Spiritual Blindness in the Academy

James Jordan has written an excellent critique of why Christian scholars and secular scholars are in thrall to false ideas. The entire article is here, this is an excerpt:

The current scholarly consensus gives little comfort to the evangelical scholar, because at a great many important points the history of the ancient world as reconstructed by secularists contradicts what the Bible says. The evangelical scholar finds two possible ways to deal with this. The first, far and away the most common, is to go back to the Bible and “soften” what the Bible says until it fits with the current secular scholarly consensus. The second way of dealing with the problem is to attack the secular scholarly consensus. This is something few evangelical scholars are willing to do.

Why not? Well, we could be harsh and say that evangelical scholars like their tenured positions at secular and quasi-secular institutions of higher learning, and so don’t like to take risks. That would be unfair, however, because some tenured people do take risks, as do some untenured people. In more than a few cases, however, fear doubtless is a factor. Most people, scholars included, like to look good to their peers, and to call into question the work of one’s fellows is not the way to get along with them.

The more pervasive reason that evangelical scholars do not challenge the secular system at its root is that modern evangelicals do not believe that the depravity of man seriously infects scholarship. They believe that the secular scholars are simply and disinterestedly pursuing truth. They don’t think that secular scholars suppress evidence.

Unfortunately, this view of the secular mind is extremely naive. The Bible tells us in Romans 1:18ff. that the unconverted mind constantly suppresses the truth, and that includes the truths of history. The Bible tells us, again in Romans 1:18ff., that the unbeliever deceives himself continually. In other words, he is not really aware of his powerful propensity to suppress any truth that threatens his peace of mind.

Further — and I realize that by writing what follows I am opening myself up to ridicule, but it is true nevertheless — the Bible tells us that the unbelieving world, including the world of scholarship, is constantly being led astray by fallen angels who seek to prevent the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth. These “principalities, powers, thrones, and dominions” are under Satan but over the ordinary demons. They operate by means of prejudice and ideology, binding the minds of men into straightjackets of error from which it is difficult to deliver them. It takes the miraculous power of the gospel to break through these ideologies. Warfare at this level is the calling of the Church (Ephesians 6).

Thus, over the course of time, men forget the truth because in their hearts they forsake it. The reason the Bible is so full of memorials to historical events and to the words of God, is that men tend to forget. This is an moral forgetting, not a mere psychological one: Men forget because they don’t want to remember. Thus, the history of the Bible and of the Church is a history of revivals, of times when what had been suppressed and forgotten is once again remembered. If this is a problem in the Church, how much more is it a problem outside of her?

4 thoughts on “Spiritual Blindness in the Academy”

  1. outside of the “natural theology” tradition and outgrowths of that ala Alastair MacIntyre, there’s little serious engagement across worldviews, in my opinion.

  2. Well, I don’t know..we’re lacking in gentleness and respect too (ala 1st Peter).

    I’ve a coworker who is very postmodern atheist, in a Camus sort of way. I mentioned a book which he, surprisingly volunteered to read a bit of: David Bentley Hart’s “Beauty of the Infinite” !! too hard for both of us 🙂
    anyway, out of that we tentatively agreed:

    1) there are distinct, disjoint frameworks for “viewing” the world
    2) nihilism is unacceptable/some framework must be chosen
    3) there is no purely rationalistic overriding/all-encompassing framework (or at least not one we all can accept)

    that’s progress

    i intend to further argue along the lines:

    well, yes, we look at TRUTH from various mountaintop perspectives and there is no universal mountaintop we can climb to look from. However, we can imagine – by creatively intregrating several mountaintop perspectives – a divine perspective. And that perspective will inevitably testify to what became flesh to us in Christ Jesus.

  3. I think that no one will convert unless they realize their own brokenness and sin, probably in a moment of some crisis. Intellectual aids will help them along the way, but the heart of man is essentially proud. I hope your friend continues to move towards Christ.

    As far as perspectives, I embrace critical realism as described by N.T. Wright in The New Testament and the People of God, mixed with the presuppositional thought of Cornelius Van Til and Greg Bahnsen.

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