I've been reading Peter Enn's book, Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament, of late. The book a a whole seems to be directed toward a decidedly evangelical audience, dealing with the issues surrounding the nature of what the Scriptures are and what kind of historical context they derive from. While it is nothing too revolutionary in nature, I can see how this book caused quite a stir at Westminster Theological Seminary. I think Enns deals honestly with the problems that arise from a critical study of the Hebrew Scriptures, examining them from a more decidedly evangelical view [although I think in the end Enns feels somewhat uncomfortable with the label].
In any event, I came across this nugget which struck a chord with me. Looking at the difference between Jewish interpretive and "evangelical" interpretive ventures, Enns notes:
As quite distinct from Jewish interpretation, the history of modern evangelical interpretation exhibits a strong degree of discomfort with the tensions and ambiguities of Scripture. The assumptions often made are that Scripture should have no tensions and that any such tensions are not real but introduced from the outside, namely, by scholarship hostile to evangelical Christianity. Whatever tensions remain are addressed either by posing some direct solution (however ingenious) or by moving the problem to the side ("We know it has to fit somehow; we just aren't sure how.")
I think Enns hit the issues succinctly. Whereas Jewish interpreters felt at home with textual tensions and ambiguities, evangelical interpreters often go through mental contortions in order to harmonize everything into unified whole. This is where the problem lies. The biblical texts we have are not a unified, monolithic whole. They include "diversity," as Enns puts it. Tensions and ambiguities are a part of the very fabric of the texts. To deny such is disingenuous to the texts themselves.
Perhaps this is an issue of faith. Here's a question. Who has a more faith-filled expression of embracing the texts? Would it be interpreters who accept the text as is and wrestle with the implications, allowing the tensions to remain in focus or would it be those who feel the need to "protect" the text by doing mental gymnastics to eliminate all hint of tensions and diversity?
I especially liked Enns' statement, "The stress seems to be not on solving the problems once and for all but on a community upholding a conversation with Scripture with creative energy." I think this is the posture we need to engage the text with - an open-handed wrestling with the text.
Enns has not spent much time on it yet in the book, but I think the metaphor of incarnation is an apt one. The text is a beautifully mysterious mixture of the human and the divine, one that is not fully explainable. As we embrace in the divinty of the incarnated Son, so we must embrace the text. I think there is something here to explore further...