Peter Enns describes the ways that seminaries hide ideas, information, and arguments that might disturb their students’ faiths:
Once students leave the environment where such apologetics is valued, they find that the old answers are often inadequate, and in some cases glaringly so. When they return to an Evangelical context, they try to work toward some synthesis to bring old and new into conversation, but too often that very attempt, however gently put forward, is deemed out of bounds. And so, they either keep quiet or look for another job.
They often feel–and I’ve heard this many times–that they have been lied to by their teachers. I’d like to relay one anecdote. In one seminary I know a former student, now professor, felt ill-prepared by his seminary at the initial stages of his doctoral work. He had gotten straight As in seminary and done stellar work in his language classes. But he was lost in negotiating the new ideas he was encountering and had to do a lot of catching up.
He asked his former professor, now colleague, why he was sent to graduate school with so many gaps in his learning. The answer: “Our job was to protect you from this information so as not to shipwreck your faith.”
I would replace “your faith” with “our system” and then I think we are closer to the truth.
This sad, recurring, generational cycle in Evangelical biblical scholarship is not an indication of the incompetence of the dissenting biblical scholars, too weak or stupid to know not to get too close to the flame, too eager to drink from the wine cellars of unbelieving presuppositions.
It is, rather, an indication of the inadequacy of the Evangelical system, where the best Evangelical minds trained in the best research institutions have to make believe they don’t know what they know.
It is a sure sign you have the absolute truth when you have to hide all sorts of facts and ideas, even from your post-graduate students, no?
I also feel like saying to Dr. Enns: Please. Give me a break. If these students really wanted truth and open-ended inquiry they would just leave Evangelical Christianity altogether and study reality and do so from an unprejudiced, rather than a religious, perspective. The real reason that Evangelical seminaries distort reality so much to preserve the faith of their students is that deep down they know and act on a truth that you apparently won’t admit—that lying about history and science are the only ways to preserve the Christian faith itself (or at least the ludicrous Evangelical interpretation of it, which is conclusively disconfirmed by history and science.) Freethinking, intellectually growing Evangelical Christians would be the end of Evangelical Christianity. Its core raison d’être for at least a century now has been to serve as a reactionary counter to the slow and sure centuries’ long modernization of the rest of Protestant Christianity that so appalled those regressives who coined the term “fundamentalist” for themselves.
But another part of me does feel some empathy for the earnest, well-meaning Evangelical theology students. I was once one of them, as an undergraduate at least, and so part of me acknowledges that “there but for the grace of realizing in time that there was no God, go I”.
But, on the other hand, I was at least responsible enough to tirelessly and exhaustively examine and reexamine the rational foundations of my faith, from ages 14-21 years old. So I don’t feel so bad blaming those who don’t do that for the pathetically ignorant places they wind up on account of their own intellectual laziness. And I don’t forgive them the lies they tell when they finally do figure out the truth. I just wish their own intellectual cowardice and deceptiveness did not perpetuate so much ignorance in others as well.
In case this post makes you curious about my years as an Evangelical or about how I deconverted. Below are posts on those topics:
Before I Deconverted:
How I Deconverted:
When I Deconverted: