In his massive work on postmodernism and evangelicalism, Don Carson drew attention to the perils and pitfalls of the Christian community’s navigation of pluralism. Although the Gagging of God is no longer as perhaps contemporary as it once was (his Christ and Culture Revisited or Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church might be slightly more relevant) I still find myself returning to it as a source of invaluable insight and and clarity on broader cultural issues and theology. Today we might be witnessing a greater vibrancy and growth of Christian thinkers in philosophy, but I believe Carson’s words should still resonate with us:
In other words, I worry less about the anti-intellectualism of the less educated sections of evangelicalism than I do about the biblical and theological illiteracy, or astonishing intellectual compromise, among its leading intellectuals. Evangelicalism has many sons and daughters whose primary vocation is the life of the mind: writers, thinkers, scholars, academicians, researchers — in field after field. They are not inferior to other thinkers in similar fields. But with rare exceptions they have not made the impact they might have because their grasp of biblical and theological truth has rarely extended much beyond Sunday school knowledge. In the main, they think like secularists and bless their insights with the odd text or biblical cliché. They cannot quite be accepted by the secular guilds (unless of course they keep their mouths shut completely about heir faith), and they cannot revolutionize intellectual life in the West because they do not think like consistent Christians who take on the status quo and seek to replace it with something better.
Carson is the research professor of New Testament Studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and the author of over 40 books on theology, hermeneutics, and Christian living .