The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind. Mark Noll
TWW has often quoted from Mark Noll’s landmark book called: The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. His premise is this. “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.” Noll contends that evangelicals need to “repent for their neglect of the mind.” He expresses deep concern that such Christians have abandoned the intellectual heritage of the Protestant Reformation.
On 10/17/11, The New York Times printed an op ed piece, link, written by two self-described evangelicals, Karl Giberson and Randall Stephens titled The Evangelical Rejection of Reason. They are authors of The Anointed: Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age. They use Mark Noll’s premise as a basis for their assertions. All quotes from this piece are labeled (NYT).
Karl Giberson also appeared on NPR on 10/20/11 discussing “Evangelical Christians Form Parallel Structure.” Link. Quotes from this piece will be labeled (NPR). In the NPR piece, Neil Conan, the host used the term fundamental evangelicals. One TWW reader calls them fundagelicals.This term appears to be used more and more frequently to describe a certain subset of evangelicals who adhere to a particular group of beliefs such as 6-day creationism. However, in my opinion, no one definition easily fits this group and one should always ask for clarification of this term when used
They contend that certain evangelicals, who they classify as fundamentalists, are turning their backs on society. They claim that these fundamentalists are “scarred by the elimination of prayer in schools; the removal of nativity scenes from public places; the increasing legitimacy of abortion and homosexuality; the persistence of pornography and drug abuse; and acceptance of other religions and of atheism.” (NYT)
The authors point out that, at the base of this movement is a “rejection of science” (NYT), something that has been a concern at TWW since our inception. It seems that we are not the only ones. Giberson reiterates that there is nothing in evangelical theology that requires a belief in a young earth. He conjectures that it has become a politically useful message that is being put forth by the supposedly “anointed” leaders who convince the unquestioning faithful that they need to go in this direction. (NPR)
The authors contend that these evangelicals have formed a parallel subculture in which they can live out their values with little input from those on the outside. What constitutes this separate culture? This would include “church, Sunday school, summer camps and colleges, as well as publishing houses, broadcasting networks, music festivals and counseling groups.” Your glamorous blog queen would also like to add Christian schools and homeschooling to this list. (Do not forget that we both sent our kids to Christian schools, Deb home schooled for a short while and two of Dee’s kids attended Samford University.This group is not monolithic.) The articles also point out that political candidates such as Michelle Bachman and Rick Perry have targeted this new demographic.
Although I do not agree with the authors on all of their contentions, I believe, that they hit some very important points.
The authors then go on to point out a few influential leaders within this movement including Ken Ham and David Barton. I think our readers would be amused by one of their statements which claims these gentlemen are also “beneficiaries of this subculture.” (Read-make bank).
Here are their views on these men.
They quote Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis, who contrasts “God’s Word,” timeless and eternal, with the fleeting notions of “human reason.” This is how he knows that the earth is 10,000 years old, that humans and dinosaurs lived together, and that women are subordinate to men.”
The authors point out how Ham’s website denigrates any Christian who might disagree with his “perspective.” In fact, the authors of this piece were called “wolves in sheep’s clothing who masquerade as Christians while secretly trying to destroy faith in the Bible!” (NYT)
Ham has also focused his disgruntlement on Dr Francis Collins who, as the head of the NIH, is also a theistic evolutionist (or “evolutionary creationist") and a Southern Baptist. Giberson goes on to look at the language that is used by these fundamentalists, calling Collins a “professing” Christian, meaning that they are not so sure that he is. Apparently a Christian, such as Collins (NPR) who is comfortable with science is looked at with deep suspicions. Some kindly Christian souls have walked out on Collins' lectures in churches. (So, why did they go in the first place? Maybe they wanted to make a big, showy point)?
Mr. Barton heads an organization called WallBuilders, dedicated to the proposition that the founders were evangelicals who intended America to be a Christian nation. His education consists of a B.A. in religious education from Oral Roberts University. Unfortunately he has become known for some of his historical gaffes. For example: “Rosa Parks sat at a lunch counter" for her protest instead of refusing to give up her seat on the bus for a white man). John Fea, a professor at Messiah College and an evangelical, has written extensively about his concerns of David Barton's historical facts here.
Giberson goes on to explain how the anointed leaders, folks like Ken Ham and Al Mohler, have managed to undermine the scientific community. They repeat mantras that are not questioned by the fundagelcials. These would include (NPR):
- Scientists are biased
- All science is based on assumptions that you bring to the data rather than objective examination of the data.
- Science is not trustworthy because certain theories have been disproven in the past.
- Today’s science will be overturned by tomorrow’s science.
However, there seems to be some small changes occurring, especially within evangelical academia.“Within the evangelical world, tensions have emerged between those who deny secular knowledge, and those who have kept up with it and integrated it with their faith. Almost all evangelical colleges employ faculty members with degrees from major research universities — a conduit for knowledge from the larger world." (NYT)
So where does it leave this evangelical?
I, too, become concerned about the direction of this culture. One only has to look at the decline in Christianity in Europe to see that the faith is under fire. At the same time I am also concerned that the faith is being attacked from within by those who want to go beyond the Gospel to define what constitutes the real faith. No matter what the anointed would have us believe, the age of the earth, complementarianism, the size of our church, and the governing structure of the church are not primary issues. Folks, we have been given a brain. We need to use it.
I am fighting the Fred Principle.
Years ago, I knew a man who I will call Fred. He told me that he had never looked at any evidence that Young Earth Creationism might be wrong. So, I gave him some material to read and suggested he look at websites such as Reason to Believe and Answers in Creation.
A few weeks later I asked him about his reading. He told me that he had read a few things and the information made him very nervous since it seemed to disprove everything that he had been led to believe.
So what was his solution? He refused to read anything more because it challenged him to the core. He said he would choose to believe Young Earth in spite of the evidence because “he couldn’t take it.”
You see, his faith was based on a secondary issue. If that issue was challenged, his very faith was called into question. Yet this man insisted that his daughter go to college and “stand up” against those “secular” professors who said science has proven the earth is old.
Here is where I stand. All Christians should question anything that is fed to them by supposed “leaders.” We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and that goes for Ken Ham, David Barton, and Al Mohler. Never forget Galileo and the church. This means, as hard as it for some Christians to accept, these guys could very well be wrong.
And, if these guys are wrong, what happens to your faith? Is it based on a secondary issue or is it founded on the solid rock of the person of Jesus Christ?