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I am also encouraged by the boldness and clarity with which evangelicals such as Denis Lamoureux and Keith B. Miller spell out why they are evolutionists and why they hold evolutionary theory to be compatible with traditional Christian orthodoxy. It is also heartening that promoters of the intelligent-design theory, such as William Dembski and Jonathan Wells, are trying to raise questions about the Christian stake in science to the levels of metaphysical and teleological debate, where they should have been all along.

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One sign of that presence is a larger roster of identifiably Christian faculty in the lead ranks of their disciplines. Even though or, perhaps, because these visibly believing faculty take up their tasks in many different, not always compatible, ways, their very existence is a sign of hope. To compare the situation just three or four decades ago to the situation today is to see a change for the better. Then there was only a small handful of leading scholars willing to identify themselves as believers; now it is possible to name a long list in many fields.

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Evangelicals who read and study with such intellectuals are provided with models and mentors. Other signs of hope at the pluralistic universities are modest but significant. Local churches and individual denominations maintain Christian study centers at many universities, and some of them are effective. Self-standing centers at the University of Virginia, Michigan State University, the University of Illinois, the University of Minnesota, and elsewhere offer encouragement by moving closer to the British and Canadian pattern, where identifiably Christian units are embedded in the broader university.

The Veritas Forums that annually convene on many campuses bring further connections and encouragement to wide audiences that include many evangelicals. At pluralistic colleges and universities, campus ministries of many sorts also encourage evangelical spiritual life. Especially with its major commitment to its graduate and faculty ministry, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship offers reason for hope. By providing Christian nurture and networks for evangelical students and teachers who might otherwise feel isolated as believing scholars, the grad-faculty IVCF may be doing as much in its low-key way to improve evangelical intellectual life as any other ongoing national program.

A sixth arena where favorable developments in recent years have helped evangelicals toward greater intellectual responsibility is the world of publishing. Whether such journals do so from explicitly evangelical angles or from the perspective of other believing traditions, their net effect is to demonstrate how essential it is for communities of faith to think their way through the modern world rather than just reacting to it.

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The number of serious books that can be identified as Christian, near-Christian, or Christian-friendly also continues to increase. Presses such as Eerdmans, Baker, and InterVarsity Press were midwives at the birth of postwar evangelicalism, and they have continued to make Herculean efforts. They have now been joined by many other religious, commercial, and university presses willing to publish books written by evangelicals or treating seriously the subjects that most concern evangelicals.

Beyond question, evangelical intellectual life is being strengthened by developments in these six areas. Yet when assessing the current situation, realism is also required, as well as precision about what is actually taking place. We are indeed witnessing some advances by evangelicals in Christian intellectual life, but these improvements do not point toward the development of a distinctly evangelical mind. Common, generic evangelicalism and the activistic denominations that make up evangelicalism do not possess theologies full enough, traditions of intellectual practice strong enough, or conceptions of the world deep enough to sustain a full-scale intellectual revival.


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Without strong theological traditions, most evangelicals lack a critical element required for making intellectual activity both self-confident and properly humble, both critical and committed. In order to advance responsible Christian learning, the vitality of commitment must be stabilized by the ballast of tradition.

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Tradition without life might be barely Christian, but life without tradition is barely coherent. Part of what makes it possible for a particular stream of Christianity to support vigorous intellectual life is simply the passage of time: an older movement obviously has had more opportunities to broaden out into fruitful scholarship. But another part is a self-conscious commitment to learn from the teaching and experience of past believing generations.

The current dilemma for Christian learning in North America could be broadly described as follows. On the one side, Pentecostals, Southern Baptists, members of Holiness movements, seeker-sensitive churches, dispensationalists, Adventists, African-American congregations, radical Wesleyans, and lowest-common-denominator evangelicals have great spiritual energy, but they flounder in putting the mind to use for Christ.


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On the other side, Lutherans, Catholics, Anglo-Catholics, the Reformed, and the Eastern Orthodox enjoy incredibly rich traditions that include sterling examples of Christian thought, but they often display a comatose spirituality. This picture is, of course, a generalization. Yet think how natural it sounds to talk of Pentecostal Signs and Wonders, intense holiness spirituality, vigorous seeker-sensitive evangelism, a dispensationalist devotion to Scripture, and Baptist missionary zeal.

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It seems equally self-evident that we can speak of such things as an estimable tradition of Lutheran sacred music, art history pursued from a Kuyperian Reformed perspective, profound social theory from Catholics, and a solid trajectory of Anglo-Catholic belles lettres. But try to shift and mix the categories and hear how unexpected some of the combinations sound: Kuyperian Reformed Signs and Wonders? Vigorous Catholic evangelism?

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Intense Lutheran spirituality? Or, to run it the other way: Art history pursued from a Baptist perspective? A solid trajectory of seeker-sensitive belles lettres? I believe that teachers, whether we like it or not, shape students in a host of ways. Starkenburg is married to Rebekah Starkenburg, who serves as the vice president of student development and retention at Trinity. Email: keith. Professor of Theology Education Ph.

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