The Deeper Scandal of the Evangelical Mind: We Are Not Allowed to Use It
January 25, 2013 By peteennsThe real scandal of the Evangelical mind is that we are not allowed to use it.Calling for Evangelical involvement in public academic discourse is useless if trained Evangelicals are legitimately afraid of what will happen to them if they do.A more basic need is the creation of an Evangelical culture where the exercise of the Evangelical mind is expected and encouraged.But, with few exceptions, that culture does not exist. The scandal of the Evangelical mind is that degrees, books, papers, and other marks of prestige are valued–provided you come to predetermined conclusions.Biblical scholarship is the recurring focal point of this type of scandal.*Sure, dig into evolution and the ancient context of Genesis, but by golly you’d better give me an Adam when you’re done.*Knock yourself out with scholarship on the Pentateuch, but make sure at the end of it all you affirm that Moses basically wrote it.*Be part of cutting edge archaeological studies, but when you’re done we want to see you affirm the historicity of the exodus and conquest of Canaan pretty much as the Bible describes them, regardless of what others say.*Do whatever work you need to do, but when the dust settles, explain how your conclusions fit with inerrancy.The scandal of the Evangelical mind is that doctrine determines academic conclusions.Behind all this is a deeper problem. Evangelicalism is not fundamentally an intellectual organism but an apologetic one. It did not come to be in order to inspire academic exploration but to maintain certain theological distinctives by intellectual means. These intellectual means are circumscribed by Evangelical dogma, though avoiding Fundamentalist anti-intellectualism.As an intellectual phenomenon, the Evangelical experiment is a defensive movement.
i) Of course, this is a pep rally for fans who already agree with Enns. It’s funny how blinkered he is. It’s trivially easy to reverse his one-sided examples:
*Sure, dig into fiat creationism, progressive creationism, and intelligent design theory, but by golly you’d better reaffirm naturalistic macroevolution when you’re done.*Knock yourself out with scholarship defending miracles, but make sure at the end of it all you affirm methodological naturalism.*Study Biblical archaeology, but when you’re done we want to see you deny the historicity of the exodus and conquest of Canaan pretty much as the Bible describes them, regardless of arguments to the contrary.*Read the best defenses of inerrancy, but when the dust settles, make sure your conclusions repudiate inerrancy.
Underlying Enns’s argument is the principle that when we investigate different viewpoints, we should be open to adopting the viewpoints we investigate. Let’s apply that principle to some hypothetical cases:
If a Christian missionary studies the Neonazi movement so that he will be better equipped to evangelize skinheads, should he be open-minded about Nazi ideology?
If a Christian studies the Church of Scientology to critique the movement, should he be open-minded about L. Ron Hubbard’s beliefs?
Does Enns take the position that we should have no nonnegotiable theological, philosophical, and ethical precommitments? Does he think all our beliefs should be freely adjustable variables? Should we have no fixed point of reference? Go with the flow, whether upstream or downstream?
Is it asking too much that a Christians be…Christian?