Evangelicalism and Anti-intellectualism

In an Op-Ed piece in the NY Times (October 17. 2011) contributors, Karl Giberson and Randall Stephens, both evangelicals, decry the rejection of reason by certain evangelicals– most notably those who are campaigning for president.

What I find troubling about the article is not their characterization of fundamentalism, presidential candidates, or their misrepresentation of what the Bibles states about gay marriage.  What I find troubling is their presupposition.  Based on their reasoning if a fellow Christian believes that the Bible does not support evolution and that the Bible has not stuttered on the issue of homosexuality (as well as a host of other equally abhorrent sins), that fellow Christian has somehow lost rationale thought.

To choose to accept a literal interpretation of Genesis does not prove that a Christian is anti-intellectual anymore than accepting certain scientific theories uncritically makes one intellectual. What these positions do demonstrate is the presupposition that undergird such choices.

It is clear that Giberson and Stephens have chosen to let scientific observation trump a literal reading of the Bible.  I, on the other hand, have chosen to let a literal reading of the scripture trump scientific theory.

To say that such a literal reading of the Bible is “to embrace discredited, ridiculous and even dangerous ideas” is to expose one’s presupposition.  In addition such name-calling does not foster dialogue within evangelicalism nor does it demonstrate humility which the authors seem to value.

If I understand their argument correctly:  Christians are anti-intellectual if they reject certain scientific theories.  But it is not anti-intellectual if a Christian rejects certain literal readings of an ancient, theological/historical document, the Bible.

It seems according to the authors that to be intellectual you must on the one hand embrace without reservation or qualification Darwinism evolution, homosexuality, gay marriage, study under a prof from a major research university and vote Democratic.  On the other hand to be intellectual you must reject simplistic theology, a literal reading of the Bible, creationism, young earth, spanking, traditional gender roles and the Republican Party.

This article does not expose anti-intellectualism in evangelicalism.  It does, however, expose presuppositions.


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