In my teaching career, especially since I’ve been at North Park and started with this blog, I’ve had more than a few questions that are now being given a fresh examination by Peter Enns, in his new book, Inspiration and Incarnation. I want to narrow our conversation today to a specific question, and I’m going to ask that you keep to the question.
Here’s the kind of letter or question I sometimes get. My son/daughter went off to college, heard that the story of the flood has a corresponding story among the Babylonians called the Atrahasis, their professor convinced them that the Genesis account is rooted in that Babylonian myth and responds to that myth by asserting the Lordship of Yahweh, but now they have big questions about their view of Scripture.
Here’s the question I hear being asked today by many, and Peter Enns has tried to address this question. His book has been endorsed by Dick Averbeck at Trinity, Hugh Williamson at Oxford, Bruce Waltke at Regent and Reformed, by Bill Arnold at Asbury, and by David Baker at Ashland.
I’d like to know what you think of this question — and I think it is pressing for many of us and in need of serious attention and effort by all of us:
Does our view of inspiration or of our view of Scripture permit the author of Genesis to have captured an ancient myth and responded by deconstructing the other myth and asserting an entirely different theology even using mythical form? Is our view of Scripture capable of having mythological stories? Or does our view of Scripture demand that every narrative correspond to something in history/reality? (And if the latter, just what do we mean by ‘correspond to reality’?)
Here’s another way of asking this question, and I think this is what Peter Enns is doing in his new book — and this book challenges my thinking and forces me to ask some questions I’ve been thinking about: What would our view of Scripture, our view of inspiration, look like if we discover mythological/mythic elements in those Scriptures?
Enns proposes that the “incarnation,” taking into consideration that Jesus is the God-Man and that Scripture is the divine-human text, is a good model for considering how we view the Bible. That is, God accommodated himself to the ancient Hebrew world by including — for those people in their times — what might just be some mythological elements.
I’m not asking if you think Genesis 6–8 is mythological or historical, but whether you think the evangelical/traditional view of Scripture and its inspiration is flexible enough to handle mythic elements in the Bible? (Obviously, one way of dealing with this would be to say “there aren’t myths.” That would end the discussion by saying “maybe or maybe not, but since there aren’t myths, we don’t have to worry about it.” The question is this: Does our view of Scripture permit such?