Smith, Enns, Adam, and Paul

James K. A. Smith is professor of philosophy at Calvin College, and offers an excellent review of Peter Enns’ recent book The Evolution of Adam. Smith is also a senior fellow at The Colossian Forum, and the review appears on their website. There is so much good in what he writes that I am tempted to re-post the whole thing here. Instead I’ll leave you with its basic structure and a quote in the hopes that you’ll actually take the time to read the whole thing.

Before I do, I just want to make an unrelated observation. Smith references Robert Caro’s stunning biography of Lyndon B. Johnson, saying that Enns is right to say that the biblical writing is not a journalistic account of events, like said book by Caro. How cool would it be for an historian like Caro to have such cultural ubiquity attached to your work? Would he have ever have thought that a massive, multi-volume biography of an American President would become so cool? That’s the historian in me longing for something I’ll never have…but I digress.

Here’s the structure:

First, Smith deals with questions of authorship and the relationship between Genesis, Paul’s interpretation of it, and the divine Author. Second, he deals with the canonical role that Genesis plays in the church’s scripture—whose Genesis is it anyway? Third, Smith briefly tackles the age-old problem of the relationship between theology and history. He concludes by looking at what’s at stake in Enns’ approach to Scripture in terms of method, and more specifically human origins.

Here’s a quote that I found relevant to some of my own ways of thinking:

This sort of a-canonical approach also explains why Enns sees such a strange relationship between Genesis and the apostle Paul as a reader of Genesis.  “Paul’s reading of Genesis,” he comments, “is driven by factors external to Genesis.  Paul’s use of the Old Testament, here or elsewhere, does not determine how that passage functions in its original setting” (87, emphasis added).  Well, that might be true; and Enns is exactly right to offer a corrective to irresponsibile habits of Bible reading that are little more than baptized eisegesis, reading into the Scriptures what we want to find there.  But is the “original meaning” the determinative factor for the meaning of Genesis for us?  We receive a canon of Scripture that recontextualizes each book—situating every book in relation to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, which is why the “location” from which we read the Bible needs to be the practices of Christian worship.  Worship is the primary “home” of the Bible and it is in worship that we cultivate those habits and virtues we need to read Scripture holistically. That will certainly generate meanings of Old Testament books that could never have been intended by their human authors; but that doesn’t mean they were not intended as meanings to be unfolded “in front of the text” by the divine Author.

***UPDATE*** I see from Justin Taylor’s blog that Jack Collins also has a review of this. I haven’t read it yet, but thought I’d link it as Collins is typically a fair, balanced, and informative scholar; especially on the historicity of Adam (see his book on the subject). Here’s the review.

***ANOTHER UPDATE*** Bill Kinnon tipped me off in the comments section to a review of Smith’s review by J. Daniel Kirk. Smith interacts with Kirk in the comments section, and Wheaton’s Alan Jacobs also shares come critique of Kirk. Check it out here.