The Common Good

Do Evangelicals Hate Smart People?

Do Evangelicals hate smart people?

No. But it is such a persistent rumor that it might take something as momentous as another Protestant Reformation to see it die.

Why?

Because there are folks out there that do hate smart people. More precisely, there are people of faith who draw a line between "God's Word" and "Man's Opinion." They set up human reason as a force fighting against God's truth. While I think most Christians would agree that human reason is imperfect and limited (as humanists and scientists would probably agree as well) that doesn't make it antithetical to "God's Word." Most Christian traditions acknowledge reason as a gift from God not an enemy of God.

Yesterday, in a New York Times opinion piece titled, "The Evangelical Rejection of Reason," by Eastern Nazarene College Professors (an unapologetically Evangelical school) Karl W. Giberson and Randall J. Stephens wrote of one example:

smart graphicMr. Ham built his organization, Answers in Genesis, on the premise that biblical truth trumps all other knowledge. His Creation Museum, in Petersburg, Ky., contrasts "God's Word," timeless and eternal, with the fleeting notions of "human reason." This is how he knows that the earth is 10,000 years old, that humans and dinosaurs lived together, and that women are subordinate to men. Evangelicals who disagree, like Francis S. Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, are excoriated on the group's Web site. (In a recent blog post, Mr. Ham called us "wolves" in sheep's clothing, masquerading as Christians while secretly trying to destroy faith in the Bible.)

If you want another fun example, head over to www.theflatearthsociety.org where you can learn about Zetetic Astronomy which is based on the literal interpretation of scripture and once allows "God's Word" to trump "Man's Opinion." If you like what you see, you can show your support by sporting a Flat Earth Society t-shirt.

While the anti-intellectualism pervasive that is in some circles is troubling, Giberson and Stephens wrote:

Like other evangelicals, we accept the centrality of faith in Jesus Christ and look to the Bible as our sacred book, though we find it hard to recognize our religious tradition in the mainstream evangelical conversation. Evangelicalism at its best seeks a biblically-grounded expression of Christianity that is intellectually engaged, humble and forward-looking. In contrast, fundamentalism is literalistic, overconfident and reactionary.

Ultimately, the authors see hope. While Evangelicalism has fundamentalist strains, it isn't the only expression in our country today and the tide is shifting:

Scholars like Dr. Collins and Mr. Noll, and publications like Books & Culture, Sojourners and The Christian Century, offer an alternative to the self-anointed leaders. They recognize that the Bible does not condemn evolution and says next to nothing about gay marriage. They understand that Christian theology can incorporate Darwin's insights and flourish in a pluralistic society.

Giberson and Stephens accomplish a few important things in their column. First, as a couple of very smart sounding guys, they are debunking the myth that Evangelicals hate smart people.

Second, they do it all without apologizing for being Evangelicals. They are able to defend their faith to those who would dismiss it out of hand, while fighting to reclaiming it from those who would reduce evangelicalism to little more than bizarre interpretations of the first few chapters of Genesis.

T.KingTim King is Communications Director for Sojourners. Follow Tim on Twitter: @TMKing.

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