In June of 2006, Dr. Richard Pratt, formerly of RTS-Orlando, and now fulltime with “Third Millennium Ministries,” a wonderful organization he founded, gave an address at the PCA General Assembly. I was not present, but, being a ruling elder in the PCA myself, I was quickly apprised of the event.
Although Pratt (the last name is used throughout for convenience, not a sign of disrespect) nowhere mentions my name specifically, and in fact goes out of his way to refer to “those in our circles” and similar such phrases, it is quite clear to me and others who have either read or heard the lecture, that my book (Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament, Baker Academic, 2005 [hereinafter I&I]) was very much his foil. The topics covered, not to mention some of the very phrasing of the lecture, are very similar to I&I, and so there is little doubt in my mind that I&I was prominently, if not predominantly, on his mind. He mentions at the outset that this topic was assigned to him, although it is not clear by whom, or what the parameters of the assignment were.
Since the lecture was first given, a good number of people in the PCA have approached me asking if I planned to respond. Initially I had no interest in doing so, but the intervening months have led me to a different conclusion. I respect Pratt tremendously, and nothing in my subsequent comments should be interpreted otherwise, but his argument is, in my view, very helpful as a way forward in current debates. His understanding of the nature and task of biblical scholarship, his particular understanding of the role of WCF (Westminster Confession of Faith), esp. chapter 1, in adjudicating issues raised in modern scholarship, not to mention the rhetorical dimension of giving a talk such as this in a potentially divisive environment, all leave me somewhat concerned, and I feel direct interaction is appropriate.
As you will see, my comments are not in the form of a traditional “response.” Rather, I have reproduced Pratt’s lecture (as found here) and interspersed it with some of my reactions, counterpoints, etc., bracketed and in red. I trust this presentation style will not prove too annoying, especially since I often “interrupt” Pratt in mid-sentence. Also, readers will likely find that I have repeated a point here and there. I have tried to avoid such repetition, but it is prompted by the repetitions in Pratt’s lecture. Despite the problems, I have taken this approach because I am committed, as much as circumstances will allow, to try to model a more conversational approach to airing theological differences. A “response” connotes finality, at least it does to me, and I do not wish to communicate such a posture.
Let me also add that I have benefited from Pratt’s work in the past; indirectly through his students, directly through some brief conversations we have had over the years, and through his book He Gave Us Stories, which I still recommend and will continue to do so. I must state, however, that I am having trouble finding on the pages of this lecture the Pratt I thought I knew. Perhaps that is wholly a matter of my dull perception, but this is a bit disappointing to me. At many junctures I simply stopped reading and thought to myself “he can’t possibly mean this,” or “surely he must understand the implications of what he is saying here.” Perhaps, then, readers of this exchange can understand what is a tone of exasperation and frustration at various junctures in my comments. I do not want to exacerbate a conflict, but I am truly miffed at certain points in this lecture how a man of Pratt’s experience can present the issues in the way he does.
My aim here is to state as plainly as I can what my disagreements are, neither making insinuations nor veiled accusations. Where I might express a tone of exasperation or frustration, I ask that readers not interpret this as a rhetorical move but as an honest expression of my thoughts.
I have no doubt that Pratt feels strongly about what he presents here as vital to the future of the Reformed faith. So do I. Having strong opinions, however, does not define truth. My hope is that people with similar concerns, on both sides of the debate, might benefit, if even in some small way, from the exchange below.
Peter Enns, November 2007
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