In the final few pages of her recent book Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism, Worthen focuses on the strategic, persistent, and anti-intellectual use of “Christian worldview” language within evangelicalism.
From my perspective, in addition to being probing and insightful, these quotes summarize a main line of the book’s overall argument.
The quotes below are from pp. 261-62.
Evangelicals are idealists, yes. They are also pragmatists. They talk so much of the “Christian worldview” because they believe in it–but also because it is a powerful rhetorical strategy. It curtails debate, justifies hardline politics, and discourages sympathetic voters from entertaining thoughts of moderation or compromise….
The anti-intellectual inclinations in evangelical culture stem not from wholehearted and confident obedience to scripture, or the assurance that God will eventually corral all nonbelievers, but from deep disagreements over what the Bible means, a sincere desire to uphold standards of modern reason alongside God’s word–and the defensive reflexes that outsiders’ skepticism provokes. The cult of the Christian worldview is one symptom of the effort by many evangelical leaders to fold competing sources of authority into one, to merge inference with assumptions. The evangelicals who adopt this soft presuppositionalism hope that it might prove to be a viable political currency, one that can buy cultural capital where proof texts and personal testimony fail.
I think these thoughts express well at least some of the systemic reasons why intellectual pursuits–outside of apologetic agendas–can be so difficult to negotiate within evangelicalism.
As I’ve been saying, Worthen’s largely critical but also fair assessment of evangelicalism is a great read for anyone interested in evangelicalism’s roots and current struggles. As Mark Noll blurbs, “Apostles of Reason brings a new level of sophistication, as well as sparkling prose, to the study of modern American evangelicals….”