Roger E. Olson: The Problem of Irrational, Unteachable Christians

Today I wish to direct your attention to a post by Roger E. Olson entitled “The Problem of Irrational, Unteachable Christians”.

Anti-intellectualism is a persistent problem among Christians.  Olson’s jumping-off point is a sermon from years ago where the pastor said that a Christian’s attitude toward the secular world should be “Don’t confuse me with the facts; my mind is already made up”, as well as a gospel song entitled “If I Am Dreaming, Let Me Dream On”; the title is a response to skeptics who say Christians are “just dreaming”.

While an irrational, unteachable spirit can be seen in many Christian circles in discussions pertaining to a wide variety of issues, Olson narrows his focus to the ways in which certain Calvinists respond to non-Calvinists who note the inconsistencies inherent in the Calvinist way of looking at things.  Some Calvinists will push back by saying “Of course our position is irrational.  Believe it anyway because it’s what the Bible teaches” or words to that effect.  Those who respond in this way are unteachable, and they give Christianity a bad name because they project the message that one must abandon one’s intellect in order to embrace Christianity.

A person who admits his life and worldview, his philosophy or theology, contains logical contradictions cannot expect others to take his life and worldview, his philosophy or theology, seriously. Some may, but that just demonstrates they are not thinking people. They, too, are unteachable. Being teachable requires being open to correction. Being open to correction requires commitment to logic. Refusing to bow to logic is retreat from all understanding into sheer obscurantism. I would go further and agree with Karl Barth who said “Fear of scholasticism is the mark of a false prophet.” Whatever Barth may have meant by “scholasticism” in that quote, it surely included logical thinking about revelation and faith.

Read Roger E. Olson:  The Problem of Irrational, Unteachable Christians