These are three different posts on three different topics. These are three posts all saying the same thing.
First, Peter Enns, with “The Deeper Scandal of the Evangelical Mind: We Are Not Allowed to Use It“:
The real problem isn’t simply a failure on the part of Evangelicals to engage the world of thought. Evangelicals earning higher degrees and publishing their findings in the wider intellectual community isn’t what’s needed.
The real scandal of the Evangelical mind is that we are not allowed to use it.
Calling for Evangelical involvement in public academic discourse is useless if trained Evangelicals are legitimately afraid of what will happen to them if they do.
A more basic need is the creation of an Evangelical culture where the exercise of the Evangelical mind is expected and encouraged.
But, with few exceptions, that culture does not exist. The scandal of the Evangelical mind is that degrees, books, papers, and other marks of prestige are valued–provided you come to predetermined conclusions.
Second, Larry Shallenberger for Relevant magazine, asks, “Why Aren’t Christians Funny?”
Humor requires the ability to admit weakness and a willingness to laugh at it. A joke is funny because it exposes the silliness bound up in the act of being human. Self-deprecation makes for good comedy, but it’s akin to putting bullets in your opponent’s gun in a culture war. Weaknesses can’t be just hidden from one’s opponents; their very existence must be denied. Miroslav Volf wrote, in Exclusion and Embrace, that a people group must be convinced of its moral superiority to feel justified aggressing against another party. You can’t laugh at yourself until you cede the moral high ground.
… Bryan Allain, author of Actually, Clams Are Miserable says, “To me, for something to be funny it has to be on the edge. Whether that is the edge of decency, the edge of expectations or the edge of sanity; if it’s right down the middle, it’s not going to make someone laugh. I think Christians struggle with creating humorous art because too often we don’t want to stray near the edges. Pushing the boundaries can open us up to judgment by those outside and inside Christianity, so instead of risking that for the joke, we play it safe and nobody cracks a smile.”
Evangelical institutions like Cedarville have always had a rocky relationship with the humanities: Philosophy, literature, the arts — they’re all great as long as they support what we already believe. But if they make us question our assumptions, they’re dangerous. The Culture War has been fomenting at Cedarville since before I was there, and it always seemed the powers-that-be perceived my philosophy professors to be on the wrong side.
Back to Peter Enns:
Evangelicalism is not fundamentally an intellectual organism but an apologetic one. It did not come to be in order to inspire academic exploration but to maintain certain theological distinctives by intellectual means. These intellectual means are circumscribed by Evangelical dogma, though avoiding Fundamentalist anti-intellectualism.
As an intellectual phenomenon, the Evangelical experiment is a defensive movement.
An apologetic or defensive culture primarily concerned with preserving “certain theological distinctives” will not just defend its boundaries against anything that might violate them. It will defend those boundaries against anything that might transcend them. The transcendent — the good, the beautiful, the true — becomes the forbidden.
That’s why Cedarville wants to purge its philosophy department. It’s why the evangelical mind is not allowed to be used.
And it’s why a sense of humor will get you reclassified as a “post-evangelical” almost as fast as a hermeneutic of radically inclusive love will.