The Evangelicals' Fear of Knowledge

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.

Read More.

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.

Your Thoughts?

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:

Before I Deconverted: My Christian Childhood

Before I Deconverted: Ministers As Powerful Role Models

My Fundamentalist Preacher Brother, His Kids, And Me (And “What To Do About One’s Religiously Raised Nieces and Nephews”)

Before I Deconverted: I Was A Teenage Christian Contrarian

Before I Deconverted, I Already Believed in Equality Between the Sexes

Love Virginity

Before I Deconverted: I Dabbled with Calvinism in College (Everyone Was Doing It)

How Evangelicals Can Be Very Hurtful Without Being Very Hateful

How I Deconverted:

How I Deconverted, It Started With Humean Skepticism

How I Deconverted, I Became A Christian Relativist

How I Deconverted: December 8, 1997

How I Deconverted: I Made A Kierkegaardian Leap of Faith

When I Deconverted:

When I Deconverted: I Had Been Devout And Was Surrounded By The Devout

When I Deconverted: Some People Felt Betrayed

When I Deconverted: My Closest Christian Philosopher Friends Remained My Closest Philosophical Brothers

When I Deconverted: I Was Not Alone

When I Deconverted: Some Anger Built Up

Before and After I Deconverted: The Development of My Sexual Imagination
Christians as Immoralists
"God's Not Boring": A Precocious Young Video Maker Evangelizes; Grows Up To Be An Atheist Vlogger.)
Before I Deconverted: "My God Died on the Cross, Not At McDonald's!"
About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.


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