Are Evangelicals Lazy Thinkers? Video Post

January 28, 2012 — 9 Comments

In this short video, I ask whether or not there’s any truth to the assertion that evangelicals are lazy thinkers. Weigh in below!

Anderson Campbell


  • Pete Garcia

    Yes and no. I mean, look at the differences between bodies such as AAR and SBL and the Evangelical Theological Society. The issue behind the question is one of allowing doctrines to supersede scholarship. I think I need to be generous here, so I’ll say that I think this is more of a commitment to one’s convictions rather than laziness. Tony Jones raised a similar question a little while ago… . The experience of Pete Enns’ and Westminster over “Inspiration and Incarnation” comes to mind here.One of the problems with tackling your question is that Evangelicalism is not so easily pinned down (see for a nice take on this). There are plenty of pastors and Bible teachers and theologians who are deeply committed to Evangelicalism and fundamentalist theology. There are also some great scholars and pastors and Bible teachers who would identify themselves as Evangelical but would be condemned as dangerous and heretical by the former group. Could we say that all fundamentalists are Evangelicals but not all Evangelicals are fundamentalists?

  • MIchael Hearn

    Andy Love the video idea…may have to do that myself. #dminlgp

  • Anderson Campbell

    Pete – Great, insightful comments, brother. You are right to describe the “messiness” that results from trying to define evangelicalism. The popular connotation of all evangelicals as fundamentalists further muddies the waters (as to your closing point, I agree completely!). The point that I hear Noll making (esp. in “Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind”) is that even if evangelicals haven’t been very intellectually engaged in the past couple of centuries, it wasn’t always like that (just look at Jonathan Edwards), nor must it remain that way.Tony Jones raises precisely the problem that scholarly evangelicals face if they seek to undertake serious thinking that is both rooted in Christological thinking and academically honest. Take a look at what happened to Peter Enns for an idea of how swift one can be booted out of the evangelical vanguard (incidentally, Noll deals with Enns’ book that stirred up all that trouble at length in “Jesus…”).I really resonate with Bo Sanders’ comments toward the end of his homebrewed post: “if you don’t want to be evangelical that is fine. But some of us call this family and it means a lot to us. If you are done with the term, fine. But to us it has deep meaning we still use it as a family name. If you don’t count yourself as a member anymore – that is your call. But stop telling us who are inside the conversation that Evangelical doesn’t mean anything. It does to us. ” Evangelicalism means something. I’m partial to Bebbington’s quadrilateral as the most generous framework for outlining what it means to “be” evangelical, and there’s nothing within the bounds of Activism, Crucicentrism, Conversionism, and Biblicism which necessarily preclude evangelicals from developing a distinctly “Evangelical Mind.”We just need to get about doing it.

  • trippfuller

    great video post!

  • Anderson Campbell

    Thanks Tripp. It means a lot that you took the time to watch and comment. 

  • petegarcia

    I really appreciated and was encouraged by Bo Sanders’ post. Evangelicalism means something to me, yes. Not only is it all I have really known, but it also yields such power within North America. Thus, reshaping the identity/identities of Evangelicalism influences so much more than just the church down the road. However, if I were to be intellectually honest with my tribe and allow my academic influences to shape the way that I dialogue with people in my community, conflicting approaches to “biblicism” create tension and problems. I think it was Scot McKnight who pointed out a few months back that being to the right of center and going further and further right is always acceptable, but any step in the opposite direction is always perceived as dangerous. My theology will likely prevent me from having any kind of theological influence within my church. How do we renew the center and remove the Otherness of non-fundamentalist theology from within conservative communities? I mean, I guess the easier-said-than-done answer is foster spaces where questioning and doubt and uncertainty are welcomed before doctrinal assuredness.

  • Tim Buechsel

    #dminlgpWow – I think it’s Pete – you really describe something that I am constantly feeling, but have not been able to put into words. I’ve always struggled bringing things from my reading or seminary into my faith community. I think we all have experienced where we tried to do that and it led to confusion because it didn’t sound quite right (or it blew up in your face). I also think it is interesting what you say about Scot McKnight’s continum – that has been true in my experience. In German there is a phrase “dialog fähig” which meand “dialogue capable.” How did we get to the point that we became “dialogue capable”? Is there something in our journey that can help others on their journey with this as well? How can we help our faith communities become “dialogue capable”? Andy – Great video by the way =)

  • Chris Marshall

    @Pete through Scot McKnight, brilliant perception that if our learning draws us ‘right’ that it is accepted, if it draws us any steps to the left then it becomes increasingly dangerous. Is there not a middle way/3rd path? I think this perception is spot on.

  • Anderson Campbell

    Chris, Pete–Great observations and questions. Roger Olson thinks so. He is in the middle of a 5-part series on his blog on why the evangelical left-middle-right spectrum simply doesn’t work anymore. In this, the second part of the series, he offers a third-way–a mosaic of evangelical theologies: