Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Richard Gaffin publicly expresses concern over Inspiration and Incarnation

My friend Jeff Waddington notified me that this document by Richard Gaffin expressing several of his concerns with Peter Enns Inspiration and Incarnation has been made available. This is a public document and is used with Dr. Gaffin's permission. I will post the introduction below. Please follow the link at the top of the page for a downloadable version.


The publication in mid-2005 of Inspiration and Incarnation by Dr. Enns left me in a difficult position. The second paragraph of its Preface (p. 9), fairly read, leaves the impression that, though not necessarily fully endorsing its content, Westminster Seminary as an institution and his colleagues are supportive of the book’s publication. For me, for one, that was not the case. My initial reading soon after it appeared left me with substantial reservations about much of its content as well as its rhetorical strategy, and also with considerable misgivings about its publication. Subsequent re-reading and discussions have not alleviated but reinforced these concerns.

An aspect of my difficulty stemmed from the fact that the book soon became the object of discussion in many quarters as well as of a number of published and online reviews. The most substantial of these make searching and serious criticisms, criticisms that in large part I share. At the same time, however, I have not been in a position to express my problems with the book openly, because of a commitment, as a colleague of Dr. Enns, to confine myself to a process of closed discussion within the faculty and board. This process was one that I not only felt bound by but also wanted to support, with the hope that the outcome might be a satisfactory resolution of the division in our midst concerning his views and their compatibility with Scripture and the Westminster Standards, especially, in the case of the latter, chapter 1 (on Scripture) of the Confession of Faith. Regrettably, these internal discussions did not result in a viable resolution.

At a special meeting on March 26 of this year the seminary’s board decided to make public its action at that meeting and also to make certain key documents available to our students in hard copy and to others on the seminary’s website (the HTFC précis of its Response to I&I as well as the HFC précis of its Reply, initially omitted inadvertently, are now also available on the website). With that decision the situation is now changed and I am free to express myself publicly.

A couple of things should be kept in mind in reading this document. First, it does not provide a full or self-contained discussion of all my concerns. Rather, along with a couple of new items, it is a composite of various items previously sent to the faculty and/or the board during the course of discussions over the past two years, made available here with some editing. Also, like the “official” documents now made public, they originated in the context of discussions not accessible to the reader. Despite the definite disadvantage this entails, I nonetheless offer them here with the hope that, read along with other materials now available, they will provide a somewhat fuller perception of the issues raised by this controversy, about which, in my view, there is considerable confusion and misconception abroad, within the seminary community as well as beyond.

A particular concern I have in this document is to make clear, especially to students, past and present, whom I can now address openly, major concerns I have with I&I and why I, for one, believe it necessary for me to have voted against the “Edgar-Kelly” motion, adopted by the faculty in support of the views of Dr. Enns.

“I have not shirked the difficult questions.” These words under the portrait of original faculty OT professor, Robert Dick Wilson, which hangs in Machen Hall in what was at one time the faculty dining room, have marked the institutional outlook of WTS from its beginning. They ought to be a watchword for everyone and every institution that takes studying the Bible seriously. At the same, however, it should be clear that the right way of addressing such questions is crucial. Solutions wrongly arrived at only compound the problems. No one I’m aware of is faulting I&I for raising problems and seeking their solutions (though it may be asked at a number of points whether matters he raises are really problems). The major difficulty with I&I is its proposed resolutions of problems.

This document is strongly critical of certain views of Dr. Enns, as deviating in important respects from Scripture and the Westminster Standards, Chapter 1 of the Confession in particular. I am keenly aware of the responsibility making such criticisms places on me, above all before the Lord. Over the years I have received enough of what I consider unfair and misplaced criticism of my own views to be doubly concerned to avoid that in dealing with the views of others. After many hours of reflection and discussion, formal and informal, over the past several years, the analysis and criticisms expressed in this document are, for the most part, fairly firm. But where I may need to be corrected, I hope for grace to be given me to recognize and acknowledge that.

This is a sad time for Westminster. In the confusion that has descended upon us, with many I regret the stresses that have resulted, particularly for Dr. Enns and his family and for others as well. With many I’m deeply burdened about the magnitude of the differences that have emerged among us, faculty and board, and our inability to resolve them. Whatever one’s outlook on the issues involved in this controversy, I hope that many will also join me in beseeching our God that he will be pleased to preserve Westminster, consistent with his blessings on it in the past, for a future of usefulness to the church.

I consider this a public document that others are free to circulate at their discretion.

R. B. Gaffin, Jr.
Westminster Theological Seminary

June 2008

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