Tag Archives: anti-intellectualism

The Kids are Alright (James)

“[A] group of positive fundamentalist intellectuals began organizing a move away from dispensationalist emphases. …they recognized that it would be necessary to build on fundamentalism’s claim to stand in the broad tradition of Augustinian orthodoxy, rather than to promote the more narrow dispensationalist teachings of recent invention.  They also deplored fundamentalism’s emphasis on personal ethical prohibitions at the expense of a positive social program…They were embarassed, furthermore, by the anti-intellectualism that had come to be associated with dispensational fundamentalism, which had been promoted primarily through Bible institutes and pragmatic popularizers.”  (Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism, George M. Marsden, p. 72)

So George Marsden describes the origins of the Ockenga, Graham, et al. Evangelical coalition, and so mutatis mutandis, could we describe the stirrings in Evangelical young people today which some fear will rend Evangelicalism.

(1)  Unsatisfied young Evangelicals want to find Jesus outside of the now narrow-seeming evangelical box and appreciate “Augustinian orthodoxy” wherever it can be found (the phrase’s patristic ring is an added bonus), with some seeking to move into extra-Augustinian, Eastern territory.  They strive to find true expressions of Christ that are yet further removed from Fundamentalism and its reaction to modernity which doomed it to be modern itself.  They also by and large deem dispensationalism a failed theology, if it ever even reaches their attention.  One qualification to be made to this general description is that while many seek to move within the whole stream of “Augustinian orthodoxy,” a number seem to be content with ressourcement only of particular Protestant teachings, thereby becoming more entrenched in their denomination rather than finding an openness to a wide range of theological expressions of the Gospel.

(2)  Though a good number of young Evangelicals will inherit the lifestyles of their parents, most active and thoughtful Evangelical young people assume the necessity of making social ethics more central to their lives and faith.  Witness the rise of ‘creation care,’ ‘intentional living,’ and ‘social justice.’  Evangelical youth desire a consistent ethic and are at times willing to cross political lines and forgo cultural practices to embody one.  Perhaps most importantly, there is an ever-strengthening critique of the American bourgeois lifestyle.  While few readers of Wendell Berry will become truly agrarian, even those that don’t will have recognized the dangers inherent in suburban life.  (This trend extends beyond Evangelical youth.)  The frightening thing, of course, is that when service becomes more palatable than proclamation, and it is for many or most young Evangelicals, we can forget the necessity of our euangelion.

(3)  Perhaps the most obvious continuity between the Evangelicals described by Marsden and those that concern us here is a disappointment with anti-intellectualism.  Those institutions connected with the beginnings of the Evangelical coalition (identified by Marsden as Dallas, Fuller and Gordon seminaries, and Gordon, Moody and Wheaton undergraduate) thrive, exposing students, as Barbara mentioned in the last post, to The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind and mending it.

It seems that, if anything, today’s young Evangelicals’ discomforts with Evangelicalism are expressions of the very traits that characterize and animate the coalition.