Misplaced Jesus, Theology — February 9, 2011 at 1:33 pm

That’s not why they call it “faith”

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Earlier this week, my left eye started twitching from high levels of caffeine and a lack of sleep, so I decided that instead of studying at a coffee shop like a usually do, it would be better to read and enjoy a mug of Oberon at the local bar near campus. As I sat at the bar reading The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (1994), a middle-aged man sitting next to me asked what I was reading.

I simplified for him: “Why evangelicals suck at thinking.” He seemed satisfied with my answer and proceeded to explain to me that “Christians don’t have any reasoning for what they believe but that’s okay because, hey, that’s why they call it faith, right?” No, wrong. That’s not why they call it faith. Or at least it shouldn’t be.

That same day, the New York Times published an article on “Philosophy and Faith” in which a professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame similarly decried the conflation among his undergraduates of “faith” with “I don’t need any good reason to believe what I believe.” What is going on here?

If I could change any one thing about the way evangelicalism is embraced and lived out in the United States today, it would be to recognize and to rectify its long, debilitating history of anti-intellectualism. A number of historians and analytic philosophers have documented and addressed its rise; my lifelong pursuit is to facilitate its demise.

The local church is God’s primary vehicle for His mission of reconciling all things to Himself. It seems to me that the evangelical church has forgotten the fact that “all things” includes the human mind. As Charles Malik (1980) has written: “For the sake of greater effectiveness in witnessing to Jesus Christ Himself, as well as for their own sakes, the Evangelicals cannot afford to keep on living on the periphery of responsible intellectual existence. …The problem is not only to win souls but to save minds!”

I am eagerly working toward a new era in which the word “faith” has been redeemed and restored to its true, passionate, proactive meaning—rather than remaining in its current state of passive and beleaguered epistemic marginalization. It need not and ought not to be this way.

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