American evangelicals are experiencing an intellectual renaissance, although it is uncertain whether it will reach most evangelical believers. In the Catholic magazine Commonweal (Jan. 15), James Turner writes that the publication of the bi-monthly journal Books and Culture signals the culmination of a “kind of evangelical Long March through American intellectual life.”
Evangelical intellectuals who write for the journal, such as historian George Marsden, literary critic Roger Lundin, and philosophers Alvin Plantinga and Nicholas Wolsterstorff, are in “no sense confined within some narrow evangelical discourse; they speak to, and are heeded by, academics of all stripes in their various disciplines. And they strive as well to speak to a wider audience,” while maintaining their beliefs.
Turner thinks that the evangelical formation of learned societies, such as the Society of Christian Philosophers, have helped spread the evangelical intellectual influence. That these evangelicals cooperate with other Christians, such as Roman Catholics, is another factor in their success. The Calvinist factor (especially as found among the Dutch Calvinists around Calvin College) has propelled the intellectual movement, although there are also new stirrings in such non-Reformed places as Messiah College (Brethren in Christ), Pepperdine University (Church of Christ) and Baylor University (Southern Baptist).
Turner adds that whether the evangelical intellectual revival will make inroads among the American evangelical rank-and-file remains to be seen. In fact, the “overall effect will likely be to fortify other, nonevangelical approaches to scholarship, rather than to generate an original, distinctively evangelical life of the mind.”
(Commonweal, 475 Riverside Dr., Rm. 405, New York, NY 10115)