Evangelicals Critiquing other Evangelicals for Shoddy Scholarship

Evangelicals Critiquing other Evangelicals for Shoddy Scholarship July 16, 2012

Over on his blog Brick by Brick, David Williams is engaging a great question:

Should evangelicals expend so much energy critiquing other evangelicals or should they focus more on defending the faith against movements hostile to Christianity, like secularism or scientism?

I think that’s a great question, one I ask myself periodically.

Williams has given this issue serious thought and has concluded that critiquing evangelicalism remains an important task, because, “there are a number of Evangelical intellectual habits and material positions that are serious liabilities for us as we try to faithfully engage the academy and the wider culture.”

As many of you may remember from previous posts here, Williams is a campus minister at NC State and Meredith College, so you can have some sympathy for why he is focused on this issue.

Put another way, evangelicals too often pose bad arguments that hamper serious intellectual engagement, and Williams feels it is important to expose these problems from the inside.

I couldn’t agree more. From my little corner of the world, it is a recurring problem in evangelical books “defending” the Bible, but I digress (though not really).

Anyway, Williams makes four substantive points to support his position. I think he nails it:

1. Evangelicals have tended to opt out of the peer review process that is central to academic discourse.

2. When criticized, evangelicals tend to circle the wagons.

3. Mark Noll’s thesis of The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind persists.

4. The loudest voices among evangelicals tend to be guilty of 1, 2, and 3, and are unchallenged.

Check our David’s post to fill in the details.

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  • ‘…should they focus more on defending the faith against movements hostile to Christianity…’ What faith? I think that’s a large part of the problem. I now call myself an ex-evangelical. I know some very thoughtful evangelicals. It would be completely wrong to say they have no minds or that their minds are stunted. The problem is that their minds are closed. They read voraciously, think deeply, argue cogently; but all within the sheltered environment of the evangelical framework.

    • peteenns

      Good way of putting it.

    • peteenns

      Your paintings are amazing, by the way.

      • Thank you. You are too kind. Your books are amazing. So is your pilgrimage.

  • Don Johnson

    I think that many evangelicals do go thru a peer review process. It is just that those they consider their “peers” happen to agree with them on almost everything! It is another consequence of the fractionating aspect of protestentism. So we see groups of people that think alike.

    As far as I can see, the only way to participate in the dissolution of this situation is to be the change you would like to see and go outside your own in group. However, in some groups this is strongly discouraged.

  • Don L.

    I agree that evangelicals need to do a “peer review” process, appeal to one another as brothers, and correct one another. However, I tend to think that this generally should not be done sharply and publicly, lest the outside world see evangelicals as more about arguing and being critical than in what they purportedly unite around, that is, the gospel. Certainly the best response to “loudest voices among evangelicals” is not to try to be louder and shout them down.