Did the Desert Monks Blog?

Pete Enns appeals to mysticism but it sounds like sentimentality and even a tad anti-intellectual:

I have come to believe that the life of Christian faith is not fundamentally “rational,” by which I mean faith in God is necessarily trans-rational (not anti-rational) but not “captureable” by our minds. It’s mysterious. It’s mystical. After all, this is a faith that calls upon its adherents to “participate in the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).

It proclaims God as the creator of all there is, and the more we learn about that creation, the more we are—or should be—at a loss for words. A universe that is about 14 billion years old and 100 billion light years across, containing billions of galaxies—the closest one to ours is 2.5 million light years away—with each galaxy containing billions of stars—the closest one being 4.2 light years (= about 25 trillion miles) away. At the other end of the spectrum are subatomic particles—the very phrase defies comprehension—and now we hear of string theory and the multiverse (or meta-universe).

If God exists, what can any of us possibly add to the conversation? The God who did this is the one we are aiming to understand. So, “mystery” seems to be an operative category for thinking about theology.

That’s an odd observation for someone who writes as much as Pete does, and for someone whose job is to study a book. It feels like a dodge. But it does confirm the old observation that liberal Protestants were not really rationalists. They were Ph.D.s who wound up appealing to mysticism as their justification.

I wonder how that plays in grad school.


12 thoughts on “Did the Desert Monks Blog?

  1. even if one did know all mysteries and all knowledge of God (not possible), that person would be nothing… without love. 1 Cor 13:2 …talk about mystery

    Myster:: a religious truth that one can know only by revelation and cannot fully understand


  2. But it does confirm the old observation that liberal Protestants were not really rationalists. They were Ph.D.s who wound up appealing to mysticism as their justification.

    I have not heard that observation before, but yes, yes, and yes.

    As for Peter (Enns, not the Apostle) all I can say is, ugh. He sounds like a cross between Stuart Smalley (Deep Thoughts – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ldAQ6Rh5ZI) and Carl Sagan.


  3. Or the old liberals (and the new) were rationalists as it suited them. They flitted back and forth between rationalism and mysticism as suited them. Ultimately QIRC & QIRE end up in the same place.


  4. I wonder if this is his movement toward Eastern Orthodox. That would seem to provide the kind of bifurcation between studying/teaching the Bible and the Christian faith that he keeps pressing.


  5. I get it. The universe is BIG and sub-atomic particles are really, really small. There are as many stars in the universe as grains of sand on the beach. Almost all of them have some kind of planet. It is all amazing. But this isn’t new. It is what we see in the Psalms (e.g., Psalm 8). So sure, we could never fully comprehend God (not a new idea either), but he has made himself known to us so that we can know some things about him. So when he write,

    Two pillars of the Christian faith express this mystery: incarnation and resurrection. I see these two elements as making Christianity what it is, and both dodge thought and speech.

    I have no idea what he means. Incarnation and resurrection sure didn’t dodge Paul’s thought or speech. In fact, Paul wrote down what he thought about this for us in many places (my own fav being 1Cor 15). So I don’t know what Enns should mean by writing what he did. It is rather incoherent. Unfortunately, what I’ve heard other people mean by saying this sort of thing is that the content & object of our faith just doesn’t matter. I hope that isn’t the direction Enns is headed here.


  6. sdb – It’s a bunch of pseudo-intellectual navel-gazing masquerading as nominally Christian mysticism. Which of those is worse I don’t know but that’s the world Enns seems to inhabit. It’s a world where the noxious humblebrag is considered the apex of Christian humility. Note his constant awestruck wonder at the inexplicable “contradictions” in Scripture that he and only he has just discovered. Who could possibly understand all this he seems to breathlessly ask?

    For me, I’ll take WCF 1.7:

    All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all (2 Pet. 3:16); yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them (Ps. 119:105, 130).


  7. The author of that HuffPo article which is Enns’s springboard for that “emotional intelligence” is written by

    Brianna Wiest
    Writer, editor, professional human being. Founder of Soul Anatomy


  8. Nothing new here .. just the same old rationalist-irrationalist dialectic in all unbelief.
    I guess the good news about Pete’s journey is that Frank Schaeffer will soon have a dancing partner.


  9. But Enns promotes “human flourishing”

    DG Hart—If you’re going to frame the question as one between the secular and the religious, then the nature of Christianity is going to look different from the way that confessional Protestants understand it. Why Enns is willing to welcome Bell’s aids to spirituality but keeps fundamentalist o helps to devotion at arm’s length is anyone’s guess . It would seem to me that if you’re in the business of pulling down the secular order, you take help from inerrantists as much as from militant Sikhs



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