I just finished reading this book by one of my favorite (despite his love for the Yankees) profs at WTS, Peter Enns. His book is titled, Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament. It was a really good read – especially if you are someone who questions how on earth the bible can hold up to the criticisms of modern science and archaeological discovery.

In my humble opinion, however, the greatest contribution of Enns’ book is one of the last paragraphs on one of the final pages. Pete gives a great critique of the “suspicion of fear” that we often find in many evangelical circles. I think this is the same fear that Jesus critiqued in the Pharisees who created an elaborate system of laws in addition to Biblical law in order to protect themselves from even coming close to breaking the law. They were so afraid of breaking the law (or their interpretation of it) that they built a giant fence around it and Jesus condemned them for burdening people with such a system. Enns writes:

Evangelical biblical scholars and students of the Bible (which includes informal study as well as college or seminary) regularly find themselves having to interact with the important developments in recent generations. And this is why the suspicion [of some evangelicals against the legitimacy of ‘scientific’/archaeological evidence that calls the bible into question] needs to come to an end. I am not suggesting that we throw caution to the wind and bow to every trend. Part of the academic quest is to be critical of evidence until such time that certain conclusions seem to present themselves naturally. But the attitude of an academic quest is very different from judgmental suspicion, which is a predisposition against new and different ideas that challenge existing ones. (emphasis mine – EM)

In some respects what drives this suspicion is fear that what is new will necessarily threaten the old, which is often uncritically equated with the gospel itself. (EM) I agree that modern biblical scholarship has handled some issues in ways that could certainly lead in that direction, and so fear is understandable. But fear cannot drive theology. It cannot be used as an excuse to ignore what can rightly be called evidence. We do not honor the Lord nor do we uphold the gospel by playing make-believe. Neither are those who engage the kinds of issues discussed in this book necessarily on the slippery slope to unbelief. (EM) Our God is much bigger than we sometimes give him credit for. It is we who sometimes wish to keep him small by controlling what can or cannot come into the conversation. The result is–what would have been soundly condemned by Christ himself and any New Testament writer–polarization and power plays among the people of God, the body of Christ, his ambassadors who are called by him to be ministers of reconciliation in the world. The issue is not whether we disagree; that is health, provided it does not become an end in itself. The problem is that true Christians erect a wall of hostility between them, and churches, denominations, and schools split (171-2).

We see this “suspicion of fear” all over evangelicalism these days. Fear of empowering women, of welcoming homosexuals, of the emerging movement and anything else that threatens the status quo. Did God really intend the Bible to be a manual for building strong fences?