Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind

It's probably why comments like this: ""We've been attacked by the intelligent, educated segment of the culture," he said, adding that the school board's declaration is just a first step." happen. (From Pharyngula)

PZ Myers and writers like him conflate an American cultural tendency with evidence for the veracity of the Darwinian creation myth, thinking that if scientists or intellectuals tend to believe something then that is evidence that it is true. The Darwinian Herd is especially fond of this type of supposed evidence, in fact it sometimes seems that it is their only argument and the actual empirical evidence does not matter as long as there is a "scientific consensus" or everyone who is educated thinks that it is so. This neglects the fact that even the most educated segments of any culture have maintained incorrect beliefs. E.g. the belief of educated Chinese for some time that the earth was flat that can be proven from their texts, unlike the Darwinist and progressive myth that educated people in the West used to think that the earth was flat. It's a mistake to think that scientific consensus or "everyone knows" is evidence of any type. Evidence indicates that when people begin using that argument in lieu of pounding their opponents over the head with evidence then it is the time to question their claims and focus on the evidence.

But why would a pastor say such a thing and feel that he is ignorant and stupid as opposed to the educated and intelligent? There are a few reasons other than the fact that cold toads like Myers have been sucessful in abusing the State to set it against "religious" education so that people are forced by the State to spend billions of dollars on "secular education" while they are not allowed the choose to educate their children religiously. The main reason for such weakness seems to be the Scandal of the Evangelical Mind:
Institutional dimensions of the intellectual scandal do not exhaust the difficulties for evangelical higher education. A further problem is created by the generations-long failure of the evangelical community to nurture the life of the mind. That failure has created what William Hull, provost of Samford University; has called “the tragic imbalance which now exists according to which the dominant religion in America is almost destitute of intellectual firepower.” As Hull describes it, the desire to carry “the Christian dimension to the heart of the learning process” must advance realistically. College administrators and intellectuals in the churches must face the sober realities that Hull encountered when he sought to define such a goal at his own university:
Long experience in academic personnel recruitment convinces me that a sufficiently large pool of qualified candidates to staff [an] entire University faculty with Christian scholars . . . is just not out there. . . . Suffice it to say that the church has failed to define its intellectual responsibilities in compelling terms, to call out from among its own those gifted to discharge this neglected stewardship, and to provide such budding scholars with support for the kind of advanced training that will equip them to do credible work on so exacting a frontier. The very few who decide to make the integration of Christianity and scholarship a lifelong calling usually do so at their own initiative, with precious little encouragement either from the church or from the academy. Ironically, the handful who do express an early interest in the vocation of Christian scholar are usually shunted into seminary for graduate theological study, producing a surplus of those qualified to teach religion but a paucity of those trained to teach the other ninety-five percent of the academic disciplines as they relate to the Christian faith. . . . We must not deceive ourselves into supposing that there is a large guild of seasoned Christian scholars somewhere on which we can draw in staffing our University faculty.

Nowhere in the Western world is it possible to find an institution for graduate training — that is, for the training required to teach at evangelical institutions of higher learning — that exists for the primary purpose of promoting Christian scholarship defined in a Protestant, evangelical way. Thankfully, there are a few Roman Catholic and Jewish institutions where Catholic or Jewish understandings of God and the world receive careful attention, and evangelical scholars have sometimes made use of such institutions. But for most of the faculty members at most evangelical institutions of higher learning, to ask in the course of their most advanced training the deepest and highest questions about the relationship between God and the world would be irrelevant, or it would create prejudice against them. Yet, once called to evangelical institutions, part of the task of these same scholars is to guide students and publish research that asks precisely those questions.
In sum, the scandal of the evangelical mind arises from the specific institutional arrangements of evangelical higher learning in North America. Even if an evangelical were convinced that deep, probing study of the world should be undertaken as a specifically Christian task, it is by no means self-evident where that task could be pursued.
Finally, there is a theological dimension to the scandal of the evangelical mind. For an entire Christian community to neglect, generation after generation, serious attention to the mind, nature, society, the arts — all spheres created by God and sustained for his own glory — may be, in fact, sinful. Os Guinness has recently called attention to this dimension in a memorable passage worth quoting at length:
Evangelicals have been deeply sinful in being anti-intellectual ever since the 1820s and 1830s. For the longest time we didn’t pay the cultural price for that because we had the numbers, the social zeal, and the spiritual passion for the gospel. But today we are beginning to pay the cultural price. And you can see that most evangelicals simply don’t think. For example, there has been no serious evangelical public philosophy in this century. . . . It has always been a sin not to love the Lord our God with our minds as well as our hearts and souls. . . . We have excused this with a degree of pietism and pretend[ing] that this is something other than what it is — that is, sin. . . . Evangelicals need to repent of their refusal to think Christianly and to develop the mind of Christ.
The scandal of the evangelical mind is a scandal from whichever direction it is viewed. It is a scandal arising from the historical experience of an entire subculture. It is a scandal to which the shape of evangelical institutions have contributed. Most of all, it is a scandal because it scorns the good gifts of a loving God. The rest of this book is an effort to show why this scandal emerged as it did in North America and how it might be possible to minimize its pernicious effects.
(The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind
By Mark A. Noll :21-23)

I've noticed that too, some seem to keep things hermeneutically sealed, real tight like. Good biblical scholarship....and well, that's about it, as if there is nothing more to God and Life than text. On the other hand there are the charismatic types and well, wow...some of that clearly isn't even Christian in any form, let alone Christianity informed by text. In trying to deal with it once with people who I did not know were given to such things at first, the main criticism against my criticism seemed to match the pastor's above. I.e. it was a sin for me to use intelligence to go on the attack and so on. It's a curious pattern.

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