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

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

  1. Dr. Wile,
    I am currently going through your Biology course, and have been enjoying how Christian based it is, and “user friendly”. But even I, as a 15 year old, know that what Peter Enns has said in his book and curriculum, is not in concordance with what is understood in scripture. Even I would have expected a more mature response to this mans teachings from you.
    We are to speak the things which are sound doctrine (Titus 2:1), and Dr. Enns’ book does hardly that. He does not even tell how you could teach your children about their Creator. He fails to explain how to teach them key truths in the understanding of God, salvation, etc. God wants us all to have an understanding as of a child, Mark 10:14-15 is a perfect example of such. And if we were not to tell our children about the “adult concepts” of sin and grace, then even us who are to have that childlike faith, shouldn’t either?
    Anyways, Hopefully you will become of a more sound mind. 🙂
    Good work on the Biology course though, we almost had a fish fry once the fish was dissected. 🙂

    1. Rachelle, thanks for your comment, and I am glad you didn’t do the fish fry! It is not mature to call a brother in Christ an unwarranted name and to level a false charge against him. That has always been my point. As Christians, we are to follow the dictates of Scripture, and Romans 14:1-9 tells us how to treat brothers and sisters with whom we disagree. That’s the mature thing to do. Other (like Dr. Geisler and John Frame) have done that.

  2. Also, I do know that arguments will never win the other’s mind, especially in such cases as these when both sides are stubborn. I believe that we all should take what Peter Enns says in context with the bible, and see whether he is speaking truth or not. Not just believing man’s fallible word for it.
    If we believed in God, then we would also believe that the whole Bible is truth, an inspired word of God, and All of it is meaningful.

  3. I think you are right that most Christians who hold the Old Earth/theistic evolution position are not “compromisers” and should not be labeled as such. Although I disagree (obviously) with their view of Scripture, it is not “uninspired” necessarily and this is not something we should fight or divide over. I am thankful to you, Dr. Wile, for taking a courageous stand here. (Although I think you could have been a little less condescending at times)
    Unless it crosses over into the territory mentioned above, I don’t think it should not be considered a big issue.

    1. Elizabeth, thank you very much. I wholeheartedly agree that most Christians who hold the Old Earth/theistic evolution position are not “compromisers” and should not be labeled as such.

  4. Dr. Wile,

    As I read many of these comments, it appears that a central but unstated point of contention revolves around (1) what is orthodoxy, and (2) who determines that?

    You and I both disagree with Dr. Enns’s views concerning inerrancy, non-historicity of Adam, etc. Yet to hastily jump (as do Mr. Ham and many commenters here) from his stated views to the conclusion that he is undermining the authority of Scripture is not necessarily valid.

    Let’s take the issue of baptism. As we all know, this has been a hotly debated topic for centuries. Some people hold strongly to infant baptism, others to baptism upon personal profession of faith; some contend for sprinkling as the proper mode while others insist upon immersion. There are even a number of variations upon each of these views. Who is right? Who is wrong? I have prayed and researched this issue and come to my opinion, yet am I right to condemn as “compromisers” those who disagree with my view? I would not appreciate it if someone with an opposing view attacked me as being unbiblical and a underminer of the faith.

    So I think it is with this issue that arose at the instigation of Mr. Ham. I know he believes he is right and that it is his duty to warn his followers of heretical views. Yet isn’t Mr. Ham setting himself up as the arbiter of doctrinal purity by the terms he has applied to Dr. Enns? Isn’t a more humble approach called for in such discussions? It is fair to strongly and openly discuss and even debate these issues, yet Christian charity demands that we do so with love and gentleness.

    This is not an issue akin to Jesus sternly confronting the unbelieving, self-righteous Pharisees who added on to the Word of God and actually effectively blockaded many from entering the Kingdom. Neither is it a case of someone advocating atheism, denying the divinity and miracles of Christ, etc. Rather, this is an issue between men who both claim to love Jesus Christ and hold the Scriptures in very high regard.

    I have had to learn some painful lessons (and am still learning) over the years in terms of being judgmental towards those who disagreed with me. We are to test the spirits and exercise godly discernment, as there is much falsehood which we should reject. Yet to carelessly throw around words like “compromiser,” “heretic,” “unorthodox,” etc., is not something that should be done among true believers. We should love and pray for others, debate differences when we must, but do so in a way that brings honer to Christ and edifies those who witness what we do.

    I commend your patient, Christlike spirit in the midst of many false and unwarranted accusations against you. I only wish others involved in this discussion would have this spirit as well.

    May the Lord truly bless and guide you in all things!

  5. I find it interesting that you criticize Dr. Ham on his disagreement and “calling out” of Peter Enns when you had no problem doing the same with Apologia on your blog when you left. I have enjoyed using your science text this year and plan to do so in the future, but I have to question why you find it necessary to insert yourself into an argument that was clearly not yours to begin with?

    1. Ksfamilymom, I did not do to Apologia what Mr. Ham did to Dr. Enns. I did not call anyone at Apologia unwarranted names, nor did I level false charges against anyone. I simply made it clear that Apologia and I have different visions and values since the new owners took over, which is 100% true. Also, unlike Mr. Ham, I allowed people to comment, and allowed for ALL comments critical of me and defensive of the new owners.

      I inserted myself in this for two reasons:

      1. I was defending a brother in Christ who had been called an unwarranted name and against whom a false charge had been made.

      2. I was speaking at the same convention, so it directly related to me.

  6. Dr Wile- Just wanted to leave you a note of support. My teenaged children are all following the conversations online with great interest. It certainly has sparked some debates here in my house and more research/ reading. We are praying for you and have been since the days you chatted with us when first writing & revising the Apologia Texts. My oldest son earned his Masters this year 🙂 and I am still breaking out those same dogearred science textbooks & notes for my younger ones- we are one of the Catholic homeschooling families from the old hs yahoo groups.
    God Bless you and give you strength.

    1. Mary, thank you so much for your kind comment and your report on how your son has done! I am glad that you are approaching this debate properly – as a chance to show your children how to think critically!

  7. Another comment, please. Thanks for your graciousness

    From Norm Geisler (On Enns):

    When the true view of Enns is unveiled, it is easier to understand the kind of theological paranoia Enns reveals about his view when he exhorts others not to speak of his views like his with “judgmental suspicions” (172) or “predispositions against new ideas,” or to consider such views to be “on a slippery slope.” Likewise, we warns against “power plays” and attempts to “vilify person holding” such views, or against those who “go on the attack” against it and “jump to conclusions” about one’s motives and engage in “build[ing] our own kingdoms” All of this he calls the “angry evangelical syndrome” (173). Of course, the net effect of ad hominem phrases like these is to build a protective wall around his ADMITTEDLY MINORITY AND CLEARLY UNORTHODOX VIEWS. By so doing, he hopes to ward off any critical analysis that would consider them unbibiblical and/or unorthodox…

    Geisler is characterizing Enns’ view “Clearly Unorthodox”

    And we’re not allowed to question his “orthodoxy”? You have been defending him as “Orthodox”, correct Dr. Wile? Did you know enough about him/his teachings when you so quickly jumped into this fray?

    It appears as though all the concern/caution is warranted. I guess we’re all now guilty of “angry evangelical syndrome”, according to Enns!

    1. Elizabeth, nowhere have I EVER said that it is wrong to question his orthodoxy. I think he is orthodox, Dr. Geisler thinks he is not. As I have said countless times in this thread, Dr. Geisler has shown the PROPER way to point out the fact that he thinks Dr. Enns is not orthodox, and I applauded him for that. Note that Mr. Ham would also call Dr. Geisler a “compromiser,” so I am not sure why you are using a “compromiser” to defend your views!

      I have read Dr. Enns’s theological work. Have you? You seem to think that I don’t know enough about Enns to enter this fray, but you have entered this fray time and time again. How many of Dr. Enns’s books have YOU read?

      I would agree that MANY of the comments on this thread express the “angry evangelical syndrome” quite well. Yours are not among them, however.

  8. Dr. Wile, Ken Ham, AIG and Apologia stand together:


    Apologia also believes in a literal Adam and believe it is correct thing to do to expose someone who is in error, i.e. defending the Scriptures. Would you care to elaborate on why you left Apologia?

    You are way off base in attacking Ken Ham.

    I agree with another poster. I believe you have decided to defend your position even though deep down you know you are wrong…two contradictory positions can not be true.

    You are doing the very thing you accused Ken Ham of doing. Your CONTINUED consistent merciless attacks on Ken Ham are not Christ like.

    1. Patty, I have already posted on why I left Apologia. You can find it here.

      I also believe in a literal Adam and defending the Scriptures. However, I don’t do it with name-calling and false charges.

      I am not attacking Ken Ham. I am attacking his wrong actions, and far from being off base, I am doing the right thing. Ken Ham doesn’t have any reason to call me nasty, because I have not called him names or leveled a false charge at him.

  9. Funny how you keep calling Ken Ham nasty and he hasn’t said one bad thing about you. That says a whole lot!!!

  10. I’m not sure what happened to my comment.

    Literal intepretations are understood concretely. Thus a literal interpretation of a woman required to wear a head covering is just that. There may be a deeper underlying principle, but that doesn’t change the literal meaning. So, — the literal meaning of days in Genesis is 24 hours.

    This is more about Enns’ Bible curriculum than his theological work. Dr. Enns is trying to market Bible curriculum that contains “unorthodox” views to children and families. That crosses a line. Bible curriculum for children should be well within the limits of “orthodox”. The name compromiser could apply, as well as seeing thviews as uninspired (Bible must fit science, human reason).

    I’ve read some of Enns’ blog posts and some passages from his work. Of the flood, he talks about how horrific it was questions why God did not come up with a better plan? The guy on your other post (check it out – not going to copy) Also cited other passages that appeared to be “out there”.

    I guess I will have to make the time and money to read more, now.

    1. Elizabeth, the literal meaning of headcoverings is very clear, as there are no alternate translations possible. The literal interpretation of a day in Genesis is not so clear, since there are alternate translations possible. That’s why you can’t refute the link I gave you. I believe those days are 24-hour days, but I am also willing to admit that the literal interpretation of those passages is very difficult, due to an ancient language and a difficult context. The fact remains that YOU think the literal interpretation of Genesis means 24-hour days. The author of the link, whose arguments you have yet to refute, says that the obvious literal translation means unspecified periods of time. Who is one to believe?

      This is post is not about Enns’s Bible curriculum or his theological work. It is about Dr. Enns’s view on what the lament Psalms and other similar parts of the Old Testament teach us. Nevertheless, you have not shown that his Bible curriculum is unorthodox. Dr. Geisler believes some of Dr. Enns’s theological work is unorthodox, but Dr. Geisler said nothing about his Bible curriculum.

      The name compromiser does not apply, as Dr. Enns does not compromise the Scriptures. He tries to interpret them. Also, his view of inspiration is clearly Biblical, as it fits 2 Timothy 3:16. You might disagree with Dr. Enns. That is not the point. The point is to do so in a PROPER manner.

  11. Here is an interesting article from Dr. Henry Morris III on the ICR web site: http://www.icr.org/article/6032/

    Dr. Wile would you like to call Dr. Henry Morris III nasty? Are you also going to slam ICR? I understand Dr. Mohler has come out against Dr. Enns. Are you going to call Dr. Mohler nasty also?

    1. Patty, I see no name-calling or false charges in that post. Thus, I do not consider it nasty. Indeed, I consider it very well thought out. Note that Dr. Morris rightly says Dr. Enns, “is certainly an intelligent man and professes love for and belief in Jesus Christ.” He also points out what he thinks is wrong with Dr. Enns’s writings, but he does so in an appropriate way. I think Mr. Ham could learn a lot from Dr. Morris.

      I think you are missing what I have been saying to you over and over again. There is no problem with pointing out theological error. However, it must be done in the PROPER way.

  12. “Women dressing modestly” is a transcendent principle which is culturally applied, to a certain extent. If I’m a woman in 1st century Christendom, I would hope I would cover my head to show modesty. In 2011, I still obey the principle though not necessarily in the same way culturally.
    Don’t you already know all this, Dr. Wile?

    1. I absolutely do know all this, Elizabeth. My point is that you are not taking the plain reading of Scripture. Would I therefore accuse you of rejecting parts of the Bible? Of course not. If a person can make a good, Biblical argument for rejecting the plain reading of Scripture, as you just did here, I think it is best to respect that person’s view.

  13. I am more than happy to acknowledge that there may be alternative interpretations; what I’m not willing to concede is that a literal interpretation undermines the credibilty of the OT. This is Dr. Enns’ stated philosophy (I gave you the quote above) and it could be viewed as “compromising”.

    The Bible curriculum shows this bias – have you read the clips? – and thus it is wrong to sell it as orthodoxy children and families. Geisler probably hasn’t read any of it. It’s on the fringes and people should be informed. If you PhD’s want to debate the imprecatory psalms and the “errors” of Jesus, and the finer points of a “literal” interpretation — that is fine but it should not involve children/families. This is something that you will not acknowledge.

    I have a fantastic idea about how to determine the “literal” meaning: Read the passage to 20 people and ask each of them what means and there you have it, OR spend 5 years in grad school and after you defend your dissertation, you’ll be able to deduce literal meanings from written words!!

    I think you are doing a good work here, Dr. Wile. You make a lot of great points and I hope to educate my kids (in high school) on all this, arguments across the spectrum, limits of orthodoxy, etc. but Dr. Enns stepped out of line. eyond

    1. Elizabeth, the view cannot be seen as compromising if it is trying to protect the credibility of the Old Testament! In fact, it is a DEFENSIVE view. Dr. Enns truly believes that the proper interpretation of Genesis is not historical narrative, and to incorrectly interpret it as historical narrative is what compromises Scripture in his mind. You can therefore see Dr. Enns as fighting against compromise!

      I have read the clips that have been copied and pasted from Ken Ham’s posts, and while I disagree with some of them, I have no problem with the Bible curriculum being sold. I disagree with a LOT of Bible curricula out there, and I don’t say it shouldn’t be sold. Instead, I say that people should actually EVALUATE what they use. Imagine that. You should look at what you use rather than take someone else’s word for it!

      I would agree with your idea of finding the literal meaning if we use the original language and find 20 people who understand it as it was used then. The ONLY way to get to the literal meaning is to go back to the original language. That’s what the link I gave you did in order to conclude what he thinks the literal meaning of Genesis is. That’s what a good theologian does.

      I appreciate your words, but I disagree. Dr. Enns did not step out of line. He stepped across YOUR line, and he stepped across MY line. That is all.

  14. “I would agree with your idea of finding the literal meaning if we use the original language and find 20 people who understand it as it was used then”

    Yeah, but people even debate the meaning of the Hebrew word “yom” and say we can’t know for sure what that means.
    I am very happy I don’t have to spend 100K getiing a doctorate, though!

    Of course, I disagree about Enns because I believe the “literal” interpretation should be given the benefit of the doubt — “Literal where possible; fugurative where obvious” but I guess you are not going to let me have the last word on that 🙂

    Anyway, maybe you should consider some kind of curriculum breaking down different views across the rainbow of orthodoxy and arguments for/against, or something. I really do think I would be interested in that (some day).

    1. Elizabeth, that’s the point. Even if we got 20 people who understand the language as it was used back then, they might not agree on what it means. Context means a lot in Hebrew, and it is hard to understand the context of a one-time event that people didn’t see until very near the end.

      “Literal where possible; fugurative where obvious” sounds good, but I don’t think it works. It is possible to keep women silent in the church. It is possible to make them wear headcoverings, etc.

      A neat idea. I tend to write curriculum about things I am better educated in, however. I am not sure how well I could handle such a broad topic that is out of my area of expertise.

  15. Some of this does involve motivation. If Enns’ motivation is to get the Bible to line up with science so it will be credible, then that is undoubtedly “compromising”. From the preponderence of evidence, I believe this to be the case.

    If his motivation is as you said above, that seems reasonable acceptable.

    1. Elizabeth, you are absolutely right that IF his motivation is to make Scripture CONFORM to science, that is compromsing. However, I see no serious evidence for that, and so I will take him at his word.

  16. “Literal where possible; fugurative where obvious” sounds good, but I don’t think it works. It is possible to keep women silent in the church. It is possible to make them wear headcoverings, etc.

    It does work reasonably well as a *general* guideline.
    Yes, you have to “finesse” it somewhat (which you have to do with any hermeneutic). eg. It is possible to get women to wear headcoverings and it may be entirely appropriate, if it is considered modest. Within the church, women should defer to their husbands if they have questions and should not be “teachers” of men – they are to be silent in this respect, but they are allowed to talk, etc.

    I don’t really agree with the suggestion that it is not possible to get a general sense of what is “literal” and what’s “figurative” from a straight up read of the text, not that there can’t be differing viewpoints. It seems common sense reading comprehension, for the most. But as long as we all agree on the essential doctrines — to each his own, I suppose!!

    1. You are quite right, Elizabeth. Any hermeneutic needs to be finessed. The question is, how much finessing are you going to do? I think that is the essential issue in most doctrinal disputes.

  17. “Any hermeneutic needs to be finessed. The question is, how much finessing are you going to do? I think that is the essential issue in most doctrinal disputes.”

    I like that! It’s very interesting to think about why God set it up this way.

  18. On your other thread you called Ken Ham “nasty” and that is far worse than compromiser.

    You are not being Christ like. I never heard Ken Ham say that Dr. Enns or you are nasty.

  19. Dr. Wile, I read your post on why you left Apoloia. Would you care to elaborate on your world view? You have surely hinted at it with your posts. You might as well give us the details.

    By the way, have you come out with your new homeschool products?

    1. Patty, I have said over and over again that I believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God and that the Genesis days are 24-hour days. However, I DO NOT believe that because someone disagrees with me on those points, he or she is a heretic. This isn’t a difficult worldview to understand.

      I am not allowed to come out with my new homeschool products in the U.S. right away, because of contractual agreements with Apologia. However, if the Lord wills, the first in the series will be field-tested in non-U.S. countries. They will have exactly the same world view as my other books, and that world view is described above.

  20. Hi Dr. Wile,

    I like your books. But do I respectfully disagree with some of your criticisms of Mr. Ken Ham.

    If I understand you correctly, you are saying that Mr. Ham slandered Dr. Enns because he called Dr. Enns “compromising”. And you appear to say that one cannot be called “compromising” if one: (a) tries to defend the credibility of the Bible, (b) believes in infallibility (vs inerrancy).

    Have you ever heard of the open theology controversy in ETS? Would you say that the people who defend open theology are (a) compromising, (b) unorthodox, or (c) both?

    Open theologians at ETS certainly (a) believe in infallibility (they even claim the believe in “inerrancy”, which is why Dr. Geisler left ETS!), and (b) claim to be defending the truthfulness of Scripture (or defending God Himself – they give a theodicy).

    Yet, would you criticize someone for warning parents against the teachings of *evangelical* Open Theologians (e.g., Pinnock, Sanders, Boyd)?

    If you don’t like the analogy of Open Theology, what about Jehovah Witnesses? They don’t call themselves evangelical, but they sure seem to be sincere in their belief in the Bible. Is it wrong to say they hold an unblibical view of Jesus deity, and to warn parents about their poisonous doctrines? Or is that too harsh and slanderous?

    Is it ever right to use the words “heretical”, “poisonous”, and “compromising”? What do you think about the words the Apostle Paul uses in Galatians, not only against Judaizers, but even against the Apostle Peter?

    You said in your previous post “Dr. Enns doesn’t have Ken Ham’s view of the inspiration of Scripture. However, he clearly has a Biblical view”. Then you go on to give *your* reasons for thinking Dr. Enns view is Biblical. But, wait a minute. Don’t you think Mr. Ham does not agree with your definition of what the Biblical view is? If so, why is he slanderous in his criticism of Dr. Enns? Maybe Ken Ham is wrong, but not necessarily slanderous or nasty. Surely you don’t claim he is slanderous or nasty simply because he does not agree with *your* definition of what the biblical view of inspiration is, do you?

    And of course, Mr. Ham has a right to judge others’ views according to his own views. I mean, what else is he going to use? Your views?

    Maybe you are thinking that we ought to go by what the creeds say (at least you mentioned them in some of your responses). Really? What did Luther reply at the Diet of Worms? Did he appeal to popes, councils, or even creeds?

    You also mention that saying someone rejects parts of Scripture, when he doesn’t claim to, is wrong. So, if I say Jehovah Witnesses twist scripture, does that make me nasty? Why? They are sincere. If I say Dr. Enns views entail a view that twists scriptures, does that make me nasty?

    I recognize you don’t believe Dr. Enns views are as poisonous as Ken Ham thinks they are. But have you ever asked yourself whether Ken Ham really believes those views are poisonous? If so, why is he nasty in saying so? Would you want other people to say you are angry or nasty because you call something poisonous when you truly think it is?

    If I misunderstood you, I apologize. But I honestly strongly disagree with you on this one. Ken Ham, and others like him, have been extremely consistent in their beliefs that old earth views, or worse still, theistic evolutionary views, are bad, poisonous doctrines. This is not new in them. That’s what they believe in. And I don’t think that them saying what they believe in makes them nasty or angry.

    1. Thank you for your comments and your kind words regarding my books, Nicolas. Yes, I am very aware of open theism, and I do not consider them unorthodox.

      I would not be upset with any Christian for criticizing the teachings of any other Christian. Indeed, I have praised both Dr. Geisler and John Frame for offering detailed criticisms of Dr. Enns. The difference is that they did it without name calling and leveling false charges. That’s the key. Mr. Ham should criticize any teachings he thinks are errant, but he should do so properly.

      I do think Ken Ham is wrong when he falsely accuses Dr. Enns of not having a Biblical view of inspiration. He gives the verse by which we determine a Biblical view of inspiration, and Dr. Enns’s view is consistent with that verse. Thus, to call it unBiblical is wrong. He should have stopped with, “He does not have the same view of inspiration as I do.” That is 100% correct. However, he went on to say, “In fact, he doesn’t have the biblical view of inspiration” and that is 100% false, given that his view is perfectly consistent with 2 Timothy 3:16.

      You are not nasty in saying that Jehovah Witnesses twist Scripture. You would not be nasty in saying Dr. Enns twists Scripture if you properly show that he does. However, you would be nasty to assign a belief to Dr. Enns that is not true, and that’s what Mr. Ham did.

      I agree with you that Ken Ham and others like him have been extremely consistent in their views. So have I. I don’t find it wrong, and I don’t find it wrong to speak out against views with which you disagree. However, it is wrong to do so with unwarranted name calling and by leveling a false charge. Those are nasty things to do.

  21. One more thing. I don’t agree with your view that foundational doctrines are defined by the creeds. Nor did Luther, Calvin and other magisterial reformers.

    Luther and Calvin believed that the doctrine of salvation by faith alone (sola fide) was foundational, the doctrine on which the church stands or fall. I don’t find that doctrine in the early creeds (at least not explicitly). I don’t know if you are a Protestant, but I can assure you that a major section of Protestantism has ever since believed sola fide is foundational.

    And, in case you didn’t know, the Council of Trent (as counter reformation council) pronounced an anathema on all those who believe sola fide. And of course, we, conservative reformed protestants, have believed the Council of Trent is heretical.

    Why do I say all that? Because you seem to think that heresy is a word anyone should be able to agree on its definition, and then you bring in church history as if the whole church has actually agreed with your view! And then on that basis, *your* view on heresy and foundational doctrines, you go on to say Ken Ham said nasty things about Dr. Enns.

    For the record, I do believe, with both young earth and many old earth creationists, that a historical Adam and Eve are essential to healthy doctrine, and that anything else is poisonous. No first Adam, no second Adam. It undermines the whole Gospel as defined in Romans, for if Paul was wrong in what can be verified, in discussing such an important *doctrinal* point as the origin of sin, why trust him in what cannot be verified?

    Can true Christians believe poisonous things? Well, of course. Witness the Crusades, or even some Christians in Nazi Germany. Throughout history there have been people that look like real Christians to me, but who have believed evil, poisonous, and even heretical beliefs. But that doesn’t make their beliefs any less heretical.

    BTW, I am not sure you ever answered a question posted to you. What do you believe about Dr. Mohler’s criticisms of BioLogos? Are those criticisms proper?


    1. Nicolas, I am a Protestant, and I would agree that sole fide is a foundational doctrine. The creeds are an excellent guide to help us see foundational doctrines, but they don’t contain an exhaustive list. Dr. Enns, of course, does believe in salvation by faith alone, so he is still in the range of orthodoxy, even when you add that to the list of foundational doctrines found in the creeds.

      I did not say that Mr. Ham said nasty things about Dr. Enns based on my view of foundational doctrines. I said it based on the fact that the charge he leveled at Dr. Enns is demonstrably false.

      I see nothing wrong with Dr. Mohler’s article that you linked. He engages in no name calling, and as far as I can tell, there are no false charges. Indeed, he seems to be replying to an article that was about him, and he actually points out one false charge that was leveled at him in that article. This is completely appropriate, and quite unlike Mr. Ham’s attack on Dr. Enns.

  22. Dr. Wile, it appeasr that you should have left the creeds out of this!

    Anyway, here’s the situation:

    You’ve got a guy that people (regular as well as intellectual) can’t agree on as to whether he is orthodox or unorthodox.

    This individual proceeds to write a children’s Bible curriculum that also appears to be “controversial” — from reviews I have seen.

    Then, a person who is of the strong opinion that the view teaches “liberal theology” and casts doubt on the truthfulness of the Bible, calls him a “compromiser” in public.

    I think Dr. Wile that you are correct that we can’t characterize people as compromisers solely on how their interpretation of Genesis, but this seems to be about more than that.

    1. Elizabeth, if we are talking about foundational doctrines, the creeds are critically important. It would be irresponsible to leave them out of any discussion of orthodoxy!

      You are most certainly right that this is about more than Enns’s view of Genesis. However, to call him a “compromiser” is just wrong, because he is not compromising. He is interpreting differently.

  23. Dr. Wile,

    Thanks for your response. However, I think you missed my point, which is likely due to me not stating it explicitly. So let me do that first.

    My point is that in you charging Ken Ham with “nastiness”, it seems to me that your arguments are question begging. That is, you take certain premises, and upon those charge Ken Ham with nastiness. Has it ever occurred to you that Mr. Ham may not agree with those premises? It seems to me when you say “nasty” you imply, among other things, slanderous and mean spirited. How can Mr. Ham be those things when he is being totally consistent with his own beliefs in calling other people out?

    Now, let me show you some examples. One of them is the issue of the creeds and orthodoxy. You assume a certain meaning of the term orthodoxy, heresy, and the like, and then you say Mr. Ham is mean spirited because he thinks Dr. Enns is advocating a view that is beyond the bounds. How is that nasty? Mr. Ham believes Dr. Enns’ views are beyond the bounds because those views end up, perhaps indirectly, undermining the Gospel. Whether they are beyond the bounds to you is totally irrelevant to the fact that you charged Mr. Ham of being basically a slanderer. He cannot be that if he truly believes those views are beyond the bounds. And anyone who has ever heard Ken Ham knows, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that Mr. Ham has been extremely consistent in this particular charge for quite a while. This is not a new charge that he is somehow making in a personal vendetta against Dr. Enns. He would make the same charge against you if you advocated Dr. Enns teachings. That is not “nastiness”.

    The meaning of the word heresy depends on the person making the claim. The meaning your tradition gives to the word heresy is not the only meaning out there. If a Tridentine Roman Catholic called me a heretic for believing sola fide, should I say he is nasty? If a Jehovah Witness called me a heretic for believing in the Trinity, should I say he is nasty? Of course not! That would be quite silly – childish. He is simply acting completely consistently with his own beliefs, and I would expect nothing less.

    Another example. You say that Ken Ham “gives the verse by which we determine a Biblical view of inspiration, and Dr. Enns’s view is consistent with that verse”. Consistent according to whom? According to you? If Mr. Ham told you that he thinks Dr. Enns is being inconsistent with that verse, don’t you think that Mr. Ham may actually be saying the truth about Mr. Ham’s own beliefs? That is, he believes that verse is contradicted by Dr. Enns’ teaching. Whether Mr. Ham is correct or not is absolutely irrelevant to the fact that you charged Mr. Ham with being nasty to Dr. Enns. How is he being nasty, if he actually believes that?

    Yet another example. You say “you would not be nasty in saying Dr. Enns twists Scripture if you properly show that he does.” To whom satisfaction? Yours? Have you ever wondered if Mr. Ham believes he has already, plenty of times, in many talks, shown that beliefs just like Dr. Enns are twisting the Scriptures? Again, whether you agree with him or not is irrelevant to the fact that you are making the claim that Mr. Ham is being nasty.

    1. Nicolas, you don’t seem to understand my original post. I called Mr. Ham nasty (I did not say slanderous or mean-spirited – I said nasty) because he leveled a false charge at Dr. Enns. That is nasty, plain and simple.

      Mr. Ham certainly was being consistent in his beliefs in calling Dr. Enns out. However, he was still nasty. If you want to see how you should PROPERLY call someone out for his beliefs, read Dr. Geisler’s review of Dr. Enns’s work. It contains no name-calling, no false charges. It just points out what Dr. Geisler thinks is wrong in Dr. Enns’s teaching. That’s the non-nasty way to point out what you think are falsehoods:


      Note that Dr. Geisler specifically calls Dr. Enns’s views unorthodox, but he never calls Dr. Enns a name or levels a false charge. My post was not about Mr. Ham saying Dr. Enns’s views are unorthodox. I have no problem with that. I have a problem with him not treating a brother in Christ properly.

      You ask, “If a Tridentine Roman Catholic called me a heretic for believing sola fide, should I say he is nasty?” I say it depends completely on how he did so. Did he level a false charge? If not, then he was not being nasty. If he did, then he was being nasty.

      If you want to say that a person is twisting Scripture, then you need to at least show some evidence for it. That evidence might not convince everyone, but it needs to be presented. When Mr. Ham said that Dr. Enns does not have a Biblical view of inspiration, the only verse he gave is wholly consistent with Dr. Enns’s view of inspiration. Thus, the only evidence he presented demonstrated that his charge is false.

      Whether or not you agree with Mr. Ham has nothing to do with the fact that Mr. Ham leveled a false charge against Dr. Enns. That is nasty.

      In answer to your other question, I do believe in inerrancy as given by The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.

  24. BTW, when you say you believe the Bible is the “inerrant” Word of God, what do you mean by that? Do you agree with the meaning of inerrancy as given by the Chicago statement?

    I think most lay people associate inerrancy with that statement, since the term “inerrancy” itself is pretty new (the concept is not), and it was that statement which most defended the term and popularized it. I think some open theists are being misleading when they say they believe in inerrancy. Certainly the “leaders” of that group (e.g, Pinnock) know enough about theology and technical terms to know better than that (see “Open Theists and Inerrancy: Clark Pinnock on the Bible and God” in http://normangeisler.com/).

  25. “to call him a “compromiser” is just wrong, because he is not compromising. He is interpreting differently.”

    This is evidently a matter of opinion.

  26. Related to the inerrancy/infallibility issue:

    I have a good friend who recently completed his doctoral studies at a well-known U.S. seminary and now he is a teaching professor here at a different seminary.

    Interestingly, he has stated that he experienced implicit/explicit pressure to accept “infallibility” in order to be considered a serious Bible scholar and that those who stood for “inerrancy” were often viewed as intellectually inferior. If this is the case, how would you characterize this “norm”?

    Evidently, that’s what Gruden saw in Enns’ views – that the net effect of his work was to bring into question the moral excellence and truthfulness of the Scriptures.

    “Infallibility” often views “inerrancy” as intellectual compromise. If you’re going to say that “inerrancy” commits intellectual compromise, is it not also fair to say that “infallibility” could be committing “biblical” compromise?

  27. Dr. Wile,

    I cannot be brief here. To say I am disappointed in your words and behavior would be an understatement. You have a huge platform with the students who have used your books.

    Yet you defend a man who teaches that the account in Genesis is a story, and allegory, and not literal history. You oppose a man who teaches that God’s Word is literally true and can be trusted.

    I saw a young person thank you for this, saying they see no reason Theistic evolution cannot fit with the Bible. To these students, I answer with this: God is good, and the creation was “very good” when He created it. If God created through the process of evolution, which is by long ages, death and suffering, then God is the author of death, and He wants man to suffer, just becuase that is how He intended it to be.

    Scripture, taken literally (do you know what that means, boys and girls? It means that God means what He says, so when He says it was “evening and morning, the first day, He means a “day”, that is 24 hours). As I was saying, Scripture, taken literally, teaches that death is a result of the sin of man, and death is an enemy, not a friend, and the sting of death has been removed by Christ. Christ had to die because of sin. So it reflects on the goodness of God to say that it doesn’t matter whether He instituted death and suffering to bring man into existence. (This is what Mr. Enns’s curriculum teaches, by the way)

    This leads to the next point. No wonder Mr. Enns is doing sessions on questioning God. If YOU are the one deciding who God is, what He did, and what He is like, then you put yourself above God. If you are above God, then you can interrogate Him all you like. This putrid intellectual pride is sickening. Can we ask God questions? Yes. Can we choose not to believe in Him, or believe Him, that is, what He says? Yes, He has given man free will.

    But questioning God in this sense is more than asking questions. It is unbelief. Unbelief is at the root of all sin. Why did Israel go into captivity and lose it all, their temple, their land, their blessings? Because they did not believe God when the prophets spoke the Word of God to them.

    Why is the church so ineffective in convincing this culture of the truth of God’s Word? Because so many in the church are doing little seminars on how healthy it is to question God, and teaching children that it doesn’t matter what the Bible “says” because the unbelievers have a very strong case and we have to fit evolution in with the Bible, so we will just insert it right between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2.

    Finally, Jay, how can we convince the culture of the truth of God’s Word, when we make statements that I believe this, but no one knows for sure, so I can’t say that anyone else is wrong to believe something else? The New Age teaches that!! When the non-Christian looks to us, they see a bunch of confused people who are AFRAID to stand firm on the truth of the Word of God. Because their leaders are full of intellectual pride and unconvinced of the truth of Scripture.

    I teach my children this: God is who He says He is, no matter whether they believe it, I believe it, or anyone else believes it. He has chosen to reveal Himself to man through the Scripture. Believing God is a matter of bowing the knee to Him, and saying, You are God, and I am not. I will listen to Your Word, and believe that You mean what you say.
    So, even if someone you trust casts doubt on the character of God by what they teach, such as Mr. Enns, Romans 3:4 says, “Let God be true and every man a liar.”

    Yes, Mr. Wile, I am seriously disappointed to see that you aren’t willing to stake your claim unflinchingly on the truth of Genesis, and you are willing to oppose Mr. Ham for doing this. Many of the kids you’ve taught are listening to you. Consider where you are leading them, for “not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”

    I did not become a Christian until I was 21 and almost through college. The evolutionary mindset I believed gave me a hopelessness about the future even though I was young and should have felt full of life. But unbelief robs you of life and hope. After coming to Christ, a few years later, when I first heard Ken Ham, my Christian life soared as for the first time I realized that all that junk was, could it really be?, not true!! Could it be true that God is good and that He will one day clean up this mess and restore the earth to the beauty and perfection with which it began? Yes, He will, and this is what we have to look forward to!!

    So keep teaching the truth, Ken Ham. Mr. Enns has nothing to offer the unbelievers like I was. How ridiculous for a Christian to teach evolution – that is what people are looking for deliverance from!! The unbelievers who are where I once was are looking for someone who really believes what Scripture teaches, and can offer them hope. Compromise is so disgusting.

    1. Debbie, I am sorry you are disappointed with me, but I strive for the approval of God, not people. Thus, I will do the Scriptural thing and defend my brother from unwarranted name-calling and false charges. Please note that I am NOT opposing Ken Ham. I am defending my brother from his false charges. As I have said before, Ken Ham is a man of God who loves the Word. Unfortunately, he does not accept the fact that Peter Enns is also a man of God who loves the Word.

  28. Dr. Wile, it seems as though you are trying to make the case that any name-calling or characterizing is somehow “nasty”. The argument is just not convincing because it appears as though you are saying it is never the right thing to do.

    Also, Ham may be perfectly correct that Enns’ view is “uninspired”, if Enns is found to have compromised the integrity of the Scriptures by his teachings. Whether or not he leveled a false charge is a matter of opinion. Therefore it is inappropriate to call him “nasty”.

    1. Elizabeth, I have said over and over that Ken Ham’s false charge is what I find nasty. That’s why I say in the relevant post, and that is what I have said over and over in the comments. The nature of that charge is not a matter of opinion. He gave the Scripture for what a Biblical view of inspiration is, and Peter Enns’s view fits that. Thus, it was clearly a false charge, and it was clearly nasty.

  29. Dr. Wile,

    I think that I am just going to have to say that I disagree with you. I do understand what you are saying, but I don’t agree with your assessment.

    “When Mr. Ham said that Dr. Enns does not have a Biblical view of inspiration, the only verse he gave is wholly consistent with Dr. Enns’s view of inspiration.” — Again, you believe it is consistent, but Mr. Ham has made it abundantly clear he does not. This is not like talking about whether someone wore a red hat today or not. The meaning of that verse (2 Tim. 3:16) has had a significant amount of controversy surrounding it. I am confident plenty of people will not agree with your interpretation of that verse — both from the liberal and conservative side.

    “You ask, “If a Tridentine Roman Catholic called me a heretic for believing sola fide, should I say he is nasty?” I say it depends completely on how he did so. Did he level a false charge?” A false charge according to whom? According to me? Yes. According to him? No. I mean, of course I don’t think I am a heretic, but that doesn’t make someone nasty for calling me one! On a side note, if there is a consistent behavior about heretics is that they never think they are one — words to the wise.

    I personally hope I don’t get in the habit of calling people nasty just because they level false charges against me. I would think they are nasty if they are purposefully trying to slander me, or purposefully trying to level a false charge against me. Those are two very different things.

    I’ll give you the last word — it is your blog. That means I am not responding again. But I think you should understand there are plenty of us that do not agree with your judgment — and I think we do understand what you are saying. We just don’t agree.

    1. Nicolas, we will have to disagree. The meaning of 2 Timothy 3:16 is rather clear. Dr. Enns believes every bit of that verse, so to say his views go against that verse is simply wrong, and making such a charge is nasty. I agree that Ken Ham doesn’t think Dr. Enns’s views line up with the verse, but that’s not what he said. As I told you before, if he had stopped at saying that Dr. Enns didn’t share his view of inspiration, I would not have had a problem with that. Unfortunately, he went further, and that was nasty.

      False charges are false charges. If someone called you a heretic because you don’t believe in a literal Genesis, and you do believe in a literal Genesis, then that would be a false charge and would be nasty. It’s just that simple.

      I appreciate your comments, and I respect your disagreement.

  30. Amen Debbie. You said it all. I’m thankful you’re my sister in Christ.

    Dr. Wile, again, you can not possibly defend a position that is contradictory to what God says in His Word. You are promoting error when you say Dr. Enns view of Genesis is orthodox- true. It is not a false charge by Ken Ham and he is not the only one saying this about Dr. Enns. Dr. Enns own words contradict what Scripture says. You were right when you said that you are not the one to judge which posisiton is true, only God can do that and HE DID. I think we need to stick with Martin Luther’s view of orthodox-God has the final word-Scripture.

    1. Patty, Dr. Enns’s view is not contrary to Scripture. It is contrary to your view of Scripture and my view of Scripture. It is most certainly a false charge for Ken Ham to say that Dr. Enns doesn’t have a Biblical view of inspiration, when he clearly does. God does have the final word – Scripture – and Scripture tells us how to deal with our brothers and sisters in Christ when we disagree with them. – Romans 14:1-9.

  31. There are a lot a people who claim to have a Biblical view of inspiration, past and present, who hold contradictory views as to what the Scriputures say. For example Jim Jones, David Koresh, Templeton…

    There is only one truth. Two contradictory positions can not be true. God revealed His truth. We do not have license to change words and meaning of words in Scripture.

    1. 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.

  32. 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

    1. 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.

  33. 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!

    1. 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!

  34. 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.”

    1. 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.

  35. 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?

    1. 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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