I understand when political types attack their opponents by stating or implying they aren’t very bright. It’s a way of undermining public confidence in the person, a la Vice President Dan Quayle and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Hence, as a presidential candidate President Bush was vilified because he earned a C in college, or maybe had a C average at one point–I don’t recall the precise details. Never mind that the college happened to be Yale and most of the people in the US couldn’t even get into that school, never mind pass a single course.
The troubling thing is, that strategy seems to be spreading from politicians to evangelical Christians. And worse, evangelical Christians seem to be agreeing with the idea that evangelical Christians aren’t very bright. (Which begs the question: should we believe someone who isn’t very bright when he says he isn’t very bright? ) For example, in “Lots of Stupid Christians,” Dr. Coyle Neal says, “The example of Fundamentalism shows us one possible reason there are so few evangelical intellectuals.”
The distressing thing here is that “so few evangelical intellectuals” is treated as a given. But where are the data supporting such a statement?
And who defines “intellectual”? Are only PhD’s in philosophy considered intellectual?
What’s particularly galling to me is the complete dismissal of theologians as part of the intellectual community. I suspect atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking, and the late Christopher Hitchens would be included on a list of intellectuals, but why not men like William Craig Lane, Ravi Zacharias, and Alister McGrath who debate those atheists?
Why not John Piper or R.C. Sproul, Kevin DeYoung or Francis Chan who study Scripture and look at culture through the lens of theology? Why wasn’t the late Professor Howard Hendricks or Dr. Clyde Cook considered an “intellectual”? Because they spent their time in seminaries and Christian universities?
And what about the likes of John MacArthur or Charles Swindoll, men who influenced evangelical Christianity a great deal these past forty years–are they not intellectual enough to be counted as intellectuals?
Then there are all the people living in towns and villages in Asia or Africa, speaking multiple languages, often translating from one to the other, understanding multiple cultures, and bringing a global view of God’s word to their work–are they not intellectuals because they don’t hob-nob with the rich and famous, they don’t lunch with politicians and media types?
If intellectuals must publish in a set of elite journals and expound on irrelevant arguments which the Apostle Paul saw as worthless, then sure, I’ll agree, there aren’t very many evangelical intellectuals. But really, if we’re talking about people who can speak to the cosmic issues of life, who know and understand how to frame an apologetic for the Christian faith, then thankfully, all these naysayers are wrong. The evangelical Christian intelligentsia is alive and well, thank you very much.