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Peter Enns and Marcionism

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  • Peter Enns and Marcionism

    In a nutshell: Bible scholar Peter Enns (who has written a good number of things that I have previously found helpful) has been on record as suggesting that, while the Old Testament portrays God in a violent, vengeful way, this is completely the opposite of Jesus's example and that attempts to explain it away simply don't work and that this is "simply a matter of reading the Bible... with both eyes open". Not surprisingly, he has been accused of the Marcionite heresy (that the God of the Old Testament and the New Testament are not the same, as the former is evil.)

    In a blog post today, he denied this, but to be honest, I didn't find his explanation to hold very much water. There was a kindly written, helpful comment written by "Jerry Shepherd" where he challenged this, and all Dr. Enns said in response was "C'mon Jerry. You were trained in biblical theology better than that." I happen to think Jerry, whoever he may be, is probably right on this matter.

    In general, it seems to me that Marcionite ideas have been popping up more and more lately among some Christian crowds - some Christian professors have become simply dismissive of the standard apologetic defenses of violence in the OT. Maybe they can't find a way to reconcile it with Jesus's teachings, but I suggest they are simply refusing to think beyond their own personal views, which we can't do when it comes to theology.
    "I am not angered that the Moral Majority boys campaign against abortion. I am angry when the same men who say, "Save OUR children" bellow "Build more and bigger bombers." That's right! Blast the children in other nations into eternity, or limbless misery as they lay crippled from "OUR" bombers! This does not jell." - Leonard Ravenhill

  • #2
    I assume this post: is Pete Enns a Marcionite?. Where he says:

    Definitely not killing off a people group or one’s enemies to acquire land or hold on to it...I don’t think the Gospel permits, condones, or supports the rhetoric of tribal violence in the Old Testament. But this does not mean I believe the Old and New Testaments give us different Gods. They give us, rather, different portrayals of God.
    A few points it seems he doesn't explain, at least in this article:

    1) Jews were in an expected state of bondage to Rome, not of conquest, likened to:

    Jeremiah 27:9 Therefore hearken not ye to your prophets, nor to your diviners, nor to your dreamers, nor to your enchanters, nor to your sorcerers, which speak unto you, saying, Ye shall not serve the king of Babylon:

    Jeremiah 27:10 For they prophesy a lie unto you, to remove you far from your land; and that I should drive you out, and ye should perish.
    2) The mission of Jesus as God but human during incarnation was in part to live under that bondage as a Jew relying on the Father for power, teaching other Jews to do the same. So of course this is a different portrayal of God, but not inconsistent since God the Son is on a special mission here.

    3) After his mission is complete, God can be a punishing one, one needn't even go to Revelation to see that he condemns Jerusalem and casts evildoers into the fire.

    So I also don't get what he means by saying God is portrayed in even conflicting ways; to me it's all consistent, God is both peaceful/merciful and violent/punishing in both Testaments, depending on the situation.

    Comment


    • #3
      "So I also don't get what he means by saying God is portrayed in even conflicting ways; to me it's all consistent, God is both peaceful/merciful and violent/punishing in both Testaments, depending on the situation."

      Amen.
      "Faith is nothing less than the will to keep one's mind fixed precisely on what reason has discovered to it." - Edward Feser

      Comment


      • #4
        I would agree this sounds like Marcionism. Generally speaking if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and waddles like a duck well its not a chicken anyway.
        A happy family is but an earlier heaven.
        George Bernard Shaw

        Comment


        • #5
          It is one thing to say God acted more harshly in the OT than the NT (what he seems to have said), and a very different thing to say that they are two different gods. (Which is what's being accused). I'm quick to condemn heresy, but just from the knowledge provided by this thread I would suggest giving him the benefit of the doubt.
          Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith? -Galatians 3:5

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Pentecost View Post
            It is one thing to say God acted more harshly in the OT than the NT (what he seems to have said), and a very different thing to say that they are two different gods. (Which is what's being accused). I'm quick to condemn heresy, but just from the knowledge provided by this thread I would suggest giving him the benefit of the doubt.
            In all fairness, I didn't post it here, but he has written elsewhere that the divine commandment for the genocide of the Canaanites was a reflection of tribalism rather than the heart of God as revealed through Jesus. His blog had also been promoting a book that flat out says that those passages are too wicked to be truly from God. It may not be pure Marcionism but it seems to be of the same basic ilk.
            "I am not angered that the Moral Majority boys campaign against abortion. I am angry when the same men who say, "Save OUR children" bellow "Build more and bigger bombers." That's right! Blast the children in other nations into eternity, or limbless misery as they lay crippled from "OUR" bombers! This does not jell." - Leonard Ravenhill

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by JohnnyP View Post
              I assume this post: is Pete Enns a Marcionite?. Where he says:



              A few points it seems he doesn't explain, at least in this article:

              1) Jews were in an expected state of bondage to Rome, not of conquest, likened to:



              2) The mission of Jesus as God but human during incarnation was in part to live under that bondage as a Jew relying on the Father for power, teaching other Jews to do the same. So of course this is a different portrayal of God, but not inconsistent since God the Son is on a special mission here.

              3) After his mission is complete, God can be a punishing one, one needn't even go to Revelation to see that he condemns Jerusalem and casts evildoers into the fire.

              So I also don't get what he means by saying God is portrayed in even conflicting ways; to me it's all consistent, God is both peaceful/merciful and violent/punishing in both Testaments, depending on the situation.
              Thanks for linking; for some reason I didn't realize I had forgotten to do so in the OP. In a comment, he did mention that his next post will address the passages alluded to in your third point. I fear this may end up becoming a rehash of the old pacifism vs. just war theory debates, but I'm curious what he does have to say. Your second point is certainly valid as well insofar as his human experience was not reflective of all cultures and political situations.
              "I am not angered that the Moral Majority boys campaign against abortion. I am angry when the same men who say, "Save OUR children" bellow "Build more and bigger bombers." That's right! Blast the children in other nations into eternity, or limbless misery as they lay crippled from "OUR" bombers! This does not jell." - Leonard Ravenhill

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by KingsGambit View Post
                In general, it seems to me that Marcionite ideas have been popping up more and more lately among some Christian crowds - some Christian professors have become simply dismissive of the standard apologetic defenses of violence in the OT. Maybe they can't find a way to reconcile it with Jesus's teachings, but I suggest they are simply refusing to think beyond their own personal views, which we can't do when it comes to theology.
                They would have much less trouble if they consider the fact that Jesus was portrayed as a prophet of the OT God who prophesied judgment on Jerusalem, and this judgment was worse than that meted out on any Cannanite tribes.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Peter is clearly not a Marcionite - he doesn't even sound like one.

                  There's a perceived conflict that many people identify: The conflict between a loving God who wants peace, and the actions of Yahweh in the Old Testament in the conquest narratives. Different people have offered different suggestions. Paul Copan and Matthew Flannagan, for example, argue that actually the conquest narratives are widely misunderstood, and they employ hyperbole.

                  Marcion's solution was radical: There are two different divine beings: One revealed in the Old Testament, and one revealed in Jesus.

                  Peter Enns' suggestion is definitely not that of Marcion. Of course he doesn't think there are two Gods. He thinks - so it seems - that God is portrayed one way in the Old Testament and another in the new Testament, in particular in terms of what God requires of his people. For example, "The Old Testament rhetoric of God sanctioned (or at least God tolerated) plundering of towns and taking captive children and virgin women is, I would dare to suggest, an area of profound discontinuity."

                  I think he's right that there is a very strong discontinuity here. Can anyone really think that God calls the church to invade the land of other nations and take its booty?

                  Elsewhere he has made the claim that the Old Testament conquest narratives were never meant to be accepted as history. Now, he may be right and he may be wrong. But come on, Marcionitism? No, it's not. At worst, he is saying that Old Testament Israel thought that God commanded things that he didn't (but he doesn't quite seem to be saying that, according to the last link).

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Glenn P View Post
                    I think he's right that there is a very strong discontinuity here. Can anyone really think that God calls the church to invade the land of other nations and take its booty?
                    Rome in fact became the church. Just as God called Babylon to do that Jerusalem, many Christians believe He called Rome to do it again, Mathew 23 example. Even many Jews believe it:

                    While the First Temple was destroyed due to idol worship, illicit relationships and murder, our Sages attribute the destruction of the Second Temple to the baseless hatred that prevailed among the Jews. -Chabad
                    As I said it was not time for Jews to conquer, it was time for them to submit to Rome, same as from Jeremiah 27:9-10. There's no discontinuity from OT to NT any more than there is from Exodus to Jeremiah here, simply different circumstances.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by JohnnyP View Post
                      many Christians believe He called Rome to do it again
                      Do you believe that God calls the church to invade countries, take their land and their booty?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Glenn P View Post
                        Do you believe that God calls the church to invade countries, take their land and their booty?
                        Right now I believe we're to be like Jews were supposed to be under Babylon and Rome. Later God may call on Jews and Gentiles to do violence to the wicked -- as God called on Israel to punish Gentiles in the old days -- if we take this literally:

                        Revelation 11:4 These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.

                        Revelation 11:5 And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed.

                        Revelation 11:6 These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Of course there are no direct commands to the church as the new Israel to perform any such actions today, but I see no inconsistency between this and the fact that it was commanded on a number of specific occasions (as opposed to an ongoing series of events) (though as a caveat, I do subscribe to the view of Flannagan, et al. that this mostly consisted of hyperbole).

                          I read Enns' response to John Piper and recognize that he is not so much portraying it as an incident where the Israelites falsely thought God was making a command as he is a symbolic representation of the insider-outsider narrative. Nonetheless, if the event was recorded in the annals of Israelite history, in effect, those who recorded it after hearing however long there was oral tradition did genuinely believe this about God, so I'm not sure how much of a difference this would actually make. It would be difficult to square this Enns' incarnational paradigm (which holds that the Bible is simultaneously divine and human).

                          As a side note, the reason I felt more comfortable invoking Marcion was because I remembered reading a post some time back from NBS professor Claude Mariottini where, in effect, he more or less equated an author advocating a similar position with this heresy, writing: "I believe that Cowles, just like Marcion and his followers, is proclaiming the gospel of an alien God."

                          http://claudemariottini.com/2011/10/...nse-to-cowles/
                          "I am not angered that the Moral Majority boys campaign against abortion. I am angry when the same men who say, "Save OUR children" bellow "Build more and bigger bombers." That's right! Blast the children in other nations into eternity, or limbless misery as they lay crippled from "OUR" bombers! This does not jell." - Leonard Ravenhill

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by JohnnyP View Post
                            Right now I believe we're to be like Jews were supposed to be under Babylon and Rome. Later God may call on Jews and Gentiles to do violence to the wicked -- as God called on Israel to punish Gentiles in the old days -- if we take this literally:
                            I'm sure you don't mean "literally." Fire from mouths?

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Glenn P View Post
                              I'm sure you don't mean "literally." Fire from mouths?
                              Could mean like Elijah calling fire from Heaven "from his mouth" -- do you take 2 Kings 1:10 literally?

                              Comment

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