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Mark Noll’s 1995 book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind hit a raw nerve when he declared “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.” He argued that Evangelical scholarship had a minimal presence in doing serious academic research, and that they need to—and can—do better.

His followup book in 2011, Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind, is Noll’s theological vision for how to move forward—and I don’t mind adding that Noll devoted about 15 pages favorably discussing Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament as a (not the) constructive model for moving forward.

Scandal of the Evangelical Mind

Noll’s books have been a wake up call for many and I think his comments are perceptive and penetrating.

But I wonder if Noll may be too optimistic.

In my experience, the real problem isn’t so much a failure on the part of Evangelicals to engage the world of thought. Evangelicals earning higher degrees and publishing their findings in the wider intellectual community isn’t what’s needed.

The 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. For whatever reasons Evangelicalism might have started, it has not come to inspire academic exploration but to maintain certain theological distinctives by intellectual means. These intellectual means are circumscribed by Evangelical dogma, though avoiding overt Fundamentalist anti-intellectualism.

As an intellectual phenomenon, the Evangelical experiment is a defensive movement. This raises some questions for me.

Is the Evangelical movement as it stands able to create the safe space necessary for the exercise of the Evangelical mind—or, does the adjective “Evangelical” necessarily draw clear limits for any intellectual pursuit?

Is Evangelicalism self-corrective enough to not only allow but to encourage the exercise of the mind, to risk the possibility of discovering that theological change is needed?

Can a movement defined by theological defense transform into a movement that willingly accommodates theological change?

If not, the deeper scandal of the Evangelical mind will continue.

Pete Enns, Ph.D.

Peter Enns (Ph.D., Harvard University) is Abram S. Clemens professor of biblical studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has written numerous books, including The Bible Tells Me So, The Sin of Certainty, and How the Bible Actually Works. Tweets at @peteenns.

234 Comments

  • Gary says:

    It’s long gone.

    Since Noll wrote the seminal book, knowledge has quadrupled.

    Take, for instance, biology. Answers in Genesis is still grappling with the Darwinian era of Darwinism, with general top-level ideas and in the context of archaeology and morphology. Meanwhile, genetic discoveries and details are being mapped out week over week. We’re in a golden age of discovery of human pre-history. We’re gaining more and more insight into human migration and its associations with natural climate change of past eras.

    This is no longer the world of Roger Bannister. What’s next isn’t Usain Bolt but what beats him.

    Consider substituting the world “Amish” for “Evangelical” in the piece.

    And beyond convenience of metaphor, don’t get me wrong; there is much goodness in the Amish vision. The consequences of the technologies of all of the sciences coupled with the consumeristic wants and needs of billions of humans are on the path to give us yet another quick shift of climate change and a mass extinction event.

    If Evangelicalism, nay if Christianity, nay if anything, has a hope, it’s in helping us navigate what’s ahead.

    • Hill Roberts says:

      I do not think my little corner of fundamentalist evangelicalism (Churches of Christ) can survive the 21st century. We’re still fighting battles long lost back in the nineteenth century. We have a favorite hymn (Our God He is Alive) with a line in it that reads “secure is life from human mind, God holds the germ within His hand…” Craig Venter has been making wholly artificial life forms since 2012. The latest – Syn 3 – just this year with a wholly synthetic genome with 473 genes. No germ. Syn 3’s parents were a computer synthesizer. Most of my clan doesn’t even understand these genetic words, much less the significance. Doomed to complete irrelevance by 2100 except as a quaint historical footnote.

  • Gary says:

    It’s long gone.

    Since Noll wrote the seminal book, knowledge has quadrupled.

    Take, for instance, biology. Answers in Genesis is still grappling with the Darwinian era of Darwinism, with general top-level ideas and in the context of archaeology and morphology. Meanwhile, genetic discoveries and details are being mapped out week over week. We’re in a golden age of discovery of human pre-history. We’re gaining more and more insight into human migration and its associations with natural climate change of past eras.

    This is no longer the world of Roger Bannister. What’s next isn’t Usain Bolt but what beats him.

    Consider substituting the world “Amish” for “Evangelical” in the piece.

    And beyond convenience of metaphor, don’t get me wrong; there is much goodness in the Amish vision. The consequences of the technologies of all of the sciences coupled with the consumeristic wants and needs of billions of humans are on the path to give us yet another quick shift of climate change and a mass extinction event.

    If Evangelicalism, nay if Christianity, nay if anything, has a hope, it’s in helping us navigate what’s ahead.

    • Hill Roberts says:

      I do not think my little corner of fundamentalist evangelicalism (Churches of Christ) can survive the 21st century. We’re still fighting battles long lost back in the nineteenth century. We have a favorite hymn (Our God He is Alive) with a line in it that reads “secure is life from mortal mind, God holds the germ within His hand…” Craig Venter has been making wholly artificial life forms since 2012. The latest – Syn 3 – just this year with a wholly synthetic genome with 473 genes. No germ. Syn 3’s parents were a computer synthesizer. Most of my clan doesn’t even understand these genetic words, much less the significance. Doomed to complete irrelevance by 2100 except as a quaint historical footnote.

  • mhelbert says:

    I agree with this assessment. I was amazed in my first Theology class in seminary when my professor basically said that it’s OK for Christians to think. That was an eye-opening moment. I was fortunate enough to have biblical studies and language professors who were not afraid to, at least indirectly, question the text and the dogma of Evangelicalism. In the end, however, I don’t think that I can call myself an Evangelical any longer. The ‘prerequisites’ are a little too hard to digest.

    • Hill Roberts says:

      I’ve taught quasi-academic level classes at my congregation for over three decades. One of the elders (who is an academic with a secular PhD degree) has always lauded my classes for causing people “to think”. Yet, when raising questions such as “what does it mean that Jesus was 100% human” or “consider the influence of ANE culture/literature on Israelite literature” or “let’s consider Biblical interpretation in light of what if evolution is true” then it’s hold up there, we’re not really all that happy for you to be suggesting such topics can even be on the table. So now, I’m not allowed to teach, or do anything else that might “offend” anyone. Guess I’ll have to stop breathing since even my existence is offensive to some.

      • Gary says:

        I fit into Evangelical culture better when I was more likely to talk about chord transitions between songs than any of these topics.

        • Hill Roberts says:

          Yes — and better make sure any dissonant transitions are muted to non-existent. Better to ride a “swell” transition into the next song. That’s more to “our” liking. (Of course, in my acappella heritage, the whole notion of musical chords, transitioning or not, is anathema.)

          • Gary says:

            I recall when I still knew more chords than doctrines asking a question about the documentary hypothesis in a church classroom environment. But Christologically related to the “100% human” topic, I recall the teacher asking me in a point-blank kind of way whether or not “Jesus lived a sinless life.” I answered that I wasn’t there and that it would be above my pay grade to judge that anyhow.

            Coffee and cookies at break time soon came. I think that moment was first time I learned how quickly the wrong things can get one ignored.

      • charlesburchfield says:

        addicts always guard their supply & in true addictive behavior fashion are very offended by anyone going into recovery. congratulations they just kicked you out of your favorite bar! you must be lonely but you are free!

      • Sheila Warner says:

        I’m very sorry for you. I hope you find a way forward.

      • mhelbert says:

        In one of my New Testament classes I asked the professor what he thought of Jesus saying, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” He replied that Jesus was being human. And, he left it at that. I appreciated the answer because it made me stop and reflect on Jesus’ humanity and how he perceived God in that moment.

  • mhelbert says:

    I agree with this assessment. I was amazed in my first Theology class in seminary when my professor basically said that it’s OK for Christians to think. That was an eye-opening moment. I was fortunate enough to have biblical studies and language professors who were not afraid to, at least indirectly, question the text and the dogma of Evangelicalism. In the end, however, I don’t think that I can call myself an Evangelical any longer. The ‘prerequisites’ are a little too hard to digest.

    • Hill Roberts says:

      I’ve taught quasi-academic level classes at my congregation for over three decades. One of the elders (who is an academic with a secular PhD degree) has always lauded my classes for causing people “to think”. Yet, when raising questions such as “what does it mean that Jesus was 100% human” or “consider the influence of ANE culture/literature on Israelite literature” or “let’s consider Biblical interpretation in light of what if evolution is true” then it’s hold up there, we’re not really all that happy for you to be suggesting such topics can even be on the table. So now, I’m not allowed to teach, or do anything else that might “offend” anyone. Guess I’ll have to stop breathing since even my existence is offensive to some.

      • Gary says:

        I fit into Evangelical culture better when I was more likely to talk about chord transitions between songs than any of these topics.

        • Hill Roberts says:

          Yes — and better make sure any dissonant transitions are muted to non-existent. Better to ride a “swell” transition into the next song. That’s more to “our” liking. (Of course, in my acappella heritage, the whole notion of musical chords, transitioning or not, is anathema.)

          • Gary says:

            I recall when I still knew more chords than doctrines asking a question about the documentary hypothesis in a church classroom environment. But Christologically related to the “100% human” topic, I recall the teacher asking me in a point-blank kind of way whether or not “Jesus lived a sinless life.” I answered that I wasn’t there and that it would be above my pay grade to judge that anyhow.

            Coffee and cookies at break time soon came. I think that moment was first time I learned how quickly the wrong things can get one ignored.

      • addicts always guard their supply & in true addictive behavior fashion are very offended by anyone going into recovery. congratulations they just kicked you out of your favorite bar! you must be lonely but you are free!

      • Sheila Warner says:

        I’m very sorry for you. I hope you find a way forward.

      • mhelbert says:

        In one of my New Testament classes I asked the professor what he thought of Jesus saying, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” He replied that Jesus was being human. And, he left it at that. I appreciated the answer because it made me stop and reflect on Jesus’ humanity and how he perceived God in that moment.

  • Rebecca Trotter says:

    “Is Evangelicalism self-corrective enough to not only allow but to encourage the exercise of the mind, to risk the possibility of discovering that theological change is needed?”

    This right here is the rub, IMO. Evangelicalism sunk it’s teeth hard into ideas that just aren’t supportable by reality or a clear headed reading of scripture and has no way to back itself out. (Not that there’s much desire to do so.) Which is a really predictable result of elevating human understanding to the level of doctrine rather than allowing for Truth to lead where it will. I don’t really see how Evangelicalism allows for open minds at this point. It’s just too threatening to the theological house of cards they’ve built.

  • Rebecca Trotter says:

    “Is Evangelicalism self-corrective enough to not only allow but to encourage the exercise of the mind, to risk the possibility of discovering that theological change is needed?”

    This right here is the rub, IMO. Evangelicalism sunk it’s teeth hard into ideas that just aren’t supportable by reality or a clear headed reading of scripture and has no way to back itself out. (Not that there’s much desire to do so.) Which is a really predictable result of elevating human understanding to the level of doctrine rather than allowing for Truth to lead where it will. I don’t really see how Evangelicalism allows for open minds at this point. It’s just too threatening to the theological house of cards they’ve built.

  • Scot Miller says:

    Whenever Evangelicals start using their minds and (and publish their results in peer-reviewed academic journals and books), they quickly cease being Evangelicals. “Academic Evangelical” is truly an oxymoron, because by definition academia is a sphere of public discourse where claims are judged by academic standards (e.g., use of data, evidence, argument, logic, critical questioning, etc.) and not confessional standards. Evangelicals are beholden to confessional standards that cannot be questioned by those who claim to be Evangelicals. Academics who examine evidence, arguments, etc., in a way consistent with academic standards will inevitably abandon untenable positions which are necessary for Evangelical confessions of faith. So people who start out as Evangelicals will either have to abandon rigorous academic investigations or they will have to abandon their Evangelical roots.

    • Edwin Woodruff Tait says:

      That’s just untrue. There are plenty of fine evangelical academics. Pretty much all of them at some point fall foul of somebody’s idea of orthodoxy, but many of them remain solidly part of the evangelical world nonetheless. Noll himself is a good example. Craig Blomberg would be another one.

      It’s quite possible for evangelicals to do scholarship that is judged by academic criteria while also remaining within the bounds of whatever their communities define as orthodoxy. The evangelical world is not academia. That doesn’t mean that a person can’t live in both worlds at once.

      • doulos41 says:

        It’s probably true of some very narrow definitions of “evangelical”–Noll and Blomberg have already been “excommunicated” from those very narrow definitions. That, I’m sure, is part of the problem–figuring out exactly what the community is and exactly what it means to “live in that world.”

      • Andrew Dowling says:

        I disagree, because academics requires one to be open to any possibilities to where the probable evidence leads them; Blomberg and others have conclusions they will simply not consider. And that is not scholarship.

    • John W. Morehead says:

      I am pleased to have been published in peer-reviewed books (e.g., “Handbook of Hyper-Real Religions” [Brill, 2012], Adam Possamai, ed.) and to retain the identity of Evangelical, so it isn’t necessarily an oxymoron. Untenable positions can be abandoned and new ones put forth while retaining a sense of Evangelicalism. Enns is a prime example of this. Perhaps it needs a modifier, like “Progressive” Evangelical, and it does come with resistance from the Evangelical tribe. Nevertheless it can be done, at least outside the seminary and Christian university context where confession predetermines conclusions.

    • Jump says:

      @Scot, Two comments. First, The either/or thing is false. Too many counterexamples. In my own discipline, for instance, of philosophy, there has been a veritable renaissance of evangelical scholarship going on for the past half century or so. People writing at the highest levels of technical erudition and publishing in the best presses, yet retaining what most would consider evangelical commitments. Second, evangelicals (and more generally Christians; still more generally, theists) hardly have a corner on the market of closed-mindedness (and might in certain cases be more inmune from it compared to their secular colleagues). As you might imagine, you will find biased attitudes flourishing in departments populated by nearly any group you please. Just look at a science department in your average state university and notice the assumption of, say, methodological naturalism, if not just full-blown naturalism. Such notions are dogma. The right attitude and approach for Christians toward these issues, I think, is modeled in something like Alvin Plantinga’s “Advice to Christian Philosophers” or William Lane Craig’s (or was it Paul Gould’s?) “On Being a Christian Academic.”

      • Gary says:

        How does one fully blow naturalism if I may ask?

        • Jump says:

          Seriously, Clark? “Full-blown” naturalism = metaphysical naturalism.

          • Gary says:

            I was just reacting to the snark of polemic.

          • Jump says:

            I don’t know what that means. I was giving you the benefit of the doubt, and answering as if it was an honest question, but it appears you were being snarky. Nothing in my question was snarky.

          • Gary says:

            I doubt anyone subscribing to metaphysical naturalism would describe it as “full blown.”

          • Jump says:

            I’m not sure metaphysical naturalists would care either way about it being called “full blown.” But nothing hangs on the terminology. Leave it aside if it bothers you. It was just a way of using a tad less jargon.

      • Pete E. says:

        I’m not sure if that is generally true in biblical or theological studies, Jump. Not unheard of, but not commonly true. The closer the topic gets to touching core evangelical beliefs about the Bible the less true your claim is.

        • Jump says:

          You might be right, Pete, that it is not generally the case in biblical or theological studies. But one should be tempted to qualify even that statement, because within theological studies, there’s philosophical theology and analytic theology, within which there are a fair number of evangelical philosophers working, and promoting the existence of entire societies (the Evangelical Philosophical Society, for instance) and research programmes (the Analytic Theology Project) with these affinities. These consist of, or at least, include, many evangelical philosophers. And within these groups, it has been rare, in my 10 or so years doing this, that these folks are unwilling to entertain an argument for some view they think false or heterodox–even if, at the end of the day, they think the case is poor for such views.

          • Pete E. says:

            I take your point, Jump–though I’m not sure the EPS is the best example you could use. I’ve some engagements with members that for me illustrate my point, but I certainly would not suggest those experiences define the whole.

      • Andrew Dowling says:

        “Just look at a science department in your average state university and
        notice the assumption of, say, methodological naturalism,”

        That’s not a bias that’s called following the scientific method. Or would you diagnose someone’s stomach pains as due to demonic spirits inhabiting their gut?

        • Jump says:

          Hi Andrew…

          I’ll offer 3 replies:
          (1) No. I do take empirical science as one source of knowledge of the world. The situation you describe doesn’t follow from a denial of naturalism.
          (2) There is no such thing as “*the* scientific method”.
          (3) Naturalism, of either sort, is a philosophical view, not an empirical one.

    • David Roberts says:

      I’m a Christain and have been publishing biological and ecological science for the last decade. Why can’t one publish peer-reviewed science describing the observable phenomena, yet remain humble in light of the great mysteries of this world? Maybe I am just a terrible evangelical, but I’m more than happy to be labelled as such so I might not be a good counter-example of the false dichotomy you are describing.

    • Jeff Y says:

      I disagree with this. Substitute “Big Bang Theory Scientists” for “Evangelicals.” It is true that many Evangelicals are beholden to confessional standards they will never give up no matter what. But, there are plenty who would fall within that “category” who are such b/c of the conclusions they’ve drawn, just as a scientist would, but they are also not beholden to this as an axiom. As long as one is willing to change with evidence, then they can still be this (just as a scientist can hold to one view; but be willing entertain the possibility they are wrong. One might argue that Evangelicals cannot hold to their ideals – but they are not all of one stripe (some more liberal; some more conservative) and many are willing to change and do not see themeless holding to particular confessions; except as the evidence convinces them. One could say the same thing about the word “Christian” or “Atheist” or really, any belief.

  • Scot Miller says:

    Whenever Evangelicals start using their minds and (and publish their results in peer-reviewed academic journals and books), they quickly cease being Evangelicals. “Academic Evangelical” is truly an oxymoron, because by definition academia is a sphere of public discourse where claims are judged by academic standards (e.g., use of data, evidence, argument, logic, critical questioning, etc.) and not confessional standards. Evangelicals are beholden to confessional standards that cannot be questioned by those who claim to be Evangelicals. Academics who examine evidence, arguments, etc., in a way consistent with academic standards will inevitably abandon untenable positions which are necessary for Evangelical confessions of faith. So people who start out as Evangelicals will either have to abandon rigorous academic investigations or they will have to abandon their Evangelical roots.

    • Edwin Woodruff Tait says:

      That’s just untrue. There are plenty of fine evangelical academics. Pretty much all of them at some point fall foul of somebody’s idea of orthodoxy, but many of them remain solidly part of the evangelical world nonetheless. Noll himself is a good example. Craig Blomberg would be another one.

      It’s quite possible for evangelicals to do scholarship that is judged by academic criteria while also remaining within the bounds of whatever their communities define as orthodoxy. The evangelical world is not academia. That doesn’t mean that a person can’t live in both worlds at once.

      • doulos41 says:

        It’s probably true of some very narrow definitions of “evangelical”–Noll and Blomberg have already been “excommunicated” from those very narrow definitions. That, I’m sure, is part of the problem–figuring out exactly what the community is and exactly what it means to “live in that world.”

      • Andrew Dowling says:

        I disagree, because academics requires one to be open to any possibilities to where the probable evidence leads them; Blomberg and others have conclusions they will simply not consider. And that is not scholarship.

    • John W. Morehead says:

      I am pleased to have been published in peer-reviewed books (e.g., “Handbook of Hyper-Real Religions” [Brill, 2012], Adam Possamai, ed.) and to retain the identity of Evangelical, so it isn’t necessarily an oxymoron. Untenable positions can be abandoned and new ones put forth while retaining a sense of Evangelicalism. Enns is a prime example of this. Perhaps it needs a modifier, like “Progressive” Evangelical, and it does come with resistance from the Evangelical tribe. Nevertheless it can be done, at least outside the seminary and Christian university context where confession predetermines conclusions.

      • Gary says:

        I’d be curious to understand what you mean by Evangelical identity and why you embrace it.

        • John W. Morehead says:

          I mean that I have evangelical Christian faith commitments as a member of the tribe, but without the compartmentalization of doctrine and intellectual inquiry. I am closer to British evangelicalism. Why not embrace it?

      • Dre'as Sanchez says:

        Label it progressive and it works. Lol

    • Jump says:

      @Scot, Two comments. First, The either/or thing is false. Too many counterexamples. In my own discipline, for instance, of philosophy, there has been a veritable renaissance of evangelical scholarship going on for the past half century or so. People writing at the highest levels of technical erudition and publishing in the best presses, yet retaining what most would consider evangelical commitments. Second, evangelicals (and more generally Christians; still more generally, theists) hardly have a corner on the market of closed-mindedness (and might in certain cases be more immune from it compared to their secular colleagues). As you might imagine, you will find biased attitudes flourishing in departments populated by nearly any group you please. Just look at a science department in your average state university and notice the assumption of, say, methodological naturalism, if not just full-blown naturalism. Such notions are dogma. The right attitude and approach for Christians toward these issues, I think, is modeled in something like Alvin Plantinga’s “Advice to Christian Philosophers” or William Lane Craig’s (or was it Paul Gould’s?) “On Being a Christian Academic.”

      • Pete E. says:

        I’m not sure if that is generally true in biblical or theological studies, Jump. Not unheard of, but not commonly true. The closer the topic gets to touching core evangelical beliefs about the Bible the less true your claim is.

      • Andrew Dowling says:

        “Just look at a science department in your average state university and
        notice the assumption of, say, methodological naturalism,”

        That’s not a bias that’s called following the scientific method. Or would you diagnose someone’s stomach pains as due to demonic spirits inhabiting their gut?

        • Jump says:

          Hi Andrew…

          I’ll offer 3 replies:
          (1) No. I do take empirical science as one source of knowledge of the world. The situation you describe doesn’t follow from a denial of naturalism.
          (2) There is no such thing as “*the* scientific method”.
          (3) Naturalism, of either sort, is a philosophical view, not an empirical one.

    • Jeff Y says:

      I disagree with this. Substitute “Big Bang Theory Scientists” for “Evangelicals.” It is true that many Evangelicals are beholden to confessional standards they will never give up no matter what. But, there are plenty who would fall within that “category” who are such b/c of the conclusions they’ve drawn, just as a scientist would, but they are also not beholden to this as an axiom. As long as one is willing to change with evidence, then they can still be this (just as a scientist can hold to one view; but be willing entertain the possibility they are wrong. One might argue that Evangelicals cannot hold to their ideals – but they are not all of one stripe (some more liberal; some more conservative) and many are willing to change and do not see themeless holding to particular confessions; except as the evidence convinces them. One could say the same thing about the word “Christian” or “Atheist” or really, any belief.

  • And you wonder if the commitment to a pre-existent theological framework is really about doctrinal integrity or if it isn’t more about a culture of fear. What would happen to me if I questioned the Chicago Statement or the Westminster Confession?

  • Phil Ledgerwood says:

    And you wonder if the commitment to a pre-existent theological framework is really about doctrinal integrity or if it isn’t more about a culture of fear. What would happen to me if I questioned the Chicago Statement or the Westminster Confession?

  • Hill Roberts says:

    Dead on, Pete. The selected quotes in your article above are just dead on. Dead. Evangelicalism as at least I know it is on terminal life support but apparently doesn’t know it because we are unwilling to even listen to the doctor when he’s telling us how grave the situation is.

  • Hill Roberts says:

    Dead on, Pete. The selected quotes in your article above are just dead on. Dead. Evangelicalism as at least I know it is on terminal life support but apparently doesn’t know it because we are unwilling to even listen to the doctor when he’s telling us how grave the situation is.

  • Sheila Warner says:

    I’m reading this post a week after I finished “The Sin of Certainty”. I had many issues with the book. I own the book “A Bridge To Terabithia” & I watched the film. I was delighted Pete saw the film & was bothered by the question about hell. However, he never re-visit the question. We don’t know how Pete resolves the question. Also, the nuance between certainty/doubt is lost. Pete attacks thinking & substitutes trust. Trust isn’t well defined. Critical thinking involves claims, evidence, & reliable conclusions. Or, probable vs improbable. Focusing on “trust” as if it itself is knowable made me frustrated. This is why Evangelical Christians aren’t better represented in “Academia”. Pre-supposing God is essential to Evangelicals. That makes their foundations weak.

    • Tim says:

      Sheila, I think that’s a very interesting insight. While your garden variety evangelical may insulate their beliefs from critique by rejecting scholarship and science that doesn’t conform, Pete in his latest theological approach maneuvers to insulate his beliefs by making critique irrelevant. Is it merely a coincidence then that at the end of the day what is most important to him is still shielded from any and all criticism? Let someone else write the Pentateuch, let go of a historical Adam, let contradictions and errors abound in Scripture, but at the end of it all Pete holds the line at his idea of God, meaning the Trinity…Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. What he’s done is just redraw the boundary line. Instead of the doctrine of inerrancy being held immune from critique, Pete’s doctrine of trust as epistemological bedrock is immune from critique. And by extension his belief in the Holy Trinity as God. Even should he maintain that was never his intent from the start, and perhaps even himself sincerely believe that, the coincidence in how the same end effect is achieved is just too strong to ignore. But in the event I misunderstand all that and Pete does afford himself the same license to explore his faith with that same inwardly critical lens in openness to possibilities where, say, Jesus isn’t God from his “trust” point of view (mirroring the license he’d like to see evangelicals grant themselves to explore their doctrines of Scripture), then I’d like to hear how he might navigate such a thing in the approach he advocates.

      • Pete E. says:

        I understand where you are coming from, Tim. I used to live there. But your analysis and description of what you think I think misses the mark by quite a lot, in part because you continue to assume the validity of–let’s call it a “foundationalist epistemology.” Your imagining that I am treating trust as a “doctrine” (!!) where I now “hold the line” replacing things that I used to “hold the line” illustrates the problem—to unpack that one thought would take a lot of energy on my part.

        Let me suggest that you try to understand the position I am advocating from a place of sympathy and a true attempt to understand another. What I see, though, is you assuming the unmovable validity of your thinking process and then expressing absolute incredulity at those who process differently.

        For what it’s worth, and I’m not sure if you’ve read TSOC, but I list some important names in an endnote who represent a “contemplative” approach to the life of faith. I have found it over the years to be freeing from the dictates of modern analytical epistemologies–though also threatening for those who want to live in their heads.

        • Sheila Warner says:

          I’ve read some of the books you listed in your endnotes. That includes “Dark Night of the Soul”. Perhaps if you had included more of what your favorite contemplative people say, it might have been more clarifiying. You list books by the dozen in your endnotes. A reader of TSOC could be overwhelmed by the long lists you recommended. {Where to even start?) I recognize that you wanted to keep this book one of simplicity. Perhaps you could write another book on a contemplative approach to Christianity?

          I can’t speak for Tim, but I was a Christian of varying sects for a little over 50 years (counting only the time from age 8 when I accepted Jesus into my heart). Questions about my faith were actively suppressed as dangerous. It took about three years of investigating my faith–mostly from Christian sources, by the way–before I felt comfortable allowing the facts I was uncovering to inform my belief system. That “unmovable validity” which you seem to dismiss, is what led me out. At the time, I had no idea what “evidence” even was. I had no idea of logical principles. But my rational mind definitely kicked in, and I found that I just could no longer believe in any god. Once that revelation took place in my mind (and it was a sudden realization for me!} I found that I just could not believe anymore. It wasn’t a choice for me–my brain just put together all of the pieces & my conclusion was atheism. That was only four months ago. Since then, I’ve been seeking answers to how such a radical shift could have occurred. As I learned about reason, logic, and rational thinking, I began to see I had used those very tools unwittingly to end up as an atheist. I’d also ask for sympathy & a true attempt to understand those of us who criticize TSOC. After all, I’m still reading your books! I want to know how you arrive at your beliefs and POV.

      • Sheila Warner says:

        Pete did respond, and then I replied to him, if you can find it under the comments section. Anyway, my question was how HE resolved the dilemma after the movie moved him to tears. Also, what is the mechanism for trust? It’s a verb, after all, so how do you actually “do” it, in Christianity? I must admit that I find the assumption of a triune God existing, as the source of that trust, a bit of a stretch. So, it was a confusing book for me. Also, I tried to set my athesim aside, b/c I used to be a Christian. I didn’t want my bias to filter out what Pete was stating. Not sure if I succeeded in that or not.

      • Andrew Dowling says:

        Wow, Tim, talk about presupposing . . you are not being fair to Pete here and what you are describing does not mirror what he’s been blogging about either. I recall in a prior post you kept wanting to know “how Pete knew” he was right and Pete kept saying that wasn’t really an important/relevant question to him and it seems due to your conservative upbringing you can’t comprehend that.

    • Pete E. says:

      Sheila, you need the question resolved for you? Come now.

      Also, I am very clear in the book that I do not attack thinking. I say the opposite–repeatedly through the book, and I’m not sure how you could have read it and come away thinking that. I am saying, though, that critical thinking (concerning which I am no stranger) only takes one so far. Holding fast to it, as the only sure “foundation” of faith, is one way of expressing the “sin of certainty.”

      • Sheila Warner says:

        I wanted to know how YOU resolved the question of hell. It was such a great beginning. I want to know how you thought about what was said in the movie, seeing as it made you cry. Maybe I misunderstood your point in the first chapter. As to thinking, yes, it seemed as if you equated one’s beliefs about God as being how one thinks about God. And, the nebulous nature of trust vs certainty was not clear to me at the end. What is the mechanism of trust, I suppose, was what I was looking for I’ve read a few of your books, & I just found this one to be very confusing.

    • Dre'as Sanchez says:

      Presupposing God makes a position weak but presupposing no God doesn’t ?

      • Sheila Warner says:

        I don’t presume no god. Searching for him for decades stopped my belief. I remain open to any existence of a deity. But I have no reason to believe anymore. I was a Christian for over 50 years. For me, my search ended when I found I had no good reasons to keep believing.

        • Dre'as Sanchez says:

          I have a feeling when you reconnect to God this time of “absence” will greatly strengthen you.
          I’m a very grateful for those of you like yourself who are honest about their walk. I am 29, and I met God through my sufferings and I’ve been walking with God for about 4 years now but lately I seem to loose that “connection” so being able to read those “who have gone before” greatly allows for my perspective to deepen and to listen to wisdom which in turn keeps me connected to God. The more I feel “away” from God yet keep searching the more I feel “close” to Him by seeing that we all go through this journey and it’s real and it’s okay. 🙂

          • Sheila Warner says:

            Thank you for your kind reply. I wish you well. I was born into Christianity, but made a decision to accept Jesus when I was eight. By the time I hit 60 years old, after 58 years of searching for God (due to the many denominations around), I came to the realization that my belief had vanished. I certainly do not have a dim view of those who still believe. I do like explanations for certain ideas which I don’t fully understand, and I think Pete let the audience down by not demonstrating just how one puts trust into action. His inner doubts after seeing the movie were left unaddressed. How did trust impact him, since he was in tears over the statement? How was he able to process and resolve something which so bothered him? Oh well, I’ve always been a nudge with questions. Thanks again for the input. I really do appreciate your kindness.

          • Pete E. says:

            “I think Pete let the audience down by not demonstrating just how one puts trust into action.” Perhaps what you mean to say is “I think Pete let *me* down . . . “

          • Sheila Warner says:

            Based on other replies, I chose “audience”. Perhaps too broad on my part? Ok. Why not enlighten my thinking, then? I perceived annoyance, not engagement. I could be misinterpreting. I also try to be clearer if I am misunderstood. I’m trying to determine how trust is different from faith, and how that difference can impact a believer’s living out his Christianity.

  • Sheila Warner says:

    I’m reading this post a week after I finished “The Sin of Certainty”. I had many issues with the book. I own the book “A Bridge To Terabithia” & I watched the film. I was delighted Pete saw the film & was bothered by the question about hell. However, he never re-visit the question. We don’t know how Pete resolves the question. Also, the nuance between certainty/doubt is lost. Pete attacks thinking & substitutes trust. Trust isn’t well defined. Critical thinking involves claims, evidence, & reliable conclusions. Or, probable vs improbable. Focusing on “trust” as if it itself is knowable made me frustrated. This is why Evangelical Christians aren’t better represented in “Academia”. Pre-supposing God is essential to Evangelicals. That makes their foundations weak.

    • Pete E. says:

      Sheila, you need the question resolved for you? Come now.

      Also, I am very clear in the book that I do not attack thinking. I say the opposite–repeatedly through the book, and I’m not sure how you could have read it and come away thinking that. I am saying, though, that critical thinking (concerning which I am no stranger) only takes one so far. Holding fast to it, as the only sure “foundation” of faith, is one way of expressing the “sin of certainty.”

      • Sheila Warner says:

        I wanted to know how YOU resolved the question of hell. It was such a great beginning. I want to know how you thought about what was said in the movie, seeing as it made you cry. Maybe I misunderstood your point in the first chapter. As to thinking, yes, it seemed as if you equated one’s beliefs about God as being how one thinks about God. And, the nebulous nature of trust vs certainty was not clear to me at the end. What is the mechanism of trust, I suppose, was what I was looking for I’ve read a few of your books, & I just found this one to be very confusing.

    • Dre'as Sanchez says:

      Presupposing God makes a position weak but presupposing no God doesn’t ?

      • Sheila Warner says:

        I don’t presume no god. Searching for him for decades stopped my belief. I remain open to any existence of a deity. But I have no reason to believe anymore. I was a Christian for over 50 years. For me, my search ended when I found I had no good reasons to keep believing.

        • Dre'as Sanchez says:

          I have a feeling when you reconnect to God this time of “absence” will greatly strengthen you.
          I’m a very grateful for those of you like yourself who are honest about their walk. I am 29, and I met God through my sufferings and I’ve been walking with God for about 4 years now but lately I seem to loose that “connection” so being able to read those “who have gone before” greatly allows for my perspective to deepen and to listen to wisdom which in turn keeps me connected to God. The more I feel “away” from God yet keep searching the more I feel “close” to Him by seeing that we all go through this journey and it’s real and it’s okay. 🙂

  • Dre'as Sanchez says:

    Fuego!!!

  • Dre'as Sanchez says:

    Fuego!!!

  • jrw says:

    I believe that the main problem evangelicals have with the theory of evolution is that it implies that the sinfulness of humankind is not based on the willful disobedience of the first man, but is a result of the creative process that brought us into being. Evolution tells us that our brains evolved over millions of years and, in fact, we still share a hindbrain with reptiles. Our sinful nature derives from a necessary drive to survive and reproduce, not a conscious decision to defy God. In other words, we have the mind of God superimposed over the physiological impulses of a reptile. Paul expressed this conflict when he bemoaned the fact that things he knew he should do, he didn’t, and things he knew he shouldn’t do, he did. (paraphrased)

    • Gary says:

      There is definitely a superimposition here.

      • JRW says:

        I would be interested in what you are referring to in your comment. I would like to elaborate just a bit on what I meant by “the mind of God.” I was referring to human consciousness which includes knowledge of good and evil.

        • Gary says:

          To me and to many others, the superimposition of a contemporary understanding of reality onto an ancient text with its foundations destroys what the original authors and redactors had in mind for their audiences and their lives’ needs and complexities. We can add layers of meaning making, but I personally find it interesting as part of a bigger stories where others’ stories are retained.

    • Andrew Dowling says:

      Yes, behind the opposition to evolution is a fear that the resolution for the problem of theodicy taught to them crumbles if there is not a literal first man who sinned in the Garden.

      • Jonathan Edwards says:

        Yes!

        Fundygelical here. I’m new to Enns (though I know I’ve read something of his) but the discussions and topics here are very engaging.

        I seriously can’t get over this. My perspective of biblical inerrancy and authority, creation, historicity and all that, it’s all tied together. I really want to know how I’m supposed to understand the Bible–first Adam, historical Jesus, bodily resurrection– other than literally. (Not to snark snarkily say, “as it says it is.) Really I want to know, and I like the discussion.

        Help me! Thanks!

  • jrw says:

    I believe that the main problem evangelicals have with the theory of evolution is that it implies that the sinfulness of humankind is not based on the willful disobedience of the first man, but is a result of the creative process that brought us into being. Evolution tells us that our brains evolved over millions of years and, in fact, we still share a hindbrain with reptiles. Our sinful nature derives from a necessary drive to survive and reproduce, not a conscious decision to defy God. In other words, we have the mind of God superimposed over the physiological impulses of a reptile. Paul expressed this conflict when he bemoaned the fact that things he knew he should do, he didn’t, and things he knew he shouldn’t do, he did. (paraphrased)

    • Gary says:

      There is definitely a superimposition here.

    • Andrew Dowling says:

      Yes, behind the opposition to evolution is a fear that the resolution for the problem of theodicy taught to them crumbles if there is not a literal first man who sinned in the Garden.

      • Jonathan Edwards says:

        Yes!

        Fundygelical here. I’m new to Enns (though I know I’ve read something of his) but the discussions and topics here are very engaging.

        I seriously can’t get over this. My perspective of biblical inerrancy and authority, creation, historicity and all that, it’s all tied together. I really want to know how I’m supposed to understand the Bible–first Adam, historical Jesus, bodily resurrection– other than literally. (Not to snark snarkily say, “as it says it is.) Really I want to know, and I like the discussion.

        Help me! Thanks!

  • Luke Lindon says:

    It’s why I left the Roman Catholic church as well. They don’t go from the Bible or science, but largely tradition. Same thing, different denomination. Meanwhile, in the mainline…

    • Andrew Shroyer says:

      Crossan and Raymond Brown are/ were Catholics and that’s not the case for them at all though.

      • Luke Lindon says:

        Richard Rohr is amazing too. The average layperson though… well…

      • Paul D. says:

        My knowledge of Catholic intellectual history is limited, but wasn’t higher criticism mostly off-limits until Raymond Brown made it acceptable? It’s only in Protestantism (particularly liberal Protestantism) where biblical scholarship has developed and thrived. And I doubt very much whether Crossan’s excellent scholarship would be accepted by most Catholics today.

  • Luke Lindon says:

    It’s why I left the Roman Catholic church as well. They don’t go from the Bible or science, but largely tradition. Same thing, different denomination. Meanwhile, in the mainline…

    • Andrew Shroyer says:

      Crossan and Raymond Brown are/ were Catholics and that’s not the case for them at all though.

      • Luke Lindon says:

        Richard Rohr is amazing too. The average layperson though… well…

      • Paul D. says:

        My knowledge of Catholic intellectual history is limited, but wasn’t higher criticism mostly off-limits until Raymond Brown made it acceptable? It’s only in Protestantism (particularly liberal Protestantism) where biblical scholarship has developed and thrived. And I doubt very much whether Crossan’s excellent scholarship would be accepted by most Catholics today.

  • MartyB says:

    If you define something narrowly enough, then of course, it’s easy to criticize. I often find “evangelical” defined in such way that only those who have the most narrow minded beliefs included, which frankly, is much less varied than my experience has been. I have come across just as many narrow minded “progressive Christians” that have no interest in having their beliefs challenged as I have “evangelicals, so I view these types of comments as generally pointless and bordering on “othering as idiots” those who disagree with the writer’s beliefs.

    I understand others may have come from strains of “evangelicalism” that are much less open, and perhaps in some cases unhealthily so, but labeling all “evangelicals” as such does a great dis-service to many intellectually sharp and open minded members of the body of Christ.

    • Pete E. says:

      I hear you but it’s not just the “narrowest” iterations that are open to being criticized. I’m pretty familiar with the landscape.

      • MartyB says:

        Thanks for the response Pete. Yeah, I am somewhat familiar with your background – recently listened to a Liturgists Podcast you were on and enjoyed it – and figure that you being a professional observer of Christianity probably have a wider experience with these things. I am just a regular guy who has been in and out of evangelical subculture for the past 40 years – currently somewhat in, by choice – but my experience is that regular folk evangelicals are no less prone to shutting down their brains than any other group. For every E that rejects evolution there is a P that sincerely believes the opposing political party really does want to starve women and children.

        In other words, it’s opposing groups simply allowing a common human trait to cloud their thinking.

        Maybe things are a bit different at at the intellectual scholarship level, which I admit don’t spend a lot of time keeping track of. But again the experience I do have gives me the impression that the liberal intellectual wing seems to have less tolerance for opposing opinions and often basically regards their conservative counterparts as morons – resorting to subtle ad homien much more often – rather than addressing disagreements with reasoned arguments.

        Maybe my experience is unique, or out of the mainstream, but every time I hear about widespread craziness in evangelical culture, I wonder where all these crazy folks are, since I run across them only rarely.

    • Paul D. says:

      I believe the point is not so much how narrow-minded the beliefs are, and more that evangelical institutions require staff to adhere to a statement of faith that restricts their research findings.

      • Andrew Dowling says:

        Exactly. False equivalence . . “liberals” may be dismissive of conservative views, but a conservative is never forced to sign a statement not affirming the virgin birth. Conservatives by their very nature place a greater value on conformity than liberals, which is one reason why the conservative movement has been more successful in the past decades than the liberal movement . . because liberals can’t even agree on what their pillars should be.

  • Pete E. says:

    I hear you but it’s not just the “narrowest” iterations that are open to being criticized. I’m pretty familiar with the landscape.

    • MartyB says:

      Thanks for the response Pete. Yeah, I am somewhat familiar with your background – recently listened to a Liturgists Podcast you were on and enjoyed it – and figure that you being a professional observer of Christianity probably have a wider experience with these things. I am just a regular guy who has been in and out of evangelical subculture for the past 40 years – currently somewhat in, by choice – but my experience is that regular folk evangelicals are no less prone to shutting down their brains than any other group. For every E that rejects evolution there is a P that sincerely believes the opposing political party really does want to starve women and children.

      In other words, it’s opposing groups simply allowing a common human trait to cloud their thinking.

      Maybe things are a bit different at at the intellectual scholarship level, which I admit don’t spend a lot of time keeping track of. But again the experience I do have gives me the impression that the liberal intellectual wing seems to have less tolerance for opposing opinions and often basically regards their conservative counterparts as morons – resorting to subtle ad homien much more often – rather than addressing disagreements with reasoned arguments.

      Maybe my experience is unique, or out of the mainstream, but every time I hear about widespread craziness in evangelical culture, I wonder where all these crazy folks are, since I run across them only rarely.

  • Marshall says:

    I’ve been reading Bebbington’s Evangelicalism in Modern Britain, which Knoll goes to for his 4-point characteristics. When it emerged in the eighteenth century evangelicalism was a creative response to the intersection of the Lutherans et all on the one hand and the Whiggish Enlightenment on the other. I don’t see that it was in origin defensive at all, although institutional Evangelicalism has developed a fortress mentality somewhere along the way, as has some branches of Elightenmentarianism, eg the New Atheists. The quest for certainty has been a terrible thing.

    For sure we could spend more time talking about what those four points mean. Ready to start any time over here.

    • Paul D. says:

      I believe the point is not so much how narrow-minded the beliefs are, and more that evangelical institutions require staff to adhere to a statement of faith that restricts their research findings.

      • Andrew Dowling says:

        Exactly. False equivalence . . “liberals” may be dismissive of conservative views, but a conservative is never forced to sign a statement not affirming the virgin birth. Conservatives by their very nature place a greater value on conformity than liberals, which is one reason why the conservative movement has been more successful in the past decades than the liberal movement . . because liberals can’t even agree on what their pillars should be.

  • Marshall says:

    I’ve been reading Bebbington’s Evangelicalism in Modern Britain, which Knoll goes to for his 4-point characteristics. When it emerged in the eighteenth century evangelicalism was a creative response to the intersection of the Lutherans et all on the one hand and the Whiggish Enlightenment on the other. I don’t see that it was in origin defensive at all, although institutional Evangelicalism has developed a fortress mentality somewhere along the way, as has some branches of Elightenmentarianism, eg the New Atheists. The quest for certainty has been a terrible thing.

    For sure we could spend more time talking about what those four points mean. Ready to start any time over here.

  • Steve Ranney says:

    Yes I found the followup Noll published to be disappointing. He cited a few happy stories but I was waiting for him to say something like ‘nothing much has changed.’ I guess in pointing to Peter Enns and other writers who are exploring new directions, he did highlight the positive developments. Most of those are pretty recent it seems like.

  • Steve Ranney says:

    Yes I found the followup Noll published to be disappointing. He cited a few happy stories but I was waiting for him to say something like ‘nothing much has changed.’ I guess in pointing to Peter Enns and other writers who are exploring new directions, he did highlight the positive developments. Most of those are pretty recent it seems like.

  • Gary says:

    I’d be curious to understand what you mean by Evangelical identity and why you embrace it.

    • John W. Morehead says:

      I mean that I have evangelical Christian faith commitments as a member of the tribe, but without the compartmentalization of doctrine and intellectual inquiry. I am closer to British evangelicalism. Why not embrace it?

  • Pete E. says:

    I understand where you are coming from, Tim. I used to live there. But your analysis and description of what you think I think misses the mark by quite a lot, in part because you continue to assume the validity of–let’s call it a “foundationalist epistemology.” Your imagining that I am treating trust as a “doctrine” (!!) where I now “hold the line” replacing things that I used to “hold the line” illustrates the problem—to unpack that one thought would take a lot of energy on my part.

    Let me suggest that you try to understand the position I am advocating from a place of sympathy and a true attempt to understand another. What I see, though, is you assuming the unmovable validity of your thinking process and then expressing absolute incredulity at those who process differently.

    For what it’s worth, and I’m not sure if you’ve read TSOC, but I list some important names in an endnote who represent a “contemplative” approach to the life of faith. I have found it over the years to be freeing from the dictates of modern analytical epistemologies–though also threatening for those who want to live in their heads.

    • Tim says:

      Pete,

      Thank you for the response. But I’ve noticed in your recent conversations at least, that you’ve taken to categorizing and labeling people’s perspectives so as to point out what you think is deficient in them (or at least not shared and therefore irrelevant to you). I question the need to do so. And why this has become something you’ve done now with increasing frequency.

      For instance, you suggest that I am coming from a “foundationalist” epistemology. Foundationalism is of course a now defunct epistemology. We can never know something so certainly and comprehensively to have it serve as an unquestionable foundation. And a long history of attempts that have failed in embarrassingly spectacular fashions have convinced us to relegate foundationalism to the graveyard of failed philosophy. Though unfortunately Evangelicals have largely missed this memo. And fundamentalists absolutely require it.

      Yet you believe I’ve redirected foundationalism and applied it to what you see as my epistemology. Such that my way of “knowing” becomes foundational and therefore unquestionable with every other way of “knowing” (or substitute “trusting” etc.) deemed wrong at the outset. And this I don’t think is at all accurate or fair.

      Every time I’ve engaged you on this I have asked you to essentially connect the dots for me. Walk me through what you’re doing and how this makes sense. Explain how this gives you confidence. In the broader context of human experience. I haven’t attempted to force you into any specific “way of knowing.” I haven’t asked you to abide by scientific standards of evidence. Or empiricist standards of evidence. Just keeping the door open to anything really. But so far you really haven’t. Except to say it doesn’t apply. And your explanations for why it doesn’t apply seem to rely almost entirely on labels. They don’t apply because I’m a “foundationalist” (though I’m not). They don’t apply because I’m an empiricist (though I’m not). And so on.

      Please note the last sentence of my reply to Sheila above. “In the event that I misunderstood all that…” All I’m asking is for you to walk me through how you navigate through this. That is where the sincere attempt at understanding you are asking for is being expressed.

      Walk me through how you have any confidence in your faith when other mystics and contemplatives in other religions have experiences that mirror yours. Just walk me through that. I leave the door wide open as to how.

      Walk me through how you would extend your exploration of God and spirituality, and how to trust him, in a way that is open to, say, the possibility that Jesus isn’t God. That your understanding of God in the sense of the Holy Trinity is wrong. Can you walk me through that? And if the answer is you can’t or won’t explore that possibility, can you explain why? And if the same approach you adopt is taken up by mystics and contemplatives of other faiths, can you walk me through how this wouldn’t lock them into their respective beliefs as well?

      So do you see in here anywhere this restrictive methodology I’m imposing? Or rather am I leaving the door wide open? Because I feel I am.

      On a side note, yes, I am familiar that there are many esteemed Christians who advocate contemplative approaches to spirituality. And I think this is an excellent point to make to Evangelical Fundamentalists who tend to be unaware of Christianity’s history and expression outside their preferred self-reinforcing narrative. With respect to this discussion, however, we also have to note the presence of mystics and contemplatives in other faiths. For instance, in my hypothetical Muslim version of “The Sin of Certainty” we might be reading had you by historical accident been born in Pakistan, you would have noted several Islamic mystics and contemplatives, which would have been an excellent point to try to broaden the perspective of Islamic fundamentalists. And then of course when we ask what relevance this ought have to people of other faiths we return to the question of what relevance noting the presence of esteemed Christian mystics and contemplatives have here. And then I would merely pose the question to you.

      • Sheila Warner says:

        I just read your reply. I think you and I are basically asking the same questions here. Walk us through your process of trust, how it works, how you came to your conclusion that trust is the end-all of living out your version of Christianity. I spent years trying to connect the dots. I can’t read Pete’s heart, but it seems to me he may still be struggling with his own trust issues, and our critiques are making him defensive. We have left the door open for further explanation, and he hasn’t really given us that explanation. I’ve not had these types of responses from him before. Perhaps others are critiquing the book in the same way? Perhaps he feels under attack. I don’t know. It’s all very confusing.

        • Pete E. says:

          I know you’re in a lot of pain, Sheila, but I am not going to be able to ease your pain by “connecting the dots” for you. You have not yet left fundamentalism, you are just transferring it. Let go of the dots. I think that’s the place to start.

          • for many people in the process of grief and loss they can get hung up on the bargaining stage for decades. IMHO people trying to avoid their depression is similar to alcoholics trying to avoid their fourth step.

    • Sheila Warner says:

      I’ve read some of the books you listed in your endnotes. That includes “Dark Night of the Soul”. Perhaps if you had included more of what your favorite contemplative people say, it might have been more clarifiying. You list books by the dozen in your endnotes. A reader of TSOC could be overwhelmed by the long lists you recommended. {Where to even start?) I recognize that you wanted to keep this book one of simplicity. Perhaps you could write another book on a contemplative approach to Christianity?

      I can’t speak for Tim, but I was a Christian of varying sects for a little over 50 years (counting only the time from age 8 when I accepted Jesus into my heart). Questions about my faith were actively suppressed as dangerous. It took about three years of investigating my faith–mostly from Christian sources, by the way–before I felt comfortable allowing the facts I was uncovering to inform my belief system. That “unmovable validity” which you seem to dismiss, is what led me out. At the time, I had no idea what “evidence” even was. I had no idea of logical principles. But my rational mind definitely kicked in, and I found that I just could no longer believe in any god. Once that revelation took place in my mind (and it was a sudden realization for me!} I found that I just could not believe anymore. It wasn’t a choice for me–my brain just put together all of the pieces & my conclusion was atheism. That was only four months ago. Since then, I’ve been seeking answers to how such a radical shift could have occurred. As I learned about reason, logic, and rational thinking, I began to see I had used those very tools unwittingly to end up as an atheist. I’d also ask for sympathy & a true attempt to understand those of us who criticize TSOC. After all, I’m still reading your books! I want to know how you arrive at your beliefs and POV.

  • Lindy Backues says:

    Yup – we are not allowed to truly argue; instead, we hurl ad hominems and scream.

    And, I fear, in some ways this has got worse since conservatives and progressives increasingly have ended up contained in echo chambers of our own making, hermetically sealed off into silos of group-think from each other. Social media has greatly assisted in this process, of course, beginning with the advent of the printing press, the radio, advanced greatly by the TV, but hugely, hugely, hugely assisted by rise and ubiquity of the internet. When any of us come out of our echo chambers and enter into a wider conversation, few others who happen to hear us seem prepared with an ability to engage in actual civil discourse. But, does this mean that all discourse is just cacophony, with no regnant point of view and all simply screaming? I don’t think that is what we experience. Persons end up in charge, but not based upon the power of the best ideas.

    There are still persons in power (whoever happens to be in power at the time) who serve as gate-keepers, but now they do so by virtue of a collection of smuggled-in, uncriticized rules of engagement (ones that happen to agree with whichever camp the power holders privilege.) This gives us a veneer of pluralism without any of its substance. Thus, the content of the unscrutinized rules of engagement change, but the fact there are these rules persists as a constant – we simply often do no realize it. Control ends up swapped back and forth, quite dependent upon a contest the likes of which, I fear, we often do not understand.

    I see this happening in American Christianity of the last century or so. I think control of power in the early and middle part of the twentieth century was maintained by those on the so-called classical Liberal side (thus, the need for the establishment of Westminster Seminary and Carl Henry’s ‘The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism’ as a counter move.) At those times, theological Liberals were in charge and these power-holders set the rules and a priori adjudicated the contours of what was allowed discourse – they decided the allowable nature of predetermined conclusions; all American theologicals could discuss, provided, in the end, we all agreed with Graff-Wellhausen (striclty!) Graf-Wellhausen, Bultmann, Hick, and (at best), Cox’s ‘The Secular City’ (of course, there was a lot of diversity here – Liberals allowed more than they restricted – but strict restriction was still very much de rigueur.)

    Since the relatively recent American swing toward cultural conservatism – beginning with the Reagan years (in American Evangelicalism, this seems to have been at least in part been marked by the fundamentalist take-over of Southern Seminary in the late 70s, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_Baptist_Convention_conservative_resurgence) – the gate-keepers (who politically seized power quite apart from any reasoned argument or any probing scrutiny of actual conclusions under-girded by free inquiry) have been conservative mavens. Thus, a priori gate-keeping looks different now, but it still happens. The victims have changed identity, but victims there remain.

    In the end, neither side knows how to actually argue, to actually engage in what Jurgen Habermas calls something approaching an ideal speech situation. Predetermined normative ethics are regnant going into any sort of discussion – Habermas recommends that we jettison that sort of approach, replacing it with rules of engagement more like what prevails at a baseball game or a soccer match, where rules of play (that Habermas claims are assumed by all of us in the very act of discourse) serve as guides toward performative (as opposed to normative) ethics and strivings toward justice. The power of a clear, uncoerced and reasoned argument, in the end, should prevail. But, alas, we only know how to do the normative ethic dance – and anything not wed to this is taken to be unreasonable (irrespective of analysis of ethical method by persons like Habermas, Gadamer, MacIntyre or Charles Taylor.) In the end, we now know less how to speak with and to each other in any type of fair way (of course, there has never been a golden age of fair speech – but, our inabilities in previous epochs are now magnified and intensified by social media and global reach. We still suck at it, but we now suck at it globally.)

    I could add more, but I will leave things there. Just a stab into the ether in relation to your comments, Pete.

    • Gary says:

      I agree much. Beyond knowing how to argue, I think the terminal issue is that in this subculture, nobody knows how to build *consensus* except through more brutish mechanisms centripetal to power.

      I mentioned something similar in response to another post here a week or so ago.

      One of the delights of the scientific method is centrally about its ability to build consensus. Hypotheses, etc. are part of the system and there’s a role for argumentation/presentation too, but the power is in the ability to build consensus. It so good that it can be used to create consensus across race, creed, color, sex, and much, much more.

      In consensus building, there’s also space the likes of patience, kindness, goodness, and more. Perhaps those can smooth the argumentation.

      Without hierarchical ecclesiology or councils, I’m not sure what the Protestant experiment has offered consensus.

      Often in discussion with believers, they bring upon the vocabulary of “empirical” or “evidence” or “proof” when I never do. What I’m really looking for in their claims is their plan is to build consensus–among those in their tribe, the next tribe over, and far beyond.

      Jump mentioned Platinga here in this comment thread and this can’t help but make me think of his notion of the Sensus divinitatis. However, in my opinion, his conception’s greatest weakness is in its individualistic foundations of its epistemology.

      The scandal of the mind we’re talking about here is about the shared mind. The scandal of the implicit individualism is more in the scandal of heart.

      • Jump says:

        I’m not sure I understand your concern regarding Plantinga’s Reformed Epistemology and the sensus divinitatus, and its being individualistic. Would you say more?

        • Gary says:

          Just searched quick through Warranted Christian Belief on Kindle. To me, Platinga’s sense of epistemology is individualistic and he doesn’t really have a system for which consensus can be built where different individuals with different understandings of Gods can come together around what each finds to be their own intrinsic sense of the divine. A resolution of the model is today’s reality, where different individuals and groups of individuals can find their respective conceptions of God as most correct and respectively the others’ as substantially flawed due to the noetic effects of sin. It facilitates playground-level discourse: “I’m right and you’re wrong.”

          • Jump says:

            I see. Thank you. Well, the soundness of his account doesn’t depend on whether there exists a further account of how to deal with religious disagreement. “Consensus-building,” whatever its nature or value might be in this context, has no relevance to the truth or falsity of his view, seems to me. We should be concerned first with whether the view is true or false, no? I should also point out that expecting an account that involves consensus-building may be a little out of place here, given that he’s an epistemic *externalist*, a view according to which you don’t even need to be aware of how your beliefs are warranted in order to have knowledge–so it’s not surprising that he doesn’t think much of consensus-achieving projects, such as that of natural theology. I am inclined to disagree with him on the value of natural theology.

            I don’t want to dismiss your criticism about playground-level discourse, but to put it in perspective, the disagreement that you envision resulting from Plantinga’s view is no more problematic than the disagreement that results when two people argue over the existence of a mind-independent world, or over whether their senses are veridical. Having said all this, I should note that he does have something to say about how to approach religious disagreement–he would thus disagree that people on opposing sides are at an impasse.

          • Gary says:

            Ah, so how do we come to concern ourselves whether a view is true or not?

          • Jump says:

            Do you mean what are the modes by which one determines whether a view is true or false?

          • Gary says:

            More means than modes.

          • Jump says:

            Sorry for the delay. If by “means” you mean causes, that could include eyeballs, ears, brains, souls, tongues, Alpha Centauri and ever so many other things that can stand in the causal chain of belief formation.

  • Lindy Backues says:

    Yup – we are not allowed to truly argue; instead, we hurl ad hominems and scream.

    And, I fear, in some ways this has got worse since conservatives and progressives increasingly have ended up contained in echo chambers of our own making, hermetically sealed off into silos of group-think from each other. Social media has greatly assisted in this process, of course, beginning with the advent of the printing press, the radio, advanced greatly by the TV, but hugely, hugely, hugely assisted by rise and ubiquity of the internet. When any of us come out of our echo chambers and enter into a wider conversation, few others who happen to hear us seem prepared with an ability to engage in actual civil discourse. But, does this mean that all discourse is just cacophony, with no regnant point of view and all simply screaming? I don’t think that is what we experience. Persons end up in charge, but not based upon the power of the best ideas.

    There are still persons in power (whoever happens to be in power at the time) who serve as gate-keepers, but now they do so by virtue of a collection of smuggled-in, uncriticized rules of engagement (ones that happen to agree with whichever camp the power holders privilege.) This gives us a veneer of pluralism without any of its substance. Thus, the content of the unscrutinized rules of engagement change, but the fact there are these rules persists as a constant – we simply often do no realize it. Control ends up swapped back and forth, quite dependent upon a contest the likes of which, I fear, we often do not understand.

    I see this happening in American Christianity of the last century or so. I think control of power in the early and middle part of the twentieth century was maintained by those on the so-called classical Liberal side (thus, the need for the establishment of Westminster Seminary and Carl Henry’s ‘The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism’ as a counter move.) At those times, theological Liberals were in charge and these power-holders set the rules and a priori adjudicated the contours of what was allowed discourse – they decided the allowable nature of predetermined conclusions; all American theologicals could discuss, provided, in the end, we all agreed with Graff-Wellhausen (striclty!) Graf-Wellhausen, Bultmann, Hick, and (at best), Cox’s ‘The Secular City’ (of course, there was a lot of diversity here – Liberals allowed more than they restricted – but strict restriction was still very much de rigueur.)

    Since the relatively recent American swing toward cultural conservatism – beginning with the Reagan years (in American Evangelicalism, this seems to have been at least in part been marked by the fundamentalist take-over of Southern Seminary in the late 70s, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_Baptist_Convention_conservative_resurgence) – the gate-keepers (who politically seized power quite apart from any reasoned argument or any probing scrutiny of actual conclusions under-girded by free inquiry) have been conservative mavens. Thus, a priori gate-keeping looks different now, but it still happens. The victims have changed identity, but victims there remain.

    In the end, neither side knows how to actually argue, to actually engage in what Jurgen Habermas calls something approaching an ideal speech situation. Predetermined normative ethics are regnant going into any sort of discussion – Habermas recommends that we jettison that sort of approach, replacing it with rules of engagement more like what prevails at a baseball game or a soccer match, where rules of play (that Habermas claims are assumed by all of us in the very act of discourse) serve as guides toward performative (as opposed to normative) ethics and strivings toward justice. The power of a clear, uncoerced and reasoned argument, in the end, should prevail. But, alas, we only know how to do the normative ethic dance – and anything not wed to this is taken to be unreasonable (irrespective of analysis of ethical method by persons like Habermas, Gadamer, MacIntyre or Charles Taylor.) In the end, we now know less how to speak with and to each other in any type of fair way (of course, there has never been a golden age of fair speech – but, our inabilities in previous epochs are now magnified and intensified by social media and global reach. We still suck at it, but we now suck at it globally.)

    I could add more, but I will leave things there. Just a stab into the ether in relation to your comments, Pete.

    • Gary says:

      I agree much. Beyond knowing how to argue, I think the terminal issue is that in this subculture, nobody knows how to build *consensus* except through more brutish mechanisms centripetal to power.

      I mentioned something similar in response to another post here a week or so ago.

      One of the delights of the scientific method is centrally about its ability to build consensus. Hypotheses, etc. are part of the system and there’s a role for argumentation/presentation too, but the power is in the ability to build consensus. It so good that it can be used to create consensus across race, creed, color, sex, and much, much more.

      In consensus building, there’s also space the likes of patience, kindness, goodness, and more. Perhaps those can smooth the argumentation.

      Without hierarchical ecclesiology or councils, I’m not sure what the Protestant experiment has offered consensus.

      Often in discussion with believers, they bring upon the vocabulary of “empirical” or “evidence” or “proof” when I never do. What I’m really looking for in their claims is their plan is to build consensus–among those in their tribe, the next tribe over, and far beyond.

      Jump mentioned Platinga here in this comment thread and this can’t help but make me think of his notion of the Sensus divinitatis. However, in my opinion, his conception’s greatest weakness is in its individualistic foundations of its epistemology.

      The scandal of the mind we’re talking about here is about the shared mind. The scandal of the implicit individualism is more in the scandal of heart.

      • Jump says:

        I’m not sure I understand your concern regarding Plantinga’s Reformed Epistemology and the sensus divinitatus, and its being individualistic. Would you say more?

  • Sheila Warner says:

    Pete did respond, and then I replied to him, if you can find it under the comments section. Anyway, my question was how HE resolved the dilemma after the movie moved him to tears. Also, what is the mechanism for trust? It’s a verb, after all, so how do you actually “do” it, in Christianity? I must admit that I find the assumption of a triune God existing, as the source of that trust, a bit of a stretch. So, it was a confusing book for me. Also, I tried to set my athesim aside, b/c I used to be a Christian. I didn’t want my bias to filter out what Pete was stating. Not sure if I succeeded in that or not.

  • “The scandal of the Evangelical mind is that doctrine determines academic conclusions.”

    Now here’s a genuine question. Is doctrine or dogma enforced by an institution not fundamentally opposed to intellectual freedom and academic integrity? I’m not talking here about theological positions of an institution so much as beliefs that a participant in that community must affirm. I’m also not suggesting people with strong religious or ideological beliefs cannot fully participate in academic pursuits. What I’m asking is, are higher education institutions (such as many evangelical colleges) that mandate certain positions be held by their professors or students not in some sense short selling their mission? You really cannot have it both ways. If the primary mission of the institution is simply proselytization of a set of unchallengeable beliefs and *not* criticism, debate, and self-examination – well, that’s fine. But why even harbor a pretense that what you are about is education (which requires criticism, debate, and self-examination)?

    Frankly, I’m concerned about stigma being attached to such evangelical colleges and universities for these reasons – and I’m worried that that stigma will create a negative feedback loop, such that evangelicals will double down and stifle inquiry precisely on those subjects which are most contentious and require the most discussion.

    • Gary says:

      In the Russell Crowe movie Gladiator, there’s this scene where Commodus, desperate and jealous of Maximus’ growing popularity, challenges him to a duel in the Colosseum.

      That a gladiator would gain the admiration and respect of the people in ways that the Emperor cannot is unthinkable.

      Commodus doubles down. He wants to win in the arena. It’s a space of no-holds-barred rules. Or at least he wants to appear as winning in that rule set too.

      You can want to appear as if you can have it both ways.

      But to win in the arena requires you to win in the arena.

  • “The scandal of the Evangelical mind is that doctrine determines academic conclusions.”

    Now here’s a genuine question. Is doctrine or dogma enforced by an institution not fundamentally opposed to intellectual freedom and academic integrity? I’m not talking here about theological positions of an institution so much as beliefs that a participant in that community must affirm. I’m also not suggesting people with strong religious or ideological beliefs cannot fully participate in academic pursuits. What I’m asking is, are higher education institutions (such as many evangelical colleges) that mandate certain positions be held by their professors or students not in some sense short selling their mission? You really cannot have it both ways. If the primary mission of the institution is simply proselytization of a set of unchallengeable beliefs and *not* criticism, debate, and self-examination – well, that’s fine. But why even harbor a pretense that what you are about is education (which requires criticism, debate, and self-examination)?

    Frankly, I’m concerned about stigma being attached to such evangelical colleges and universities for these reasons – and I’m worried that that stigma will create a negative feedback loop, such that evangelicals will double down and stifle inquiry precisely on those subjects which are most contentious and require the most discussion.

    • Gary says:

      In the Russell Crowe movie Gladiator, there’s this scene where Commodus, desperate and jealous of Maximus’ growing popularity, challenges him to a duel in the Colosseum.

      That a gladiator would gain the admiration and respect of the people in ways that the Emperor cannot is unthinkable.

      Commodus doubles down. He wants to win in the arena. It’s a space of no-holds-barred rules. Or at least he wants to appear as winning in that rule set too.

      You can want to appear as if you can have it both ways.

      But to win in the arena requires you to win in the arena.

  • Dre'as Sanchez says:

    Label it progressive and it works. Lol

  • Jump says:

    Seriously, Clark? “Full-blown” naturalism = metaphysical naturalism.

    • Gary says:

      I was just reacting to the snark of polemic.

      • Jump says:

        I don’t know what that means. I was giving you the benefit of the doubt, and answering as if it was an honest question, but it appears you were being snarky. Nothing in my question was snarky.

        • Gary says:

          I doubt anyone subscribing to metaphysical naturalism would describe it as “full blown.”

          • Jump says:

            I’m not sure metaphysical naturalists would care either way about it being called “full blown.” But nothing hangs on the terminology. Leave it aside if it bothers you. It was just a way of using a tad less jargon.

          • Jump says:

            Gary, your comment crossed my mind the other day. I wondered why one would think “full blown” snarky or “full blown naturalism” objectionable. Then it occurred to me: even though I use it as a benign expression, it may well be a uniquely American expression with objectionable connotations elsewhere–assuming you aren’t from the U.S.

          • Gary says:

            I’m American and, anecdotally, I believe I’ve seen “full blown” used significantly more in a pejorative sense than complementary sense. Examples might be “full-blown hypertension” or “full-blown AIDS” vs. “full-blown health.”

            I don’t think one naturalist would commonly refer to his fellow adherent in a complementarily identifying sense as a “full-blown naturalist” anymore than parallel insiders would complement their insider as a “full-blown theist.” If your experience has indicated “full blown” as commonly used in a complementary sense, I understand.

            My experience is that it’s principally derogatory phrasing, thus I had assumed polemic.

  • “…does the adjective ‘Evangelical’ necessarily draw clear limits for any intellectual pursuit?’

    There must be some limits outside of which it is no longer appropriate to call someone “Evangelical.” All movements have to have some type of intellectual boundaries – core concepts which serve to define the movement.

    So, in response to the question posed above, I would say yes, there must be some limits the Evangelical intellectual pursuit. If someone comes to the conclusion that Jesus was not the Divine Son of God, I would argue that they simply shouldn’t use the term “Evangelical” to define themselves. The alternative is that the term “Evangelical” simply becomes non-meaningful.

    Evangelical institutions are never going to encourage conclusions which are in direct opposition to core Evangelical convictions. Individuals may explore these areas and come to conclusions that are outside of these boundaries, but it is never going to be encouraged by the institutions themselves. A capitalist is not going to encourage someone to accept communist ideology.

    Pete, from my point of view, you want to open up one major Evangelical conviction, the doctrine of Scripture (specifically inerrancy/infallibility), for discussion. But what about other core doctrines that have traditionally defined Evangelicalism? Should Evangelical institutions leave as an “open question” the Divinity of Christ? The early Creeds? Even the existence of God? Should the institutions themselves encourage students to question these core convictions?

    So, I guess I would ask: What do you see as the legitimate ”boundaries” of Evangelical thought, if any? Are there any doctrines/ideas that are so fundamental to Evangelicalism that they should serve as non-negotiable starting points which are not officially questioned by Evangelical institutions?

    • Pete E. says:

      Boundaries don’t interest me, Anthony.

      • Anthony says:

        Is there anything that you would say should be distinct about the education someone receives at an Evangelical University as compared to a public University?

        • gingoro says:

          So don’t attend an evangelical college, I didn’t as I wanted an education not indoctrination and besides it does not appear to me that there are any even half way good electrical engineering/math degrees at any evangelical school.

      • gingoro says:

        Pete but if the basic gospel story is only psychological truth then why bother? If Jesus never was resurrected because there was no empty grave as you seemed to posit a few months back, then it is all for nothing except providing biblical scholars jobs. I think boundaries at an extremely basic level matter, probably because the only way we can really solve differential equations is by knowing boundary conditions. Many physical laws are formulated as differential equations and these laws are important in engineering. If Jesus did not live and die and was not resurrected then forget the whole thing.

        • Pete E. says:

          No idea how your comment is connected to what I said.

          • gingoro says:

            Comment was related to your comment about boundaries not interesting you. For me a boundary in Christianity is the empty tomb. If there is no empty tomb then, for me at least, one can just forget Christianity as it seems worthless. Not that I have faith in the tomb but rather (somedays anyway) in the living Lord.

  • Anthony says:

    “…does the adjective ‘Evangelical’ necessarily draw clear limits for any intellectual pursuit?’

    There must be some limits outside of which it is no longer appropriate to call someone “Evangelical.” All movements have to have some type of intellectual boundaries – core concepts which serve to define the movement.

    So, in response to the question posed above, I would say yes, there must be some limits to the Evangelical intellectual pursuit. If someone comes to the conclusion that Jesus was not the Divine Son of God, I would argue that they simply shouldn’t use the term “Evangelical” to define themselves. The alternative is that the term “Evangelical” simply becomes non-meaningful.

    Evangelical institutions are never going to encourage conclusions which are in direct opposition to core Evangelical convictions. Individuals may explore these areas and come to conclusions that are outside of these boundaries, but it is never going to be encouraged by the institutions themselves. A capitalist is not going to encourage someone to accept communist ideology.

    Pete, from my point of view, you want to open up one major Evangelical conviction, the doctrine of Scripture (specifically inerrancy/infallibility), for discussion. But what about other core doctrines that have traditionally defined Evangelicalism? Should Evangelical institutions leave as an “open question” the Divinity of Christ? The early Creeds? Even the existence of God? Should the institutions themselves encourage students to question these core convictions?

    So, I guess I would ask: What do you see as the legitimate ”boundaries” of Evangelical thought, if any? Are there any doctrines/ideas that are so fundamental to Evangelicalism that they should serve as non-negotiable starting points which are not officially questioned by Evangelical institutions? If not, I don’t see anything that distinguishes “the Evangelical intellectual pursuit” from simply “the intellectual pursuit.”

  • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    *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.

    i.e. All results are pre-determined and MUST agree with The Party Line/”It Is Written!” in advance.
    Like Comrade Lysenko in the old USSR.
    Or Islamic Studies in today’s Saudi.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    *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.

    i.e. All results are pre-determined and MUST agree with The Party Line/”It Is Written!” in advance.
    Like Comrade Lysenko in the old USSR.
    Or Islamic Studies in today’s Saudi.

  • Andrew Dowling says:

    Wow, Tim, talk about presupposing . . you are not being fair to Pete here and what you are describing does not mirror what he’s been blogging about either. I recall in a prior post you kept wanting to know “how Pete knew” he was right and Pete kept saying that wasn’t really an important/relevant question to him and it seems due to your conservative upbringing you can’t comprehend that.

    • Tim says:

      Andrew,

      I think you read me the wrong way. Or maybe the fault is mine and I could have written it better.

      I would be careful though in how you sum up Pete’s argument. If he really was saying “I trust in what I’m guessing at is God, and I haven’t the faintest idea if the Christian God is actually ‘real’ or not,” then sure, he would be saying what you sum him up to be saying with respect to knowledge. But I don’t think that’s accurate. I think he does feel some sense of confidence and validation in the Christian God being “real.” Short of certainty? Absolutely. But I’d bet north of even money. And connecting the dots on how he arrived at this is what I’ve been trying to ask of him. That said, if I’m wrong on this and any meaningful confidence/validation in his belief in the existence of the Christian God is lacking and he’s comfortable expressing a truly blind faith, then Pete would deserve and I would give a very heartfelt apology.

      In any event, what I was driving at above isn’t the issue of being “right.” It’s the issue of keeping something out of bounds. Evangelical fundamentalists do this by claiming certitude as to their doctrine of Scripture. Do I recognize that is not what Pete is doing? Sure.

      But my point above is that what Evangelical Fundamentalists do explicitly through unabashed dogmatism, Pete is achieving practically. By substituting knowledge for trust. And then holding that “out of bounds” for any critical challenges. Now is that consciously intentional? I’m not saying it is. But as a matter of how it plays out in practice, the effect is the same.

      But there is also the issue of what he is trusting in, not just the act or experience itself, that seems out of bounds. And that is the linking of this trust to Christianity’s triune God. That link also seems, as a practical matter, to be cordoned off from critique.

      What we see amongst Evangelical fundamentalists is this disposition to set boundaries so as to safeguard what they see as foundational to their faith within. They achieve that dogmatically in their doctrine (i.e., “non-negotiables” such as inerrancy), and emotionally/intellectually via a false sense of certitude.

      Pete’s approach is mystical/contemplative. And looking at it from my vantage point, it looks like the same effect of setting boundaries around a safe and unchallengeable sanctuary is achieved by reframing faith as foundationally “trust” and then just circularly linking that trust to belief. Sure the explicit claim of certainty is cast aside. But the same end effect is achieved. And that end effect is to safeguard one’s faith. No matter what. Despite any challenge at all.

      Still, maybe my take on all of this is wrong. And in that event I would like to highlight the last question of that comment you responded to. And my subsequent reply to Pete below. Both where I opened the door wide to any explanation at all in connecting these dots for me, and resolving any misunderstanding. That’s all I can do Andrew. I asked. Sheila asked as well. We don’t have an answer but what more can you ask of me or anyone in this? I’m not just assuming my judgements are right, I have and continue to leave the door open.

      • Pete E. says:

        I appreciate that you at least acknowledge a contemplative/mystical mindset here, Tim, but your following inquiry/interrogation tells me that you either do not take that point of view seriously or you may not be familiar with it. I know you feel that you are asking vital questions that absolutely need to be answered within your framework, and I frustrating you to no end by my refusal or inability to answer (Andrew’s point in this regard is perceptive). It seems unlikely that this will end to your satisfaction, so I’ll let you have the last word and then I’m going to shut down this part of the comment thread.

  • Jeremy says:

    Please excuse me! I started reading this blog because it claims to be “the Bible for normal people”. I thought, good. That’s me. Sort of normal anyway. But several times I’ve got so bogged down, not by the blog itself, but by the ensuing comments which are so mind-twistingly intellectual and, in my humble opinion, anything but normal. Why can’t we just return to the simplicity of our faith in Jesus instead of clouding and muddying the waters with intellectualism which kills the spirit entirely? I have to say that the comments are veering into the same waters as the Evangelical, only perversely it is saying that we can all have our great ideas and totally confuse each other in the process. Somehow it all seems like the same thing Jesus confronted in the Pharisees. They were blinded by their own ideas and could not see beyond them. We need to remember a powerful axiom for life: KISS. It sort of speaks of love too which should be the rock foundation of our faith. Keep It Simple, Stupid! And “Stupid”, btw, is always me, as this is a reminder to myself of how to look at life. Blessings.

  • Jeremy says:

    Please excuse me! I started reading this blog because it claims to be “the Bible for normal people”. I thought, good. That’s me. Sort of normal anyway. But several times I’ve got so bogged down, not by the blog itself, but by the ensuing comments which are so mind-twistingly intellectual and, in my humble opinion, anything but normal. Why can’t we just return to the simplicity of our faith in Jesus instead of clouding and muddying the waters with intellectualism which kills the spirit entirely? I have to say that the comments are veering into the same waters as the Evangelical, only perversely it is saying that we can all have our great ideas and totally confuse each other in the process. Somehow it all seems like the same thing Jesus confronted in the Pharisees. They were blinded by their own ideas and could not see beyond them. We need to remember a powerful axiom for life: KISS. It sort of speaks of love too which should be the rock foundation of our faith. Keep It Simple, Stupid! And “Stupid”, btw, is always me, as this is a reminder to myself of how to look at life. Blessings.

  • Pete E. says:

    I take your point, Jump–though I’m not sure the EPS is the best example you could use. I’ve some engagements with members that for me illustrate my point, but I certainly would not suggest those experiences define the whole.

  • Pete E. says:

    I know you’re in a lot of pain, Sheila, but I am not going to be able to ease your pain by “connecting the dots” for you. You have not yet left fundamentalism, you are just transferring it. Let go of the dots. I think that’s the place to start.

    • charlesburchfield says:

      for many people in the process of grief and loss they can get hung up on the bargaining stage for decades. IMHO people trying to avoid their depression is similar to alcoholics trying to avoid their fourth step.

    • Sheila Warner says:

      Since I left theism, I wonder how I transferred my fundamentalism anywhere. My next question would be what you mean by “dots”. I suppose I should let all of this go. Thanks, anyway. We don’t understand each other’s premises. That happens in life. It’s all good.

      • Pete E. says:

        I respect your journey, and I do indeed understand your premise. I am trying not say that it is not adequate for the questions you ask. What I mean by “transferring fundamentalism” is continuing with an expectation of a clear and logical process that can and must be articulated for faith to survive. There is a long and honored stream of Christian faith found already in the p[ages of the Bible that speak to a very different way of knowing. In my book, if you remember this small part, my story about Mother Teresa tries to get to what I am saying here.

  • Pete E. says:

    “I think Pete let the audience down by not demonstrating just how one puts trust into action.” Perhaps what you mean to say is “I think Pete let *me* down . . . “

    • Sheila Warner says:

      Based on other replies, I chose “audience”. Perhaps too broad on my part? Ok. Why not enlighten my thinking, then? I perceived annoyance, not engagement. I could be misinterpreting. I also try to be clearer if I am misunderstood. I’m trying to determine how trust is different from faith, and how that difference can impact a believer’s living out his Christianity.

  • Pete E. says:

    I appreciate that you at least acknowledge a contemplative/mystical mindset here, Tim, but your following inquiry/interrogation tells me that you either do not take that point of view seriously or you may not be familiar with it. I know you feel that you are asking vital questions that absolutely need to be answered within your framework, and I frustrating you to no end by my refusal or inability to answer (Andrew’s point in this regard is perceptive). It seems unlikely that this will end to your satisfaction, so I’ll let you have the last word and then I’m going to shut down this part of the comment thread.

    • Tim says:

      Pete,

      My last word is I’ve asked a question you have avoided answering. And if you feel Andrew is perceptive on this in his comment above and knowledge isn’t at all important or relevant to centering around this issue of trust, perhaps at the very least you could answer the question whether it would be fair to say you haven’t the faintest idea then of whether the Christian God exists but you trust blindly anyway. Not “well sure I can never be completely certain.” Not that. Just a total lack of confidence that the God you believe in exists. Then I can easily accept that I read you wrong and really you’re not through your contemplative experience affirming some claim as to knowledge. If not, then I don’t really know how perceptive Andrew is being.

      But am I familiar with the mystical/contemplative tradition? Sure. I’ve studied Buddhism. I’ve read through for instance the Tibettan Book of the Dead. That hardly makes me in any way expert but I am familiar. And the sea of mystical/contemplative approaches raise all ships Pete. Yours as well as Buddhism and others. Does my noting this fact mean I don’t take the contemplative approach seriously? What would taking it more seriously look like? Privileging Christian Mystics over Buddhist ones? Why? But even this I have opened the door to. Not just for me looking in from the outside, but hearing how you process it from the inside. Why do even you feel it raises your ship in this regard more than others? I have asked you to explain how your experience gives you confidence in your belief in the Christian God more than other alternatives contemplatives in other faiths feel is affirmed in their’s. I’m not even asking you to “prove” it to me. Just for heaven’s sake explain it. So I leave that question open, and you can continue to ignore it if you choose and continue to throw it back on me that the very fact I’m asking it implies I don’t “get” contemplative traditions or that I’m coming from some philosophically defective place. But I feel it is a fair question Pete, especially when I ask it in a way that leaves the door wide open to any approach and any explanation you might offer at all.

  • Stuart Blessman says:

    Unfortunately this seems to be more of a feature than a bug. Evangelicalism came out of fundamentalism which was a direct attack against intellectualism and education. Of course this is the fruit. At this point, fundygelical intellectualism is akin to fanboys discussing magic systems between Tolkien and Lewis or what the proper pronunciation of Klingon words are.

  • Stuart Blessman says:

    Unfortunately this seems to be more of a feature than a bug. Evangelicalism came out of fundamentalism which was a direct attack against intellectualism and education. Of course this is the fruit. At this point, fundygelical intellectualism is akin to fanboys discussing magic systems between Tolkien and Lewis or what the proper pronunciation of Klingon words are.

  • Mule says:

    Pete, you’ve already got an “Evangelical” academic culture where no conclusions are predetermined. It’s called “Western civilization”. It used to be called “Christendom”, but if it is no longer worthy of that title, there’s a reason.

  • Mule says:

    Pete, you’ve already got an “Evangelical” academic culture where no conclusions are predetermined. It’s called “Western civilization”. It used to be called “Christendom”, but if it is no longer worthy of that title, there’s a reason.

  • Jeff Y says:

    “The scandal of the Evangelical mind is that doctrine determines academic conclusions.”

    So True. And, humorously ironic. “Doctrine” is itself an ‘academic conclusion’ – well, at least, a conclusion based on some level of academic investigation – which makes the whole past doctrinal conclusions driving present conclusions regardless of research fundamentally inconsistent. It is also, simply, arrogant. It is an arrogance that says, “my past conclusions were right and therefore anything that differs in the future must be wrong.” But, of course, while that is the reality, the deeper issue is that we developed deep emotional ties to a set of particular stories and any story that subverts the ones I’ve attached myself to, body and soul, cannot possibly be right; or, tolerated.

  • Jeff Y says:

    “The scandal of the Evangelical mind is that doctrine determines academic conclusions.”

    So True. And, humorously ironic. “Doctrine” is itself an ‘academic conclusion’ – well, at least, a conclusion based on some level of academic investigation – which makes the whole past doctrinal conclusions driving present conclusions regardless of research fundamentally inconsistent. It is also, simply, arrogant. It is an arrogance that says, “my past conclusions were right and therefore anything that differs in the future must be wrong.” But, of course, while that is the reality, the deeper issue is that we developed deep emotional ties to a set of particular stories and any story that subverts the ones I’ve attached myself to, body and soul, cannot possibly be right; or, tolerated.

  • LaLouLand says:

    I didn’t read all the comments yet so my apologies if I am pointing out something that might have already been discussed here. I might go on a rant here but this hit a nerve with me and I wonder if anyone else sees things this way. I agree with Pete and I think some of these issues go back to common experiences many of us may have had in our childhood and college educations. My education was a mostly public schools with a couple of years at a private Christian high school, which left me very unprepared when I went back to my excellent public high school. I was stunned to see that the public school kids and teachers took learning so much more seriously than at the Evangelical Christian high school. My parents, fearing for my soul, sent me to a well regarded Christian college for my freshman year. From the first week of school the administrators talked about everyone finding their mate! I was 18! I didn’t want to find my mate. I wanted to get an education! It was extremely easy coursework and I was in the Honors college. But it still left me woefully unprepared when I convinced my parents to let me transfer to the very prestigious public University in my state. All the classes I ever had in a “Christian” setting failed to prepare me if I had to take the next level of a math or science or foreign language in a “nonchristian” setting. I still see this playing out in our church and public schools. Much too often, otherwise bright Evangelical parents take their kids out of good or excellent public schools because they are paranoid or nervous about the supposed values, vaccination requirements, gay teachers, transgendered kids, too much homework… whatever, I know some schools have serious problems but rather than working for solutions that would help the whole community, these families run for the hills with their extra precious, special children and homeschool or go to private christian schools. The homeschooling parents often act like martyrs, letting everyone know what a sacrifice they are making for their children. The kids learn everything from one perspective and no assumptions are challenged. Science is suspect. Evolution is not discussed. Typical gender roles are stressed and girls are mostly encouraged to be wives and mothers. One political persuasion trumps all else (see what I did there?). They don’t read widely. They don’t write extensively. They don’t engage with children from different socioeconomic backgrounds (both rich and poor). The kids have no Muslim, Hindu or Jewish friends. They have no friends who are being raised by Atheist parents. The maths are not challenging. If the kids are college bound, they only shoot for Christian colleges where the requirements to get in are often much easier than even even safety state schools or community colleges. There is little to no rigor in their coursework. So we have a huge population of Bible thumpers who have never been taught or challenged to use their minds. But they sure do have their doctrine down and know the plan for salvation and they have memorized a lot of scripture out of context! It’s a wonder these people even have jobs. I am talking about my very close friends and family members here. People I love and know very well who literally cannot function away from “christian” environments – they can boldly go to South Africa and China and talk about Jesus but are scared to death that their faith might be challenged at Google or in Hollywood or Wall Street. (Honestly, they also don’t have the work ethic or intellectual or social skills to get these kids of jobs – but don’t tell them that, they think they are turning down nonexistent job offers to live on the edge for Jesus!) Well this is where they get jobs: In Churches, Christian schools, the mission field or a Christian nonprofit. Thus the whole cycle of anti-intellectualism gets rotated and promoted and recycled through and through.

    • Richard Webb says:

      I grew up doing all the things you say your parents were afraid of letting you do. It is highly overrated and I am just thankful that a concerned creator heard the cry of a lost soul and reached across the divide of my pride and sin and touched me and became my best friend. Talk is cheap. What we all need is a friend who will die for us and give us life. He will never leave you or forsake you. He loves you with such a passion, that discussion about it is useless. That is what I pray for every man and woman in this world, that they will become as a little child and let Him love you.

  • LaLouLand says:

    I didn’t read all the comments yet so my apologies if I am pointing out something that might have already been discussed here. I might go on a rant here but this hit a nerve with me and I wonder if anyone else sees things this way. I agree with Pete and I think some of these issues go back to common experiences many of us may have had in our childhood and college educations. My education was a mostly public schools with a couple of years at a private Christian high school, which left me very unprepared when I went back to my excellent public high school. I was stunned to see that the public school kids and teachers took learning so much more seriously than at the Evangelical Christian high school. My parents, fearing for my soul, sent me to a well regarded Christian college for my freshman year. From the first week of school the administrators talked about everyone finding their mate! I was 18! I didn’t want to find my mate. I wanted to get an education! It was extremely easy coursework and I was in the Honors college. But it still left me woefully unprepared when I convinced my parents to let me transfer to the very prestigious public University in my state. All the classes I ever had in a “Christian” setting failed to prepare me if I had to take the next level of a math or science or foreign language in a “nonchristian” setting. I still see this playing out in our church and public schools. Much too often, otherwise bright Evangelical parents take their kids out of good or excellent public schools because they are paranoid or nervous about the supposed values, vaccination requirements, gay teachers, transgendered kids, too much homework… whatever, I know some schools have serious problems but rather than working for solutions that would help the whole community, these families run for the hills with their extra precious, special children and homeschool or go to private christian schools. The homeschooling parents often act like martyrs, letting everyone know what a sacrifice they are making for their children. The kids learn everything from one perspective and no assumptions are challenged. Science is suspect. Evolution is not discussed. Typical gender roles are stressed and girls are mostly encouraged to be wives and mothers. One political persuasion trumps all else (see what I did there?). They don’t read widely. They don’t write extensively. They don’t engage with children from different socioeconomic backgrounds (both rich and poor). The kids have no Muslim, Hindu or Jewish friends. They have no friends who are being raised by Atheist parents. The maths are not challenging. If the kids are college bound, they only shoot for Christian colleges where the requirements to get in are often much easier than even even safety state schools or community colleges. There is little to no rigor in their coursework. So we have a huge population of Bible thumpers who have never been taught or challenged to use their minds. But they sure do have their doctrine down and know the plan for salvation and they have memorized a lot of scripture out of context! It’s a wonder these people even have jobs. I am talking about my very close friends and family members here. People I love and know very well who literally cannot function away from “christian” environments – they can boldly go to South Africa and China and talk about Jesus but are scared to death that their faith might be challenged at Google or in Hollywood or Wall Street. (Honestly, they also don’t have the work ethic or intellectual or social skills to get these kids of jobs – but don’t tell them that, they think they are turning down nonexistent job offers to live on the edge for Jesus!) Well this is where they get jobs: In Churches, Christian schools, the mission field or a Christian nonprofit. Thus the whole cycle of anti-intellectualism gets rotated and promoted and recycled through and through.

    • Richard Webb says:

      I grew up doing all the things you say your parents were afraid of letting you do. It is highly overrated and I am just thankful that a concerned creator heard the cry of a lost soul and reached across the divide of my pride and sin and touched me and became my best friend. Talk is cheap. What we all need is a friend who will die for us and give us life. He will never leave you or forsake you. He loves you with such a passion, that discussion about it is useless. That is what I pray for every man and woman in this world, that they will become as a little child and let Him love you.

  • Pete E. says:

    I respect your journey, and I do indeed understand your premise. I am trying not say that it is not adequate for the questions you ask. What I mean by “transferring fundamentalism” is continuing with an expectation of a clear and logical process that can and must be articulated for faith to survive. There is a long and honored stream of Christian faith found already in the p[ages of the Bible that speak to a very different way of knowing. In my book, if you remember this small part, my story about Mother Teresa tries to get to what I am saying here.

  • William Trollinger says:

    “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that doctrine determines academic conclusions.” Amen, Pete.

    When I was teaching at an evangelical college the school brought in Parker Palmer for its annual spring faculty workshop. Palmer spoke on how we could promote the free exercise of critical thinking in the classroom. He was quite compelling, even inspiring, on the point. When he finished his presentation, and it was time for Q/A, I stood up and asked how faculty at our institution might engage in promoting the sort of critical thinking he was advocating, given that every year we were required, as condition of employment, to sign a statement affirming that we held to the school’s faith (doctrinal) statement. Palmer was flabbergasted — he had not been informed that our institution required us to sign such a statement — and he said he had no idea how to answer my question. There was a painful twenty seconds or so of silence — I had asked the quintessential lead balloon question — and then the discussion proceeded on a very different track.

    Perhaps there is some way to square the signing of a faith statement with critical thinking, but the fact is that if you teach at such an institution, there will be no critical thinking about the faith statement. There can’t be. That’s the point.

  • William Trollinger says:

    “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that doctrine determines academic conclusions.” Amen, Pete.

    When I was teaching at an evangelical college the school brought in Parker Palmer for its annual spring faculty workshop. Palmer spoke on how we could promote the free exercise of critical thinking in the classroom. He was quite compelling, even inspiring, on the point. When he finished his presentation, and it was time for Q/A, I stood up and asked how faculty at our institution might engage in promoting the sort of critical thinking he was advocating, given that every year we were required, as condition of employment, to sign a statement affirming that we held to the school’s faith (doctrinal) statement. Palmer was flabbergasted — he had not been informed that our institution required us to sign such a statement — and he said he had no idea how to answer my question. There was a painful twenty seconds or so of silence — I had asked the quintessential lead balloon question — and then the discussion proceeded on a very different track.

    Perhaps there is some way to square the signing of a faith statement with critical thinking, but the fact is that if you teach at such an institution, there will be no critical thinking about the faith statement. There can’t be. That’s the point.

  • Beau Quilter says:

    This post reminds me of a point that James McGrath often makes: that liberal Christianity is responsible for pioneering historical criticism in biblical scholarship.

    http://www.christiancentury.org/blogs/archive/2011-08/are-atheists-basically-just-liberal-believers

  • Sheila Warner says:

    I understand what is being said here. Is it possible to weed out evangelical biases as presented in the examples given? It’s a wonderful point, and maybe someone should write about that.

  • Sheila Warner says:

    I understand what is being said here. Is it possible to weed out evangelical biases as presented in the examples given? It’s a wonderful point, and maybe someone should write about that.

  • Pete E. says:

    No idea how your comment is connected to what I said.

    • gingoro says:

      Comment was related to your comment about boundaries not interesting you. For me a boundary in Christianity is the empty tomb. If there is no empty tomb then, for me at least, one can just forget Christianity as it seems worthless. Not that I have faith in the tomb but rather (somedays anyway) in the living Lord.

  • Tim says:

    My view is that Evangelicalism has to evolve or die; To undergo a fundamental (ha) change or cease to be relevant to anything but evangelicalism. Time will tell if it is capable of doing so.

  • Tim says:

    My view is that Evangelicalism has to evolve or die; To undergo a fundamental (ha) change or cease to be relevant to anything but evangelicalism. Time will tell if it is capable of doing so.

  • Gary says:

    Ah, so how do we come to concern ourselves whether a view is true or not?

    • Jump says:

      Do you mean what are the modes by which one determines whether a view is true or false?

      • Gary says:

        More means than modes.

        • Jump says:

          Sorry for the delay. If by “means” you mean causes, that could include eyeballs, ears, brains, souls, tongues, Alpha Centauri and ever so many other things that can stand in the causal chain of belief formation.

  • Gary says:

    I’m American and, anecdotally, I believe I’ve seen “full blown” used significantly more in a pejorative sense than complementary sense. Examples might be “full-blown hypertension” or “full-blown AIDS” vs. “full-blown health.”

    I don’t think one naturalist would commonly refer to his fellow adherent in a complementarily identifying sense as a “full-blown naturalist” anymore than parallel insiders would complement their insider as a “full-blown theist.” If your experience has indicated “full blown” as commonly used in a complementary sense, I understand.

    My experience is that it’s principally derogatory phrasing, thus I had assumed polemic.

  • Ken says:

    I fully agree with the author’s observations. But, to be fair, every intellectual ideology or academic discipline subtlety or overtly requires it’s adherents to conform to some level of dogma. It’s not unique to Evangelicalism. I would suggest that it’s another signifier of the human condition–hubris. Some of the greatest intellectual advancements occurred because some malcontent took the definition of “critical thinking” seriously and pushed against the truisms of the day. Maybe the scandal of the Evangelical mind is that so little of that seems to ever happen? Or maybe I’m just being cynical.

  • Ken says:

    I fully agree with the author’s observations. But, to be fair, every intellectual ideology or academic discipline subtlety or overtly requires it’s adherents to conform to some level of dogma. It’s not unique to Evangelicalism. I would suggest that it’s another signifier of the human condition–hubris. Some of the greatest intellectual advancements occurred because some malcontent took the definition of “critical thinking” seriously and pushed against the truisms of the day. Maybe the scandal of the Evangelical mind is that so little of that seems to ever happen? Or maybe I’m just being cynical.

  • James says:

    Yes, and evangelicalism conforms to a particular dogma of Scripture. Take that away under the guise of academic freedom and you risk cutting off your nose to spite your face. Not sure how to get around that one.

  • James says:

    Yes, and evangelicalism conforms to a particular dogma of Scripture. Take that away under the guise of academic freedom and you risk cutting off your nose to spite your face. Not sure how to get around that one.

  • James Lundstrom says:

    “Evangelicalism is not fundamentally an intellectual organism but an apologetic one.” Agreed, and I think this element strongly emerged in Evangelicalism during the Fundamentalist/Modernism controversy that has split so many Protestant church traditions.

    It leads to an important question. What is the role of apologetics in the broader context of the church? How might it need to change to fulfill this role?

    By the way, Pete, thanks for braving the cold to come speak in Minneapolis last week.

  • Perhaps part of the problem is that when someone shows some critical thinking skills, they get defined out of evangelicalism . That’s what happened to me when I brought up some conquest issues to Phil Vischer .Basically it was “well, I guess you’re not an evangelical then.” Turns out he was right, because that’s how evangelicalism is defined. It seems to have become an echo chamber with disastrous results for the church at large . Now if you use the word Christian, you risk becoming “one of those.”

    • Occam Razor says:

      Exactly. Put another way, if you use your mind, you can’t be an evangelical. Because the movement is self-defined in a way that rejects thoughtful ideas.

      Last church I went to, the pastor was always bitterly condemning pastors who he said lost their faith after going to seminary.

  • Tim says:

    Good words, and important ones. An apologetic approach doesn’t work; it’s a reactionary stance toward enlightenment modernist thinking and trying to play a game with rules unsuited to it. I have never seen anyone successfully argued into faith in God.
    At the end of the day, if what Christianity has can be reduced to a bunch of intellectual propositions, we have nothing to offer anyone anyway. Jesus never did this, and neither should we.

  • MJF says:

    I find that many people expect that as a theologian I will simply provide them with more detailed reasons – with more scriptural references – for upholding what they already believe. The idea that having thoughtfully examined beliefs/scripture etc I might arrive at a different conclusion to the one they have held seems both foreign and dangerous to them.

  • The closing author on my 10th issue of The Ethereal Gazette; as he was a classmate from 7th grade that shared this on The Theistic Evolution group on facebook. This is an interesting argument, as I took Philosophy in college as the instructor was a former pastor at College Church. On a critical level, as Christians, must be truthful about science and not let pseudo-academia from the Independent Baptists, Moron Magnet, or Uneducated Huckster fleece the congregation into being scientifically illiterate. You see them riffing on public schools and community colleges, where they got their honorary degree from an unsanctioned college aka diploma mill. Put 1 John 2:21 and Amos 5:10 using modern translations to application as the thrash metal act Tourniquet had their fans engaging on academic levels with the rest of the subculture population.

  • Gerald B. Cleaver says:

    Yes, I also reached essentially the same conclusion at my presentation, “Is Another Reformation Needed? The State of Evangelical Churches Two Decades Afte Scandal of the Evangelical Mind”, at the 2017 Baylor Symposium on Faith and Culture, October 25-27, 2017. Cited your books Pete during the talk.

  • Gerald B. Cleaver says:

    Yes, I also reached essentially the same conclusion at the talk I presented “Is Another Reformation Needed? The State of Evangelical Churches Two Decades Afte Scandal of the Evangelical Mind” at the 2017 Baylor Symposium on Faith and Culture, October 25-27, 2017 (https://www.baylor.edu/ifl/index.php?id=935989)

  • Cyndi says:

    Several years back at my former church, whose people I dearly love and value, a special guest theologian said this, “If we are going to reach the world withthe Good News of Jesus, we will do it through apologetics.” I cringed as almost everyone in the service gave an amen. I said nothing because I knew if I questioned that, I’d be suspect. I remember thinking, didn’t Jesus say and model that it is Love that changes hearts? Still love this church and the many wonderful people there who love Jesus but couldn’t remain in that mentality.

  • D Holcombe says:

    Pete,
    This is an excellent post, but I do have a two questions for you. Let me set them up. You state, “The real scandal of the Evangelical mind is that we are not allowed to use it.” I noticed that you used the word “we”. I spent much of my life in the Evangelical world and gradually talked
    myself out of it. I no longer think of myself as such. I’ve followed your blog and read your work for awhile now, and I find it surprising that you still think of yourself as a member of the Evangelical community.

    #1. Do you still think of yourself as an “Evangelical”?
    #2. Do you think the majority of Evangelicals, if they were aware of your views, would consider you a member of their community?

    • Pete E. says:

      Very fair questions.

      The use of “we” is more rhetorical. I have made it clear (I think) over the years that intellectually the mainstream evangelical “system” doesn’t work for me, and so I am by definition not evangelical (without needlessly haggling over definitions). I use “we” at times, however, as a way of owning my owning sympathetically trajectory (as I also write about now and then in places and also teach my students).

      I think my views aren’t exactly a secret, so evangelicals who care about these things are likely aware, and my sense is that whether they would consider me a member would depend on their own models of evangelicalism. But the gatekeepers like would not consider me an insider but a defector. And I say that from experience. I have never really been concerned about that.

      I appreciate the questions!

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