Evangelicals and Scholarship (Sparks and Olson)

Over at Conn-versation, the Foolish Sage quotes Sparks on four discomforts conservative evangelical scholars have with critical scholarship. sparks-gods-word-in-human-words.jpg

  1. Concerns about how their own honest findings relate to issues of biblical authority.
  2. Pastoral desire “to shield their readers from disruptive, faith-testing bouts with cognitive dissonance.”
  3. Desire to sell books to conservative readers; “serious scholarship does not sell well among Evangelicals.”
  4. Job security.

. . . many evangelical scholars, in their more candid moments, will privately confess that their views are far closer to the critical consensus than their institutions could stomach.”

Kenton Sparks, God’s Words in Human Words: An Evangelical Appropriation of Critical Biblical Scholarship. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008. pp. 167-8.

Separately, Scot McKnight begins his series on Olson’s, Reformed and always reforming.olson-reformed-and-reforming.jpg

Olson finds ten tendencies among evangelicals:

1. Tendency to treat correct doctrine as the essence of authentic Christianity.
2. Tendency to treat revelation as primarily propositional.
3. Tendency to elevate some tradition to the status of a magisterium. This closes off fresh study and theology.
4. Tendency to be suspicious of constructive theology and to be defensive and to patrol evangelical borders.
5. Tendency to see evangelicalism as a bounded set instead of a centered set.
6. Tendency to see the “evangelical tent” as a “small” tent. (Here he brings up inerrancy as one defining line.)
7. Tendency to be suspicious of modernity and postmodernity, even if many postconservatives think they are caught up in modernity too much. Doctrinal pluralism is a threat and here he uses Carson as an example in his The Gagging of God.
8. Tendency to think their theology is uninfluenced by history and culture. They look for the transcultural and see it as permanent.
9. Tendency to remain close to the fundamentalist roots. Many, Olson argues, are moving toward fundamentalism. He says, “I admit this is a matter of opinion.” I agree with that opinion.
10. Tendency to do theology in the grip of the fear of liberal theology.

He knows there are varieties and nuances; these are ten tendencies.

Next post by McKnight: the five features in common between conservatives and postconservatives. Follow the series on Jesus Creed.

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One thought on “Evangelicals and Scholarship (Sparks and Olson)

  1. […] Evangelicals and Scholarship (Sparks and Olson) « Ben Byerly’s Blog Says: March 17, 2008 at 3:36 am […] Evangelicals and Scholarship (Sparks and Olson) Over at Conn-versation, the Foolish Sage quotes Sparks on four discomforts conservative evangelical scholars have with critical scholarship. […] […]

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