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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Dr. Peter Enns on the “Dark Side” of the Old Testament

Posted by jlwile on March 18, 2011

Dr. Peter Enns

I am currently at the Southeast Homeschool convention in Greenville, South Carolina. It is a wonderful experience. The conference is very well attended, and I have spoken to many, many homeschoolers over the past day and a half. The most amazing thing for me is speaking to the homeschooled students who have come to the convention. It is incredible to see what God is doing in their lives. Some of the most impressive people I have met in my entire life are homeschooled students!

As I noted in my previous post, I was excited to see that Dr. Peter Enns is a speaker at this convention. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend his first talk, as it conflicted with a talk that I was giving. However, I was able to attend his second talk, and I was very glad that I did. While I had read some of his work (most notably Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament), I had never seen him in person. It will probably come to a surprise to some of the commenters on my previous post that he did not have horns growing out of his head or any sign of a red tail (as far as I could see). Instead, he came across as an incredibly humble man of God who has a genuine love for the Word.

The title of his talk was “The Dark Side of the Old Testament and What We Must Learn from it.” He said that an alternative title was, “Struggling with your faith (and what God is teaching you through it).” It was a down-to-earth, encouraging talk about those times in your Christian life when your faith is tested.

He started the talk with a bit of a joke. He said that because the vast majority of those in the audience are homeschoolers, he was going to assume that everything in our lives is going wonderfully. Our children are all thrilled with their education, they do their work diligently, the family has lots of time to fellowship, and everyone’s walk with Christ is better than it ever has been. That got quite a laugh. Then he turned serious, indicating that, unfortunately, this is often what our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ expect of us. They expect us to always be living in victory and never have any doubts or struggles. Of course, the reality is quite different, and often we don’t know what to do when that reality hits us. Then he said something very profound:

In church, we can talk about any problem except feeling distant from God.

That is both one of the truest and one of the saddest aspects of modern Christianity. Rather than being a place where struggling Christians can come for help, church is often just a showcase where the appearance of Christian victory is more important than the reality of helping our brothers and sisters in their spiritual walk.

One of the goals of his talk was to show that struggling in your Christian walk is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it’s quite normal. As someone who deeply loves the Word, he did that by showing us parts of the Old Testament that often don’t make it into a typical church service. For example, he discussed Psalm 73, where the psalmist struggles with stumbling, and Psalm 83, where the psalmist implores God to stop being silent. These Psalms are called “lament Psalms,” because they deal with the troubles that people experience. He then gave a surprising fact – roughly half of the Psalms are lament Psalms! He then discussed Job and Ecclesiastes, which both deal with men of God who are struggling to understand God and how He relates to them.

At the end of this discussion, he made the obvious but profound point that these Scriptures indicate that struggling in your Christian life is normal. He calls this the “dirty little secret of Christianity.” Even though many Christians are loathe to admit it, we all struggle in our spiritual walk. Not only should we not be ashamed of this, but the Scriptures clearly tell us that this happens, even to great men of God! If it happened to them, it will happen to us.

So what is the purpose of these struggles, which seem to be a normal part of our life with Christ? According to Dr. Enns, it is to strip away self so as to allow us to become more like Christ. He gave two very important Scriptures that apply here:

“For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” -Colossians 3:3

“that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” -Philippians 3:10

He said that these are not verses about becoming a Christian. Instead, they are verses about being a Christian. In other words, to be a good Christian, one must die to self so as to become like Christ. Often, God uses our spiritual suffering to help us die to ourselves.

In the question/answer session, I noted that there is a strong physical principle – “no pain, no gain.” If you want to be an athlete, for example, you will have to regularly work out to the point of pain. Only then can you become a better athlete. I asked him why the Christian church is hesitant to admit that this truth applies spiritually as well. He said that it was probably a cultural thing. Our culture tends to equate the Christian life with blessings rather than the more Biblical idea that the Christian life is about taking up your cross and following Him. However, he said he would have to correct my statement a bit, because in his mind, the spiritual truth is more like:

no death, no gain

That is so very true!


159 Responses to “Dr. Peter Enns on the “Dark Side” of the Old Testament”
  1. jlwile says:

    You are quite right, Patty. Jim Jones and David Koresh were also very fond of claiming that no one else had the proper interpretation of Scripture – that they were the arbiters of Biblical truth.

    There is, indeed, only one truth. However, we do not have the right to set ourselves up as the arbiters of that truth (as Jim Jones and David Koresh did). As Romans 14:1-9 tells us quite clearly, we are to respect our brothers and sisters in Christ who have different views. We don’t have license to ignore that Scripture.

  2. Alex says:

    As a new homeschooling parent, I thank God that there are still people that stand up for the Bible (as it was written), not adding anything or taking anything away. If God said He created everything in 6 days who are we to disagree? I for one am glad that we were warned about other views and will make sure not to purchase anything that states otherwise (i.e. Dr. Enns Bible curriculum).btw, we were also at the Cincinnati homeschool convention and were very sorry to not see Dr. Ken Ham there. Sincerely- Alex

  3. jlwile says:

    Thanks for your comment, Alex. I have no problem with people standing up for their views. However, it needs to be done as Scripture tells us to do it. Romans 14:1-9 is a great guide.

  4. M herring says:

    My Children have only used Apologia sciences. It is very disturbing to see the attacks on Ken Ham especially coming from you. You both seem to Love the Lord and want to serve him with truth. As parents it is overwhelming at times with all the curriculum choices that we face — most claiming to be Biblically sound but not. Our family is very thankful to Mr. Ham for exposing this and any curriculum that does not follow the Bible fully. Please find a resolution to you & Mr. Ham’s disagreement. One of satin’s weapons is to DIVIDE!

  5. Tyler says:

    Dr. Wile, are you attempting to explain that man was created by evolutionary processes? Also, if you think the creation of man is fallible, would you also consider 2 timothy 3:16 to be fallible as well? “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness so that the men of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

  6. jlwile says:

    M herring, I never attacked Mr. Ham. Mr. Ham most certainly attacked Dr. Enns, calling him a “compromiser” and leveling a false charge at him. I attacked Mr. Ham’s actions. He was wrong in posting what he posted. However, even in my discussion of his wrong actions, I told people to listen to his talks. I also commented several times in the comment thread that he is a man of God who Loves the Word.

    My problem was not with Mr. Ham pointing out what he did not like about Dr. Enns’s work. My problem was that he did not do it in a proper way (Romans 14:1-9).

    I agree that one of Satan’s weapons is to divide, which is why Romans 14:1-9 is so important to follow!

  7. jlwile says:

    Tyler, you clearly haven’t read much of my writing, because I most certainly do not think man was created by evolutionary processes. If you peruse this blog in even the most cursory way, you would find that I believe that God created in six 24-hour days something on the order of 10,000 years ago.

    2 Timothy 3:16 is not fallible, and even those who believe God created via evolution can believe that. If a person truly believes that the first few chapters of Genesis are not written as historical narrative, he or she can fully believe 2 Timothy 3:16 and fully believe in theistic evolution. I don’t agree with such people, but there are many, many serious evangelical theologians who do.

  8. Tyler says:

    Dr. Wile, To make things clear – do you believe the Bible to be Fallible? Also, do you believe that all Scripture is a literal account?

  9. jlwile says:

    Tyler, I believe the Bible to be infallible and inerrant. No, I do not believe that all Scripture is a literal account. Jesus’ parables were not literal accounts. When Jesus told us to cut out our eye and cut off our hand, that is not literal. Song of Solomon and the Psalms contain all sorts of things that aren’t literal. In addition, there are passages for which the plain reading clearly can’t be the proper way to take the passage. When Jesus tells about what appears to be the end times in Matthew 24, he says, “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” (Matthew 24:34) The plain reading of the passage would say that the end times occurred within about 40 years of when He spoke those words. Thus, the plain reading is not the correct way to understand that verse. To determine what is literal and what is not, and to determine when to take the plain reading of the text, you need a good hermeneutic.

    Just out of curiosity, why do you feel the need to put me through a theological purity test? Why don’t you read what I have written?

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