In an Op-Ed for today’s New York Times, Karl Giberson and Randall Stephens complain about anti-intellectualism among evangelicals. They cite as a case in point the GOP primary field, some of whom reject evolution and that climate change is real and caused by humans. For Giberson and Stephens, these two items constitute prima facie evidence that evangelicals have checked their brains at the door. They go on to criticize Jim Dobson, Ken Hamm, and David Barton as if these three were the keepers of the entire evangelical intellectual tradition. I mean no disrespect to these three men. But if Giberson and Stephens think that these three represent the “evangelical mind,” they are sadly mistaken.
Giberson and Stephens write as evangelicals to evangelicals—only this is not your father’s evangelicalism. The conclusion of the article tells you almost everything you need to know about the authors’ vision of evangelical faith when they claim that “the Bible does not condemn evolution and says next to nothing about gay marriage.” They say this without the slightest bit of irony at all. They seem genuinely unaware of the enormous revision of Christianity embodied in that single statement. Nevertheless, they are putting themselves forward as spokesmen for evangelicalism. Affirming gay marriage and evolution may sound like evangelicalism to the editors of The New York Times, but I doubt that very many evangelicals would agree.
But that is not the only irony of this piece. While accusing evangelicals of an anti-intellectual disengagement from the world of ideas, Giberson and Stephens fail to engage a single evangelical argument in favor of the Christian worldview. They simply assume a priori that Christian revelation has to bend and accommodate every wind of secularism blowing against it from the academy. This may be a good way to ingratiate oneself to the cultured despisers of religion (though I doubt it), but it is a horrible way to contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). But contending for the faith doesn’t really seem to be a priority for Giberson and Stephens.
This is a bad article and is devoid of any serious engagement with those it wishes to critique. It has more name-calling and straw-manning than reason and argument. I am sure Giberson and Stephens think that they are helping the “evangelical” cause by writing an article like this one. I would argue, however, that the intellectual trajectory they have set will eventually undermine the evangel altogether.