Younger Christians today tend to view the academic and the spiritual as opposing spheres, as an either-or choice, at best as a relation of inferior to superior. Let me illustrate this with a few examples. (1) After three years in seminary, a student recently confessed that he had come to the seminary to “grow spiritually” and to become a more mature Christian person, but that all he had done was “learn theology.” The implication was that the seminary had failed him, that the spiritual had been sacrificed to the academic. (2) In a conference on the ministry, several persons expressed fear that their newfound faith in Christ and their intense personal commitment to him might be weakened or even lost in the halls of academia. The assumption was that somehow books and learning and critical thought threaten faith and commitment and devotion; that spiritual is opposed to rational; that reason is the enemy of faith; that critical inquiry and reflection is a dragon that constantly threatens the faith that God by his grace has created within us. (3) A student recently said that he saw no connection between the critical investigation of a biblical text and his spiritual life, and that the study of historical theology was really irrelevant to his Christian faith and his experience of Christ. The implication was that the experience of faith is the ultimate good, that understanding a biblical text or a historic Christian doctrine with the mind is not essential.

These examples suggest the mood in America’s young Christians, a mood that is paralleled in American life generally. The historian Richard Hofstadter calls it an anti-intellectualism that manifests itself in a demand for immediate relevance and in an indifference toward academic ...

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