Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Theology Conference

Just saw this in my Google Reader feed: Wheaton Theology Conference 2012:

Awesome! It was really great that Wheaton seems to do this every year (at least the last few years) and I especially benefited from Wheaton making available their 2010 conference titled, "Jesus, Paul and the People of God: A Theological Dialogue with N.T. Wright" (here). I probably won't be in the Chicagoland area at the 2012 conference, but hopefully they'll make those videos available as well because Bonhoeffer has been a fascinating figure to read about and to learn from.

Friday, September 16, 2011

How fares the 'evangelical mind'?

To my readers, apologies again for the long silence! I'm taking five classes this semester and am preparing to apply for various programs, so my mind has been focused elsewhere. Anyway, the title of this blog post is straight from the final chapter of Mark Noll's recently published book, Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind. In my opinion, this book was a breath of fresh air, especially in light of all the recent bickering among 'evangelical' circles over Michael Licona's book, The Resurrection of Jesus. If you don't know what I'm talking about, see the various discussions here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. Of course Noll's thesis bears on bigger topics and issues than just the doctrine of inerrancy, but I should mention that Noll does talk some about Peter Enns and his book, Inspiration and Incarnation, and its intersection with the doctrine of inerrancy, which contributed in part to his eventual suspension/departure from Westminster Theological Seminary (though I find it odd that they are still selling his book at their own bookstore, here).

In the final prologue of his book, Noll takes inventory of the state of affairs since the publishing of his earlier book nearly two decades ago, and states rather dryly that for the most part, "I remain largely unrepentant" (151) regarding his historical arguments in that first book. Of course, he does concede a few points here and there where things have shifted since 1995 to 2011 but I agree with him that there is much more work to be done. His own words are as follows:

"Yet on the whole, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind still seems to me correct in its descriptions and evaluations. Like their compatriots throughout the world, Americans in pietistic, generally evangelical, Baptist, fundamentalist, Restorationist, Holiness, "Bible church," megachurch, or Pentecostal traditions face special difficulties when putting the mind to use. Taken together, American evangelicals display many virtues and do many things well, but built-in barriers to productive thinking remain substantial.
These barriers include an immediatism that insists on action, decision, and even perfection right now; a populism that confuses winning supporters with mastering actually existing situations; and an antitraditionalism that privileges current judgments on biblical, theological, and ethical issues (however hastily formed) over insight from the past (however hard won and carefully stated). In addition, as this book has suggested, we evangelicals are susceptible to a nearly gnostic dualism that rushes to spiritualize all manner of corporeal, terrestrial, physical, and material realities (despite the origin and providential maintenance of these realities by God). We also much prefer to put our money into programs offering immediate relief, whether evangelistic or humanitarian, instead of into institutions promoting intellectual development over the long term...
We remain inordinately susceptible to enervating apocalyptic speculation, thus consuming oceans of bathetic end-times literature while sponsoring only a trickle of serious geopolitical analysis. We are consistently drawn to "American Christianities" — occasionally of the Left, more often the Right — that subordinate principled reasoning rooted in the gospel to partisanship that demonizes opponents and excuses enormities in our friends...
To be sure, forces hostile to Christianity in the academy and in elite culture are large, vigorous, and growing rapidly. At some American universities and colleges, Christian scholars must operate as if from foxholes. In general, the intellectual climate is by no means propitious for Christian perspectives. No one can deny that in American society very strong trends are working against all intellectual efforts, and not just Christian efforts, to use the mind responsibly. These trends include, as a very partial list, the pace of modernity that has been accelerated by every one of the technological breakthroughs of recent decades; the nearly imbecile state of public political debate; the widespread striving for money and success as ends in themselves; the explosion of moral irresponsibility; and television."

Now, lest you accuse Noll of just waxing eloquent about the doom of evangelicalism yet again, he then has a subsection titled 'Hopeful Signs' where he lists various signs that there is hope to be found for the intellectual life of evangelicals. I don't want to give the whole book away, but I think for the most part, Noll has proved himself again to be an astute observer of history and culture, and thankfully it's less about doom and downfall and more about change and hope. So to repeat the question from the title of the blog post, in your view, how fares the evangelical mind?