I’ve listened to the special chapel discussion that took place at Westminster today. Here are my impressions and thoughts on the chapel itself and the broader issues taking place at Westminster:
1. I thought that the students did an excellent job of being respectful and yet asking very pertinent, at at times pointed, questions.
2. The administration representatives did as all such representatives do, they dodged. That isn’t to say they didn’t answer questions, they did. But they were quick to hedge their comments with cautions.
3. At least one of the questioners asked if Dr. Enns had been formally charged with anything. This was perhaps the most interesting question posed in the entire 36 minute chapel. The answer included a double helping of hedging but it eventually came out that, no he had not been formally charged, though there were allegations that were brought. The way I see it, the Board of Westminster has gotten themselves into a pickle. They decided to ignore the faculty vote on his orthodoxy, and go ahead and suspend Dr. Enns. As a result they appear to be suspending him for the nebulous “disunity” on campus. Which of course, leads back to his book which is the reason for the disunity. But, if Dr. Enns is still in agreement with the WCF, which a majority of faculty say he is, then there is no cause for disunity surrounding the book.
4. I think that the very fact that there are some who are questioning Enns’ conservatism shows a tendency among conservative evangelicals to go on witch hunts. This concerns me greatly. The fact that Westminster is getting all bent out of shape because Dr. Enns said Christians don’t need to be afraid of critical scholarship is simply astounding.
5. All of this leads me to the question of whether or not true scholarship can take place at confessional schools. Scholarship naturally involves questioning. When someone is stopped from questioning, that’s a bad thing. Of course, one could make the argument that any Christian school that attempted to hold to any kind of creed (even something as basic as the Apostles’ Creed) would eventually stop people from questioning things. I understand and agree with the sentiment. But the Apostles’ Creed, for instance, would allow much more room for questions than something like the WCF.
So, with all of this the question remains for me, how can scholarship take place in conservative evangelical circles when it would appear that if one acknowledges some of the findings of scholarship over the past hundred years they are immediately labeled “liberal.” Such labels are unhelpful at best and dehumanizing at worst. Relatedly, I find Michael’s questions quite interesting.
As promised, today, Tuesday April 1st, there was a special chapel held at Westminster Theological Seminary to bring the student body up to date on the goings on at the seminary. Art, a friend and current student at WTS, recorded the discussion and has posted a link to the mp3. I will not link directly to the mp3 from here because it appears that the site which was hosting it is under quite a bit of strain trying to serve up all of the requests. I do, however, highly recommend that everyone grab the mp3 and take the time to listen to it as soon as possible.
I will update this post if another link to the mp3 becomes available. I’ll also have another post with my impressions as soon as I’m able to listen to the mp3.
Update – The link to the mp3 from Art’s blog appears to be working wonderfully now.
There has been a veritable explosion of epic proportions in the blogosphere over the issue of Peter Enns’ suspension (I’m sorry, I ran out of adjectives or other ways to lengthen my already over long sentence).
I think the fact that almost every other word in the above sentence(s) is a link to a blogger discussing the issue of Dr. Enns’ suspension is telling. I pity the person in charge of next month’s Biblical Studies Carnival, but I digress. A few links deserve to be repeated for being exceptionally lucid: David Opderbeck shares some well articulated thoughts on what things like this mean to Evangelicalism. Kevin Wilson offers a telling exposition of exactly what this reveals about Westminster’s take on things. Everyone needs to read my friend Art Boulet’s blog since he is a current student at Westminster and may be in the best position to give the facts concerning the issue. As Art rightfully points out, Peter Enns was already voted “orthodox” (that is, in agreement with the Westminster Confession of Faith) by the faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary. The issue is not his orthodoxy. I cannot stress enough the importance of Art’s blog in actually ascertaining the facts of the issue. Art may not like the decision, but he is willing to give the facts that are known, to the student body of WTS, at the present time.
My own opinion on the issue is that one should always err on the side of academic freedom. Obviously, a confessional school has the right to dismiss faculty for violating their particular confessional stance. The question, at the moment, is whether or not Dr. Enns has done that. The faculty of WTS voted that he has not violated that confessional stance. The seminary will do what it wants, of course, but the facts need to remain center-stage in our discussions of the issue.
One last comment, I realize that the blogosphere is a place where hierarchy means little or nothing. It’s one of the things I like about it. However, in this particular issue, one should certainly weigh the comments of those who are chiming in on the issue. I suggest one important criteria: has the person speaking on the issue ever taken the time to read Inspiration and Incarnation. In an ironic twist, I predict that Dr. Enns’ book will see a significant increase in sales because of this hullabaloo.
The cat, as they say, is out of the bag.
UPDATE – A special chapel was help on April 1st (if only this was all a bad April fools day joke). I have posted a link to Art Boulet’s blog, which in turn links directly to the mp3. Please take the time to download and listen.