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WTS: Inspiration and Incarnation – Internal Crisis

Westminster Theological Seminary (WTS) has been embroiled the past two and a half years in an internal intellectual soul-searching and theological discussion that was prompted by the publication of the book, Inspiration and Incarnation (I&I), by Peter Enns (Ph.D., Harvard University) who is professor of Old Testament and biblical hermeneutics at WTS, Philadelphia (and who is currently suspended by the WTS Board of Trustees as of 3/26/2008).

Inspiration and Incarnation by Peter EnnsAccording to the book’s product description on, “In this accessible study, Peter Enns offers an evangelical affirmation of biblical authority that considers questions raised by the nature of the Old Testament text. Enns looks at three questions raised by biblical scholars that seem to threaten traditional views of Scripture. First, he considers ancient Near Eastern literature that is similar to the Bible. Second, he looks at the theological diversity of the Old Testament. Finally, he considers how New Testament writers used the Old Testament. Based on his reflections on these contemporary issues, Enns proposes an incarnational model of biblical authority that takes seriously both the divine and human aspects of Scripture. The book includes a useful glossary, which defines technical terms and an annotated bibliography for further reading.

A main purpose of Enns’ book is to generate discussions within the Reformed and Evangelical communities; and that has surely been the situation within WTS.  There are five fundamental concerns regarding I&I as a whole that have been identified by the WTS leadership and faculty. Those concerns, listed in what they consider to be their order of importance, are:

a doctrine of Scripture that diverges from the classic Reformation doctrine, in particular the tradition of Old Princeton and Westminster and specifically, the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF), chapter 1;
2. a reductionistic Incarnational model;
3. a Post-Conservative Evangelical (PCE) approach to the discipline of theology;
4. a lack of clarity;
5. the appearance of speaking for the entire faculty.
WTS has compiled official discussion summaries published to date by its “Historical and Theological Field Committee” (HTFC) and included a minority report and an article by the WTS president, Peter Lillback. They call them the “Official Theological Documents” and have made them available online in a downloadable PDF file.
The following specific items are included in the pdf document:
  • Statement from the Chairman of the Board
  • Preface to the Historical and Theological Field Committee
  • Historical and Theological Field Committee Report (HTFC)
  • Preface to the Hermeneutics Field Committee’s Reply
  • Hermeneutics Field Committee’s Reply to the HTFC (HFC)
  • Edgar-Kelly Motion
  • Minority Report
  • “‘The Infallible Rule of Interpretation of Scripture': The Hermeneutical Crisis and the Westminster Standards”

They have also separately posted an HTFC and an HFC précis. (PDFs)

Whether you have read the book or not, these documents are a great opportunity to look in on the Reformed / Orthodox Presbyterian mindset at WTS and observe the reasoning that is called into play to grapple with the theological controversies generated by the book (termed a crisis by president Lillback). 

WTS alumnus Brandon Withrow has compiled several links to reviews and websites about the controversy[Update: Art Boulet, has taken over managing the list.  You will find all of the newest Peter Enns information on Art’s blog here.]