Almost seven years ago, Alan Wolfe published "The Opening of the Evangelical Mind", which described for the readers of the Atlantic Monthly the resurgence or renaissance (more precisely, the "surgence" or "naissance") of evangelical intellectual life. Here’s a characteristic passage:
In its own way, campus life at Wheaton College resembles that of the 1960s, when students and a few professors, convinced that they had embarked on a mission of eternal importance, debated ideas as if life really depended on the answers they came up with. Students at Wheaton, moreover, are as outstanding as any students in America. Wheaton’s rejection rate last year was higher than the University of Chicago’s. Its class of 2003 includes sixty-one National Merit Scholars. The average SAT score of last year’s entering class was 1,310, putting Wheaton in the same range as Oberlin College and the University of Virginia. One political-science major I met had just been accepted for the doctoral program at Yale, another for the one at the University of California at San Diego. Wheaton does even better in the hard sciences than in the social sciences, ranking among the nation’s leading colleges in the percentage of its graduates who go on to earn doctorates. Surprisingly, for a college deriving from a religious tradition that was hostile to Darwinism, Wheaton managed to recruit the chairman of its biology department--the first place where conservative alumni are likely to look for insistence on the Bible’s inerrancy--from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
But despite some bright spots, there’s plenty to make one blanch. I haven’t seen Alexandra Pelosi’s new documentary, but Michael Linton’s commentary rings too true of at least a portion of evangelicalism:
Yes, we can see ourselves in Pelosi’s film, but a lot of what we see should make us wince. We’ve forgotten the Scriptures and allowed ignorance to characterize our preaching, and delirium our worship. In our confidence in God’s grace, we have become presumptuous in our salvation. And we’ve too often confused salvation in heaven with right voting on earth. We need to change. We need to repent.
I don’t know that evangelicals have to follow this all the way to David Kuo, but I think there has to be more to it than we get from Rick Warren (whose book I couldn’t bear even to skim), Joel Osteen, or (shudder) Ted Haggard, who comes off pretty badly in the film, even without the retrospective glasses.
Stated another way, I worry that the basically decent folks who populate the evangelical megachurches are much closer to the market-driven life than even to the purpose-driven life, and not, in any event, "nearer, my God, to Thee."
Hat tip: Wheat and Weeds.