Today I wish to direct your attention to a post by Pete Enns entitled “I still think there is a “scandal of the evangelical mind” and here it is: we’re not allowed to use it“. Reaching back to Mark Noll’s provocative 1995 book “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind”, in which the big idea was that there was little if any in the way of serious evangelical research and scholarship, Enns notes that things have changed since then but there is still a huge problem: The exercise of the evangelical mind is not wanted or encouraged in evangelicalism. Enns states poignantly:
…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.
…The scandal of the Evangelical mind is that degrees, books, papers, and other marks of prestige are valued—provided you come to predetermined conclusions.
…The scandal of the Evangelical mind is that doctrine determines academic conclusions.
But behind all this lies a much deeper problem: Evangelicalism came to be as an apologetic movement, not an intellectual movement. In other words, evangelicalism’s raison d’etre is not to promote intellectual discourse but instead to maintain certain theological distinctives via intellectual means. Thus intellectual discourse is always circumscribed by evangelical dogma. This is a problem, because it means that evangelicalism may lack the means to create safe space where intellectual discourse is truly free, and it may lack the self-corrective mechanisms to change itself theologically if such change is necessary.