The Sin of Certainty

Inspiration & Incarnation (10th Anniversary Edition)

This study is focused on lay evangelical readers and suggests a reconsideration of their notion of Scripture in light of commonly accepted conclusions of biblical scholarship over the past several generations. My concern is to help readers whose faith has been challenged by critical studies, and I suggest that evangelical faith would be well served by moving beyond a predominantly defensive doctrine of Scripture to develop a positive view that seriously engages contemporary critical scholarship. My proposal is to employ an “incarnational” model of Scripture—one that recognizes and affirms both the divine and human aspects of the Bible.

Book Summary

The stated purpose of Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament is “to bring an evangelical doctrine of Scripture into conversation with the implications generated by some important themes in modern biblical scholarship—particularly the Old Testament—over the past 150 years” (p. 13).

The book’s primary audience is those readers who find it difficult to maintain their faith in God because “familiar and conventional” evangelical approaches often mishandle the challenges raised by modern biblical scholarship (p. 13).

Evangelicals commonly take a defensive posture to new ideas, and such defenses are “exercises in special pleading, attempts to hold on to comfortable ideas despite evidence that makes such ideas problematic. It is precisely the ineffectiveness of certain ways of thinking about the Bible that can sometimes cause significant cognitive dissonance for Christians who love and want to hold on to their Bible, but who also feel the weight of certain kinds of evidence” (p. 15).

I&I looks at three issues raised in modern biblical scholarship that are mishandled by Evangelicals: (1) the strong similarities between the Old Testament and the literature of other ancient societies; (2), theological diversity among the Old Testament authors; (3) how New Testament writers interpreted the Old Testament in inventive ways that reflect Jewish practices of the time (pp. 15-16).

In all three cases, the Bible behaves in ways that don’t seem very “inspired,” but rather very “human.” An incarnational model of the Bible as one way to take seriously these types of challenges.

This model draws an analogy between Jesus and the Bible: “In the same way that Jesus is—must be—both God and human, the Bible is also a divine and human book” (p. 17). The Bible is not “an abstract, otherworldly book, dropped out of heaven. It was connected to and therefore spoke to those ancient cultures….precisely because Christianity is a historical religion, God’s word reflects the various historical moments in which Scripture was written” (pp. 17-18).

The problems raised by the “human dimension” of the Bible for many evangelicals “has less to do with the Bible itself and more to do with our own preconceptions” of how the Bible “ought” to be (p. 15).  An incarnational model can help evangelicals and other Christians reorient their expectations of Scripture and so come to peace with new developments in their understanding of the Bible.

“Pete Enns is one of the most important scholarly voices speaking to contemporary Christianity today, and this book is a primary example of why! ” ~ Christopher W. Skinner, Mount Olive College and East Carolina University

“Some of those most dedicated to biblical studies unfortunately begin from inadequate theological presuppositions. If everyone who identifies as a conservative evangelical would read and absorb this book, the field would be better for it—and so might the church and the world.” ~ Christopher B. Hays, D. Wilson Moore Associate Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Studies, Fuller Theological Seminary

“Enns is a skilled and gracious guide through difficult terrain, and readers benefit enormously from his expertise!” ~ Eric Seibert, professor of Old Testament, Messiah College

“Peter Enns is a leading voice in a new generation of evangelicalism. Inspiration and Incarnation has already helped guide many both to accept the unexpected content of Bible and to begin to wrestle with what it means to call this surprising set of texts the word of God.” ~ J. R. Daniel Kirk, associate professor of New Testament, Fuller Theological Seminary

Inspiration and Incarnation was a watershed in evangelical hermeneutics. Enns’s argument—that, however highly evangelicals may laud the Scriptures, an honest and serious approach to the text cannot ignore the findings of critical scholarship or the reality of Scripture itself—was as correct as it was forceful. ~ Chris Keith, professor of New Testament and early Christianity, director of the Centre for the Social-Scientific Study of the Bible, St. Mary’s University, Twickenham

“Divinity students welcome [the book’s] invitation to think theologically about history—how the historical ‘problems’ of the Bible may in fact be a crucial aspect of its theological witness. Enns’s model is traditional, illuminating, hospitable to other models, and urgently needed by Christians still caught in late modern debates about inerrancy, inspiration, and revelation. This book continues to strike a chord that resonates.” ~ Stephen B. Chapman, associate professor of Old Testament, Duke University

Inspiration and Incarnation has been a superb resource for helping students of the Bible take the human dimension of this ancient text seriously. Enns’s discussion of the Bible’s ancient cultural context not only is illuminating but also can deepen the reader’s faith in the God revealed in the nitty-gritty of history.” ~ Richard Middleton, professor of biblical worldview and exegesis, Northeastern Seminary, Roberts Wesleyan College

I have struggled for over a decade (I’m only 30) with the evangelical dismissal of issues in scripture that are so OBVIOUS to me. Your book, Inspiration and Incarnation, was the first time I held out hope that I could hold on to my faith and hold on to my questions. ~ Sarah

I read Inspiration & Incarnation during a dark time for me. I was convinced God didn’t exist and that Scripture was a sham. Your book helped resurrect my understanding of God and Scripture from the house of cards that was once my faith. Something I thought impossible at the time. ~ Chris

I had heard of Inspiration and Incarnation at the seminary, but when I finally read it I felt I had been set free.  It was freedom to realize I could believe God had communicated to man without having to constantly defend the Bible from charges of error or what have you.  It was validating. ~ Drew

I have read your book Inspiration and Incarnation twice…with great delight and appreciation. On my own I had recently come to realize…or more fully embrace…recognize at a deeper level the “divine-human” nature of scripture. So it was with joy and a sense of confirmation that I discovered and read Inspiration and Incarnation. ~ Rand