 18, 2012 at 12:01 am #

          Genres don’t will themselves into being. Genres are a feature of authorial intent.

          • Rick Evans July 18, 2012 at 8:26 am #

            But wouldn’t Enns says it depends on which author you are talking about? God’s influence would provide the true, theological intent, whereas the human influence may or may not be as true (although the human author may believe it is true).

  12. Blake Reas July 18, 2012 at 2:20 am #

    I have a few questions for people on both sides of this debate. First, does Deut. and Joshua really contradict one another? The way I take it is that God did in fact command the Israelites to eradicate the Canaanites (with good reason, because God said so! If you don’t like it get over it. There isn’t any problem with a Divine Command Ethic.); the Israelites failed to carry out God’s commands and they reaped the consequences. In some places they are obedient, but in others the are disobedient, which leads to problems for them later on. Is this an accurate way of reading the narratives? Or are they hopelessly contradictory? If they are why?

    Second, what is wrong with a Divine Command Ethic? Please don’t bring up the Euthyphro dilemma, because you will be showing your ignorance.

    As to the Archaeological issues, I don’t think the issues are nearly as clear cut as Enns makes out. Provan, Long, and Longman handle most of the objections to these events, and it seems to me that no one has shown that the biblical narrative is false. I haven’t seen anyone deal with the work of the likes of Bryant Wood, unless it is ridicule.

    As far as the Genre question is concerned I have to wonder whether or not this is an invention to plug the wholes in a problematic theological quandry. Of course it would be much easier for us if we could paper over the historical issues with the magic wand of “genre”, but I have to wonder if this idea developed because of the assumed historical errors. Is this the case?

  13. GLW Johnson July 18, 2012 at 8:05 am #

    That Enns disagrees with Piper does not concern me as much as Enns saying in his book ‘The Evolution of Adam’ that the apostle Paul is not a reliable guide to understanding the Old Testament-especially the Apostle’s take on Adam.

  14. Bill Griffin July 18, 2012 at 8:44 am #

    I know this issue is quite involved, but, simple person that I am, I’m having a hard time getting past even the opening remarks without dismissing much of the subject:

    ‘ As with many issues surrounding archaeology, there is further discussion to be had, and I am guessing that Piper will not be swayed but what archaeologists say. ‘

    The Bible has been proven to be true where archaelogy has denied that civilizations have existed. Many times.

    Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

  15. Don Johnson July 18, 2012 at 10:03 am #

    There are well known potential contradictions in Joshua considered by itself, if one tries to read the book literalistically as narrative history. If one reads it as a conquest narrative, with the potential for hyperbole, then the potential contradictions do not exist.

    • Don Johnson July 18, 2012 at 11:51 am #

      I posted one in response to Denny above. Some verses in Joshua can be read as saying that there are no more Canaanites in the Holy Land, but later in Joshua we find that they are. So which is correct? The answer is that BOTH are correct, but the first verses simply cannot be read literalistically, but rather need to be read as part of a Conquest text and there using hyperbole.

      • Don Johnson July 18, 2012 at 11:58 am #

        Read Burk’s quote from Joshua and then mine.

        • Derek Taylor July 18, 2012 at 12:18 pm #

          Only if you read Joshua 21 with wooden literalism do you believe that every potential/future enemy was literally wiped out. The key concept is that no enemy stood in their path at that time and no threats existed in the land apportioned. More land remained to be settled. Later passages make it crystal clear that a) others dwelled in the land and b) the threats they posed were not of a military nature; rather, the threat they posed was of spreading their idolatrous practices. c) military threats will arise IF the Jews disobey God by practicing idolatry. (see Joshua 23)

  16. Scott Lencke July 19, 2012 at 5:23 pm #

    Denny –

    I don’t know if you have moved on from this article and will not see this comment, but Pete Enns posted some follow-up articles on the topic at hand. His most recent article points out some important things in the discussion.

    • Denny Burk July 20, 2012 at 10:09 am #

      Hey, Scott. Just and FYI. My comments policy requires first and last names from commenters. I’ll fill it in for you this time, but keep that in mind for you next one. Thanks for reading and taking time to comment!

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