Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Greatest Danger Affecting American Evangelical Christianity?

I have been enjoying Mark Noll's insightful, though perhaps dated, analysis of the place of the mind among evangelicals. His quotations from Charles Malik were provocative.  Charles Malik was a Lebanese Christian  intellectual, professor and politician. Read some of his comments from a speech at Wheaton College below:
This is a solemn occasion. I must be frank with you: the greatest danger besetting American Evangelical Christianity is the danger of anti intellectualism. The mind as to its greatest and deepest reaches is not cared for enough. This cannot take place apart from profound immersion for a period of years in the history of thought and the spirit. People are in a hurry to get out of the university and start earning money or serving the church or preaching the Gospel. They have no idea of the infinite value of spending years of leisure in conversing with the greatest minds and souls of the past, and thereby ripening and sharpening and enlarging their powers of thinking.

The result is that the arena of creative thinking is abdicated and vacated to the enemy. Who among the Evangelicals can stand up to the great secular or naturalistic or atheistic scholars on their own terms of scholarship and research? Who among the Evangelical scholars is quoted as a normative source by the greatest secular authorities on history or philosophy or psychology or sociology or politics? Does your mode of thinking have the slightest chance of becoming the dominant mode of thinking in the great universities of Europe and America which stamp your entire civilization with their own spirit and ideas?
You can read the whole speech here.

2 comments:

Thesauros said...

"Who among the Evangelicals can stand up to the great secular or naturalistic or atheistic scholars on their own terms of scholarship and research?"

How can it be of benefit to anyone to gain even the whole world yet lose his soul? Of course our intellect is a wonderful gift. If however, it isn't used to glorify our Creator then perhaps it would be better if we'd been born an idiot.

Paul F. Buckley said...

Thesauros - thanks for your thoughts.

While I think we should never try to compete with a Godless world view on their terms, ignorance is not the alternative. I think you're in danger of a false dichotomy and a anti-intellectual gnostic view of life.

Truth is robust and should be rigorous enough to be at least as deep and far-reaching as the popular humanistic and atheistic theories without having to compromise in the least. We may never be accepted by academia but our intellectual depth should nevertheless be significant.

If I can't glorify God with my intellect the alternative isn't being an idiot it is learning to glorify God with my intellect, idiot or not.

Does that make sense?