28 September 2005

Where are the evangelical intellectuals?

Foreign Policy has published a list of the top 100 intellectuals and is polling people to see who they regard as the top intellectuals of our time. Dignan mentioned the fact that the list doesn't seem to have any evangelicals. It seems to me that the evangelical movement's de rigueur war on science and "intellectualism" (i.e., critical and objective systematic inquiry) has pretty much excluded them from the list by definition. Can someone be an intellectual without seriously entertaining others' ideas while refusing to submit one's own ideas to the rigorous inspection of the community of informed individuals?


Anonymous said...

I've been thinking about what it might mean to be an evangelical for some time, and I think that it has a lot to do with adherance to the idea that truth is something that is immediate.

That would explain why evangelicals are suspiciious of ideas which need explanation or nuance; they feel that if an idea is true, it should be immediately obvious.

The thing is, I don't think that this is close-mindedness: they seem open to all sorts of (rather strange) ideas.

But intellectual work is a process of examining the inobvious ideas in the world: intellectualized beliefs are mediated by study, reading, a semi-self-aware ideology, discussion, and writing.

It is this mediation that evangelicals are resisting, not the ideas themselves.

I only bring this up cause I have been thinking a lot about resistances "conservative univserity students" develop in their quest to maintian their ideology in the face of intellectuals, and I have been less than satisfied with the discussion of close/open mindedness.

John Reeve

Karlo said...

The idea of mediation is interesting. Much has been done on this in the east in the Buddhist debate over enlightenment. Many argue that enlightenment's unmediated (i.e., not accessed via previous insights or wisdom) while others accept a more gradual, mediated approach. If this were all there were to the Evangelical's position, it would be completely respectable. However, the Evangelical claim to not only have a monopoly on this direct form of knowing (a sort of "gnosis") but on matters of empirical knowledge as well runs counter to the whole spirit of scientific inquiry.

Anonymous said...

Oh I agree completely; I stand in a camp with base materialists and am rather frightened when people try and conceal the fundamental split between the authoratative, legitimate voice of truth and the exegencies of a material world where that truth is forever slippin'and'a'slidin'.

This immediacy is the point where people have often tried, violently,to conform the world to their formal notions of how it is.

That's vague: I think that I am having a hangover from reading visions of excess and on totalitarianism last spring.

But the evangelicals scare me, and I think that a primary political objective should be to get christians (I am not one) to re-adopt midrash or biblical exegetical commentary, so that they can enjoy meditation.


Karlo said...

I think it's going to take a lot to get current American Christians to adopt a more contemplative approach to religion. Everytime I turn on the radio and listen to a Christian station, I'm struck by the extent to which Christians define themselves in terms of their opposite--heretical non-Christians. (It's as if God couldn't exist if Satan were to suddenly come down with the flu.) By adopting this attititude, Christians (like the religious of so many faiths) create little more than a social club filled with self-righteous pharisees who are somehow more special than everyone else. Christian eschatology even supports this bizarre belief with the idea that the unbelievers will end up in eternal hell while the Christians, being so special, will go to heaven forever.

Jon Trott said...

While unwilling to call myself an "intellectual" (an act which in itself would probably prove the opposite), I would point to Francis Collins, head of the Genome Project and an evangelical Christian. He believes in Theistic Evolution, sharply debunking "young earth" creationists and in disagreement with the Intelligent Design folk as well. In the arena of philosophy, you will also find folk such as Alvin Plantinga, Thomas Oden, and a few others who to one degree or another would be "evangelical Christians."

I would gently warn posters not to fall into the same error they correcty observe evangelicals falling into. Namely, turning those they disagree with into straw man "cartoons" easily categorized and dispensed with.

I appreciate your blog, and will try to come back -- actually stumbled upon this thread while doing my own research on "intellectual evangelicals." Hehehe...


Karlo said...

Please visit again!