a brief word on my current series “aha moments from biblical scholars”

a brief word on my current series “aha moments from biblical scholars” July 6, 2014

We’re now 4 posts into my series, “‘aha’ moments: biblical scholars tell their stories.”

I’ve gotten a lot of very positive feedback from many of you, which is always encouraging to hear. I’ve also gotten some messages from pastors and doctoral students who have had their own “aha” moments in their study of Scripture.

It was an oversight on my part to restrict this series to biblical scholars, and so I am broadening the field to include others who have had some formal training in biblical studies (i.e., involving the study of original languages and ancient contexts) and whose view of the Bible has been significantly affected as a result of their study.

Pastors (some of whom also have earned doctorates) have a great existential crisis because their “aha” moments are never too distant from their pastoral responsibilities. Their stories can be quite compelling for this reason.

So just letting you know that as this intermittent series continues (I will post contributions as they come in), you will be seeing pastors and students contributing.

Have a blessed Sunday.


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  • What you are doing here is incredible, Dr. Enns, and I don’t quickly offer praise.

    God created us as knowing beings: we want to know, and we want to be known. You are allowing that in a way that [certain prominent forms of] dogmatism prevents by being anti-Christ: squashing scary, threatening ideas. I don’t ever recall God being threatened by an idea; I think he loves it when we honestly bring them to him and wrestle with him, over them. “Perfect love casts out fear.”

    Thank you so much for this, and do let your commenters know if any of these postings result in job loss. If they do, I and I’ll bet other commenters would be willing to contribute to a fund, managed by you, to take care of people as they’re looking for new jobs.

  • Ron

    I like this series of posts a lot. My “aha” moment occurred five decades ago during my adolescence when I actually read the whole Bible and found the following:
    1. Much that was not written very well or very clearly.
    2. Lots of divine killing, God-ordered killing, and God-ordered genocide.
    3. Lots of contradictions in the Gospels leading to the conclusion that the Gospels could not have been written by eyewitnesses.
    4. Lots of stuff that seemed to be stories (a talking snake, a talking donkey, angels, demons, Noah’s ark, a worldwide census, a star high in the sky but over a specific manger, etc.) rather than history.
    5. Some promotion of slavery.
    6. A God who demands the sacrifice of animals He/She created.
    7. And so on and so forth. Actually, there are many, many other textual, historical, and theological problems.
    The problems became compounded when I was reading the New Testament in Greek and discovered that there were many different ancient Biblical texts that differed a lot from each other.
    The problems got further complicated when I tried to discuss these issues with Christians and essentially got ostracized.
    The problems got further complicated by the nastiness of the religious right about evolution, women preachers, and gay marriage.
    I am still trying to work this stuff out, but am not hopeful that it can be done.
    The whole end result has been quite depressing. The choice is to either give up on church and go it alone or stay in church and pretend one has never read the whole Bible.

    • Stephen W

      Or find some like minded people (they are out there) and start something new.

    • As Stephen says, I’d encourage you that like-minded people may be closer than you think (certainly aplenty on the Net, but probably also geographically, unless you are very rural). You might like my comment over on Jesus Creed about Process theology, here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2014/07/06/evangelicalism-ten-changes-by-roger-olson/ . It provides a VERY thoroughly thought-out paradigm for understanding and working from key biblical themes without the need to “explain away” all the inconsistent or unsavory parts. Much more advanced and workable than “old-line liberalism”, which indeed was trapped within its own set of inconsistencies.

  • Shakassoc

    My credulity was already beginning to crack apart when I read in T.R.Birks’s book ‘Justification and Imputed Righteousness’ as follows:
    “The phrase ‘justification by faith alone’ (or something very like it) occurs only once in the entire Bible–and that reference says it is not true. (James 2:24)'” This was self-evidently so, and to my mind was one of the final nails in the coffin of a rapidly unravelling Evangelical/Reformed soteriology. That, plus Don Garlington’s work on Sanders’s ‘covenantal nomism’ helped push me off the edge of a cliff. Amazingly, I realised I was not landing on the ground below with a hefty thud, but, instead, flying free. Everything has changed for me.

    Attending the 2005 Evangelical Alliance/LST symposium on Penal Substitutionary Atonement made me strongly aware of the myth of redemptive violence.

    And a visit to Staithes in North Yorkshire, where the evidence of geological strata is plain for all to see made me wonder how for years I had allowed myself to be blinded by dogma to the clear evidence of my own eyes. Aha!

  • Eric Weiss

    For me, it was more like an “Ah, sh*t!” moment – or, rather, several such moments. Time and time again when I would read the Bible carefully, I would see these inconsistencies or translational smoothings over.

    It seems to me that inerrantists (and infallibilists and maybe even inspirationists) often describe the Bible they wish we had, rather than the Bible we in fact do have.

    And then when you study the making of the “canon,” and begin comparing the LXX with the Hebrew text and the use of the OT in the NT….

    It’s hard letting go of the “magic book” mindset.

    • Stuart Blessman

      quote of the day for the magic book mindset

  • Stuart Blessman

    I could definitely offer up some popular “ah ha!” moments from my own life, but I’m very interested in seeing biblically trained people share their stories.

    One of my regrets is not having these “ah ha” moments earlier in life. I had the chance to take several classes from a very well known and respected New Testament/Paul scholar (Calvin Roetzel), and in my youthful stupidity just sat there and ignored what he said and argued with him. Every paper or essay or exam was me giving him his answers back and then writing additional answers to correct him. I always managed to get a B; that man showed me more grace than I deserved.

    • I share the same regret, Stuart… only made a major “paradigm shift” around age 45, after 4 part-time years at Claremont Sch. of Theol. on PhD work (psych, theol, rel. ed.). I wasn’t quite as blatant about “correcting” but wasn’t buying fully into the prevalent Process perspectives there yet, at that time (now about 20 yrs. ago).

      And, like you, I found the “liberals” more consistent (as tolerant, gracious) than I’d thought they might be, based on caricatures people like to perpetuate and I suspected were valid.

      I can’t recall any “aha” moment but a gradual building up of revisions and new informational inputs that eventually hit a tipping point sometime… and via my own ongoing study and re-thinking after finishing coursework at Claremont, not while attending…. I had themes, theology, and my earlier worldview DEEPLY ingrained.

  • Lari Launonen

    Great! As one of those pastors I’m really looking forward!

  • Lari Launonen

    Eric Weiss mentioned “inspirationists”. Maybe Peter you could also deal with the question of inspiration: Why scholars / pastors who’ve gone thru their “aha”-moments still hang on to the idea of inspiration, what’s the evidence for it, is it coherent, or do they move into testimony-of-God’s-salvific-acts (of which some might be unhistorical) view or some other view of “inspiration”? I’d be really interested to know this.

  • DJohnson

    My wife sent this my way, not even knowing anything about the “aha” series.

    The Messiness of the Word https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#inbox/1471191644183315