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Thoughts on the Enns agreement

July 24, 2008

The news of the WTS-Enns split yesterday has left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

It’s not that I have a problem with WTS firing Enns for denominational or confessional reasons. Div schools and seminaries have every right to terminate the contracts of those who disagree with the school’s charter. The issue isn’t simply one of academic freedom. If you want to be a “free thinker” without any boundaries, perhaps a confessional school that has you sign a confession of faith when you enter isn’t the place for you.

Nor is it that I’m upset that Enns was fired for what really amounts to a milquetoast, run-of-the-mill view of inspiration. What one school calls passe, another calls cutting-edge. That’s nothing new.

It’s not even that I’m alarmed by the fact that the joint statement made by Enns and WTS affirms that his thought is comfortably within the bounds of the larger evangelical movement. (“Hey, he’s not a heretic or anything!”) From personal experience at WTS I’m not too sure that election extends much beyond the PCA and OPC. What matters at WTS is not that one is evangelical or even “Reform” but that one is WTS Reform™.

What bothers me about the WTS-Enns affair is that this split was pushed through by the trustees, not the faculty. After the faculty declared Enns’ positions fine, the president and trustees moved in and suspended Enns. The faculty at a theological seminary was not considered theologically savvy enough to make the decision of what constituted the theological boundaries of the institution for which they teach, of the discipline in which they are experts. Technically, I get the impression that this is also a violation of the seminary’s procedure, but WTS’s president and trustees got away with it.

Faculty treated like children while the administration run amock — leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

  1. July 25, 2008 7:56 am

    Nice thoughts.

  2. July 28, 2008 3:14 pm

    Hi Jim,
    I’m not even sure that the faculty / administration split is the real problem. You can extend your argument above to say that a “confessionl” administration can (and maybe even should) make this type of decision even if the faculty do not agree with the decision. The administration was commenting on the faculty’s theological correctness, not on whether they were theological savvy.

    So the real question now is this: will the faculty that strongly supported Enns (and probably still strongly support his ideas) also be replaced? To be consistent, the administration should do this. The problem: this split in WTS (and probably in the broader Evangelical academic community) is in many ways between the whole field of biblical studies (particularly OT) and the systematic theologians. Where are they going to find good biblical studies faculty that don’t more-or-less line up with Enns? At some point you have to wonder if the real problem is an inflexible systematic theology.

  3. July 28, 2008 4:43 pm


    I’ve been pondering the same question you raised in your comment. Is this only the beginnings of the housecleaning at WTS?

  4. Erik permalink
    July 29, 2008 12:49 am

    but you forget one thing, faculty may want freedom, but unless they have the iron fist of the administration dictating what they can or cannot think/teach at any given time, they’d run amok with dire consequences. Haven’t you read lord of the flies (or at least I think that’s what it’s about, I’ve not read it.)

  5. July 30, 2008 12:41 am


    I’m really hoping that was irony I was hearing in your comment…

  6. Erik permalink
    August 4, 2008 11:25 am

    I thought my irony was pre-scheduled in the syllabus? Did I leave that out? (Please don’t tell Jehuda on me. He’d never speak to me again)


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