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Friday, May 23, 2008

Prying Open the Evangelical Mind

In an attempt to show that evangelicalism is compatible with scientific progress, education, and popular culture, a new study out of Boston University's Institute on Culture, Religion and World Affairs will take a look at what's being called the "evangelical intelligentsia." The study will try to correct the perception that evangelicals are "barefoot people of Tobacco Road who, I don't know, sleep with their sisters or something," BU sociologist Peter Berger, who's leading the study with evangelical political scientist Timothy Shah of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, told the AP. It's "not good if a prejudiced view of this community prevails in the elite circles of society," he added.
The root of this prejudice, some believe, is the idea that all evangelicals are fundamentalists. In reality, fundamentalists are a subset of the evangelical community who tend to interpret the Bible literally—including an emphasis on six-day creation. That's not the case for the majority of evangelical scientists, who believe in God-guided evolution, says Shah.
But if they want to be culturally relevant, evangelicals are going to have to step outside the comforts of their community and mix with the "larger world of ideas," says Boston College sociologist Alan Wolfe, who believes evangelicals have been too insular to be truly effective. —Dan Messier


Steve Martin said...

Hi Dan,
That's not the case for the majority of evangelicals, who believe in God-guided evolution, says Shah.
Wow. Do you know if he has some stats to back that up? I find that hard to believe .. even though I'd like to believe it. I am a Evangelical who sees no conflict between biological evolution & the Christian faith, and would love to think that there are lots of us out there. But I think we are, in fact, very much in the minority. When pressed most Evangelicals would probably be agnostic over the age of the earth, or support some type of OEC (rather than YEC), but very few would accept evolution.

Right now I'm running a series on "Evangelicals, Evolution, and Academics" on my blog with participation from 7 other Evangelicals who accept evolutionary science. For more info, check out the series Introduction. The first 2 posts by Keith Miller (editor of Perspectives on an Evolving Creation) are already up.

Dan Messier said...

Hi Steve,
Good catch! Shah actually pointed out that a majority of evangelical scientists believe in God-guided evolution. Obviously, that's a big difference from the majority of evangelicals, and I've updated to post to correct the mistake.

Thanks for the comment, and thanks also for the link to your blog, which looks very interesting.