While I acknowledge that Christians must love God with their minds, I am often disturbed by the intellectual statements and positions of men in the most influential places within the evangelical academy. On top of this, many ministers seem to lend strong loyalty to academic voices and publications. Yet, I have discovered in my brief ministerial experience some reasons to hesitate—cautionary doubt about the reliability of the academic industry.
- Wheaton College hosted “Evangelicals and Catholics Together.” J. I. Packer—a still highly respected evangelical scholar—agreed with Cardinal Francis George that at the core Catholicism is Christian. Numerous influential names were present in the large auditorium when I asked the final question about why I have never heard a Catholic simply say that they are trusting in Jesus. Cardinal George and I had a brief dialogue before I returned to my seat to shouts and boos. Then president Duane Litfin somewhat abruptly closed the session.
- Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary, does all but endorse the evangelical status of Mormonism.
- Tim Keller who serves in a visible position with the Gospel Coalition endorses BioLogos. This think tank has devoted themselves to certain aspects of what Peter called intentional foolishness (2 Pet. 3:5) in their manner of handling the Flood and evolution.
- Tremper Longman III receives accolades as an evangelical scholar, but he’s not quite sure if Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes, Moses wrote the Pentateuch, Jonah was actual history, and of course Genesis 1-2 is opaque. See the relevant sections in his Introduction to the Old Testament.
- John Frame believes and teaches others that it is not wrong to choose to watch movies for “the normal course of my cultural pursuits” if they contain nudity and glamorized immorality as long as they are not “the main point” of the movie. Doctrine of the Christian Life, 895-896.
- The late Robert Webber used the F-word and other obscenities in an evangelistic Bible study where he also said something like, “You know, praying, reading your Bible everyday, and fasting—I’m not so good at those things.” What a raw relational bridge that was to we rootless 20 somethings. And Webber’s particular scholarly expertise? Writing books on worship.
- A well-known theologian who has done a lot of good in a lot of areas referred to The Titanic at a minister’s conference in South Africa remarking that he knows we all watched it and liked it. The non-academic writer, Randy Alcorn sternly and correctly rebuked that particular movie for its smut in The Purity Principle.
- Mark Noll castigates creationism repeatedly in his highly acclaimed The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind as well as his more recent and less profitable Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind. In the latter (page 124), his conclusion is that there can be no more valid objection to evolution since it is “fully compatible with historic Christian orthodoxy.”
- Two different professors at Reformed Theological Seminary covered Karl Barth. (The lectures are available at iTunes U.) In one of the classes, a student asked if Barth was a false teacher, to which the lecturer shrugged out something like, “I guess he’s more toward a false teacher.” The second professor had very mild words for Schleiermacher, Barth, etc. Are these guys true teachers or false? What would Jesus or the apostle Paul say about men who handled the Scriptures they way they did?
All these men or institutions are respected and influential within evangelical academia. I did not choose minor voices or backwoods ministries. Secondly, the errors that were listed are obvious. If we disagree with the examples, then there is a presuppositional tension between us, not some superficial problem. Third, each of these men is coming from the conservative, Reformed camp. This should be the best that the evangelical truth-seeking industry has to offer.
Possibly, I am growing too cynical and critical at the ripe age of 35. But it’s also possible that Jesus’ judgment in truth will be harsher yet.