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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

#learningisresistance

Written by: on February 23, 2018

The only thing I love more than teaching is learning. Some people love jewelry, I just want more books. And book discussions. And journal articles. And classes. I admit it, I am completely addicted to learning. I’ve been in grad school longer than most people are in high school and college combined, and I still eye certificate programs that I would like to enroll in during my post-doctorate life. There is nothing cooler to 

me than to learn the facts BEHIND the facts. When I was teaching high school, I searched for hidden gems to make history, government, and Bible stories come alive. I didn’t want to just give them facts; I wanted them to know WHY things happened, and HOW the world was affected. I have to say, I feel all sparkly just thinking about it!

 

 

So it probably stands to reason that the only thing I enjoy less than being faced with people who aren’t interested in learning is being in the vicinity of someone who is anti-intellectual and actually 

ENCOURAGES people not to bother looking deeper. Ugh. No. Just thinking about it makes the sparkly go away…

 

I’ve talked a lot in my posts about how my family heritage has shapedme and made me who I am today. I was shocked to learn that not every kid was encouraged to think and learn and question. I found out REALLY QUICK how many parents are not comfortable with their kids thinking for themselves. That’s when someone turned me on to Mark Noll’s The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. I was captivated from the opening line: “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind,” to the closing sentence of the first paragraph, “Notwithstanding all their other virtues, however, American evanglicals are not exemplary for their thinking, and they have not been so for several generations.”[1] Yikes! This is, of course, a broad stroke, but it clearly spoke to what I was seeing in the classroom and in the church. If fact, this is the book that set me on the path to formal theological learning. I didn’t want to be one of the evangelicals who took the minds we have been given for granted.

 

One of the best things about Scandal is that Noll takes the time to explore and describe the history of Christian thought in an attempt to show us that it hasn’t always been this way and that evangelicals CAN be a part of the academic conversation, pushing and exploring theology in exciting ways. In his book written almost two decades later (Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind),[2] Noll follows up by optimistically that robust Christology and the engagement with traditional Christian creeds are essential platforms for scholarly evangelical thought and teaching. Noll laid down a challenge and not only explores the impact, but pushes the conversation in a distinctly evangelical manner.

 

That is not to say all evangelicals buy in to Noll’s ideas about the life of the mind. There are certainly those critics who seem to think that the life of the mind is too otherworldly, or that Noll is unfair to premillennialists and young earth creationists, but it feels like those critiques prove his points. If anything, I am not sure Noll goes far enough in his censure of evangelicalism that has been, at best, coopted by fundamentalists who work very hard to set boundaries as to what is ‘acceptable’ intellectualism and what is heresy. As Peter Enns notes, “The real scandal of the Evangelical mind is that we are not allowed to use it. Calling for Evangelical involvement in public academic discourse is useless if trained Evangelicals are legitimately afraid of what will happen to them if they do.”[3]

 

This is, of course, the crux of the matter. It’s not that evangelicals don’t want to think and learn and explore. It’s our nature to do so, just like any other human being. The reality is that there is a steep price to be paid by anyone claiming the title of evangelical who infringes upon certain tenets, including inerrancy of Scripture, young earth Creationism (although this is becoming more acceptable in some traditions), traditional interpretation of Old Testament stories, and (heaven forbid) ideas around gender roles, sexuality, and purity culture. These are enough to make the likes of Piper, Grudem, and others to “farewell” earnest theologians permanently, declaring them outside of all evangelical orthodoxy. While some may scoff because they don’t particularly hold these gatekeepers in high esteem, the whiff of a possibility that theologians are dancing on the edge of orthodoxy can (and does) cost them their jobs, publishing deals, and even their church communities. If you have any doubt about this, just Google names like Rob Bell, Rachel Held Evans, Jen and Brandon Hatmaker, or Adam Phillips. Better yet, just suggest to the pastor or board of your local evangelical church that they should consider a sermon series on climate change, inviting renowned scientist Katharine HayHoe or Portland Seminary’s own AJ Swoboda to share.

 

It’s not like we didn’t know that thinking is dangerous. And it’s not like the realization that those in power aren’t always thrilled when people begin to think for themselves is something new. But it feels like now, more than ever, accepting the status quo will be much more dangerous in the long run. #learningisresistance

 

 

                  [1]. Mark A. Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994), 3.

                  [2]. Mark A. Noll, Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2011).

                  [3]. Peter Enns, “The Deeper Scandal of the Evangelical Mind: We Are Not Allowed to Use It,” Patheos Blog, January 25, 2013. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2013/01/the-deeper-scandal-of-the-evangelical-mind-we-are-not-allowed-to-use-it/#. Accessed February 21, 2018.

About the Author

Kristin Hamilton

16 responses to “#learningisresistance”

  1. Mary says:

    Oh my goodness, Kristin, have you ever just recited my story!! What are two heretics like us going to do about the Grudem’s, Ware’s, and Piper’s of this world?
    It’s an intellectual problem that I know you are up for. A “catch-22”. How to get the men who think that they speak for God to listen to anybody else? As women, if we speak we are immediately discounted because we are women. How perfect for them. End of discussion.
    But it breaks my heart because so many need to hear how much Jesus loves them and how tragic that men like Grudem, (who as I’m sure you know threw his weight with all of those many thousands of poor sheep evangelicals who listen to him behind Trump), have so much influence.
    I’m not giving up. Let’s encourage each other to show Christians that it’s “the likes of Piper, Grudem, and others to “farewell” earnest theologians permanently, declaring them outside of all evangelical orthodoxy.” when they are the ones who have not obeyed Jesus’ commands to love. They spend too much time on their theology and not enough on what the Lord requires of them, “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humble with your God.”
    Thank you, Kristin, as usual you get us to the heart of the matter.

    • Kristin Hamilton says:

      It breaks my heart too, Mary. I would never question Piper’s or Grudem’s faith but they seem very comfortable questioning mine and that of others. In Jesus’ eyes I am equipping to serve Jesus and the church, while in their eyes, I am equipping to spread heresy. There’s no love there.

  2. Lynda Gittens says:

    Kristen,
    I appreciate your thoughts “The reality is that there is a steep price to be paid by anyone claiming the title of evangelical who infringes upon certain tenets, including inerrancy of Scripture, young earth Creationism (although this is becoming more acceptable in some traditions), traditional interpretation of Old Testament stories, and (heaven forbid) ideas around gender roles, sexuality, and purity culture”
    Evangelicals taught under the old traditional beliefs are difficult to have them hear anything different from their hardcore traditional values. I look at them as the Pharisees. They are right because they were chosen and those who are not in agreement are speaking heresy.

  3. Jim Sabella says:

    Thanks Kristin for another great post! I have seen so many positive changes in the church and in the evangelical world. But I have also seen the middle ground is becoming narrower and the polarization stronger. This is very sad. We need to find the bridges that speak of the love, mercy, grace, and justice that is our God. Enjoyed your post, Kristin.

  4. Stu Cocanougher says:

    This certainly gives me a lot to think about. I probably spend to much time interacting with social media. I am wondering who really “thinks for themselves” anymore? I am grateful for Mark Noll and the questions he raised.

    • Kristin Hamilton says:

      Good question, Stu. I think it is hard to think for ourselves if we only surround ourselves with people who agree with us, especially on social media!

  5. mm Jennifer Dean-Hill says:

    Tragically true: “The reality is that there is a steep price to be paid by anyone claiming the title of evangelical who infringes upon certain tenets,…”. Where is the love? It is important to have different perspectives and to value others’ opinions. We do not have to agree to love and treat one another with respect. The Nashville Statement comes to mind. How is this loving and respectful? Maybe if we weren’t so busy excluding and dismissing each other as Christians, then we could be more focused on loving one another, and loving our world. I find this one of the saddest elements of the climate in the Christian culture: a lack of acceptance of different theological opinions, as often expressed by contemptuous responses of those who disagree. I think God is big enough to be something different to everyone while still holding onto the integrity of being God. How would you suggest changing the Christian culture to allow and embrace more critical and intellectual thinking?

    • Kristin Hamilton says:

      God is definitely big enough, Jen. It’s strange to me how some (like those who put out the Nashville Statement) are so quick to question the faith and salvation of another.

  6. Kristen,
    Loved the post. Two things in particular. First, that you highlight how Noll lays out that the Christian world was not always so weak and vapid intellectually. Christians used to, in fact, lead the way in this area. This is incredibly important, in my mind, to recognize that this type of intellectual engagement is not some new or ‘progressive’ (shudder the thought 🙂 ) idea, but is actually in the best tradition of the church.

    You end with the idea that thinking is ‘dangerous’. I know what you mean and I agree with you. At the same time, however, it is only dangerous to presuppositions and staid understandings of who God is and what we are called to do. When we trust in God and ask for the leading of God’s Holy Spirit, I don’t think it is dangerous to our faith, and I know it isn’t dangerous to our salvation [I don’t think you were saying it was, but I felt like I had to say this anyway!]

    • Kristin Hamilton says:

      Thanks Chip. I definitely meant dangerous as being dangerous to the status quo. As a young man reminded me today, thinkers have often been regarded as dangerous by leaders of the church. That’s how we ended up with the Inquisition and the Reformation. It’s a fair point.

  7. mm Katy Drage Lines says:

    You and your sparkly books! I’ll join you in the resistance. 🙂
    You speak well about the unfortunate reality “Calling for Evangelical involvement in public academic discourse is useless if trained Evangelicals are legitimately afraid of what will happen to them if they do.” While you mention what has happened in the public sphere to those who ask questions, for me having spent significant time in the Christian university setting these past few years, I see professors who struggle with academic freedom too. Our university pulled two guest speakers because of their views (or… get this, their SPOUSE’S view!) of sexuality. And just up the road from our school is BIOLA, which required professors to not only sign but discuss why they agree with certain “fundamentals” about the inerrancy of scripture, etc.

    • Kristin Hamilton says:

      Exactly, Katy! That is the kind of price I believe “thinkers” are being forced to pay. I watched one of my alma maters push a favorite professor out because his ideas were too far “out there” (while definitely remaining within Nazarene orthodoxy). At the same time, a friend of mine lost their church and had their ordination put under review because of questions they raised from the pulpit, not as their own ideas, but a question church members had been asking! Even a university very near and dear requires a statement to be signed that may eliminate me from ever teaching there.

  8. Christal Jenkins Tanks says:

    Kristin I love your candor! It is true that thinking is not the scandal it is that people today like Rachel Evans actually exemplify what the church is supposed to be!

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