Spiritual Blindness in the Academy

Posted: April 15, 2009 by joelmartin in Biblical Studies, Spiritual Warfare
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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?

  1. Joel,

    Jordan is on to something. I would also hold “Evangelical” publishing houses somewhat responsible for how they edit submitted manuscripts. I think it is a good thing that some smaller publishing houses have popped up that will unashamedly publish stuff that not only confronts the secularist viewpoint, but also challenges the Evangelical consensus on some other things. I am thinking of Canon Press, Athanasius Press, among others.

    I’m just curious…what all of Jordan have you read?

  2. joelmartin says:

    In terms of his books: The Sociology of the Church and The Liturgy Trap.

  3. joelmartin says:

    Oh, also Theses on Worship (good one) and Crisis, Opportunity and the Christian Future. That’s a short booklet that is really cool. I need to read his “Through New Eyes.”

    • One of my URC colleges recommends “Through New Eyes”, though he gave a disclaimer that he didn’t agree with everything said, but did say that it will cause one to think. That can pretty much be said about any book.

      I had a great conversation with a gentleman from Doug Wilson’s church while I was in Spokane. He thought I would enjoy Jordan’s engagement on Spiritual Warfare, etc. I’m also getting to know Alan Burrows from the King’s Congregation fairly well and he is a good “conversationist” on some issues that we hold in common….and even those we don’t hold in common.

      Anyhow, I am finally getting around to reading some of these CREC guys and will maybe do some reviews on such in future posts.

  4. joelmartin says:

    Well, I’m on the Biblical Horizons email list with him, Leithart, and many, many others so I hear from him almost all the time. He is a genius, even when I don’t agree with him. My favorite living writer is Leithart, and I would like to channel those guys in an Anglican context. I’d suggest the titles I mentioned above or read around the BH website. His old essays are on there and you can get a lot out of them. Jordan has a new interview up here:

    [audio src="http://www.auburnavenue.org/inmediasres/Podcast_16.mp3" /]

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