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Evangelicals Have “Made It” — Onto the Slippery Slope

Evangelical Protestantism has historically had a reputation for being anti-intellectual. Now, let’s say you’re an Evangelical intellectual embarrassed by your heritage. You just might want to seek intellectual respectability. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, although you should consider the price. And you should also consider whether achieving intellectual respectability today — when universities are loaded with tenured radicals of meager talent — would actually make you a bona fide intellectual.

Well, it appears that Evangelical thinkers have now achieved respectability. That’s the message, symbolic and otherwise, of the cover story for the October 2000 Atlantic Monthly, “The Opening of the Evangelical Mind,” by Jewish intellectual Alan Wolfe.

In his survey of Evangelical institutions of higher learning, Wolfe tells us that Evangelical intellectuals are infatuated with postmodernist thought, are much given to nonjudgmentalism and “inclusion,” and are “as insistent on multicultural diversity as any good leftist.” Wolfe illustrates how they are becoming squishy soft on the issue of homosexuality (actually, they’re even softer than Wolfe realizes). Also, Wolfe notes that Fuller Seminary, probably the premier Evangelical seminary, is institutionally committed to the use of so-called inclusive language on its premises (which sent us back to a clipping from Christianity Today [Aug. 10, 1998], which stated that “Fuller has firm commitments to women’s ordination…”). Wolfe also found that Fuller’s School of Psychology is enthralled by New Ager M. Scott Peck and that it is “embarking on a course that would bring it closer to Freud and Jung than to Jonathan Edwards.”

Is Wolfe terribly impressed by all this? Not really. While Wolfe recognizes the genuine contributions of certain Evangelical scholars, he worries that many Evangelical eggheads are just following the trends of their secular peers and are not “distinguishing between ideas that are pathbreaking and those that are gibberish.” Wolfe’s verdict: “Once sentenced to intellectual mediocrity because they kept too many ideas out, conservative-Christian institutions face the prospect of returning to mediocrity because they let too many in.”

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