Sixty years ago, there were about as many serious evangelical scholars as there were stars on the American flag. Today, there are nearly as many societies of Christian scholars who represent a wide spectrum of academic disciplines. Sixty years ago, it would have been difficult to find an evangelical Christian who was a full professor at a major university. Today there are dozens. Back in the 1940s, not even Sherlock Holmes could have found evangelical fingerprints on any field of academic endeavor. Today several academic fields—most notably, sociology of religion, history of Christianity, and several areas of philosophy—are well-developed because of top-drawer scholarship by evangelicals.
How did this happen among evangelicals, who 60 years ago were intensely distrustful of—and unwelcome in—the academic world? The answer is complex, involving rising education levels among all Americans, shifts of attitude toward learning among evangelicals, and the spread of evangelical Christianity through the American population. But an important part of the story comes down to money. It takes a fair chunk of change to support sabbaticals, travel, and research—and evangelical scholars have received a goodly share of such funds in the last few decades. So, who helped fund the resurgence of evangelical scholarship—and why?
America's 50,000 foundations annually give away over $22 billion. This is only 7 percent of all philanthropy—individuals, living and dead, do 88 percent of America's charitable giving. Still, $22 billion is a lot of money, and when doled out in relatively large portions, it has a major influence on the direction of nonprofit organizations. Evangelical scholarship began receiving help from the ...1