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Some thoughts on scholarship and presenting of arguments

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

I recently read a review written by a Dr. Paul Henebury of Dr. Rolland McCune's book Promised Unfufilled: The Failed Strategy of Modern Evangelicalism. I have not finished reading the book (I admit to my shame), so my comments here are not intended to be a defense of the book, but rather some thoughts about a couple of comments found in the review that I found to be interesting. (Dr. Henebury's review can be found here. For a more detailed review and a response from Dr. McCune, check out the review by Andy Neselli.)

Anyway, my comments are not really about the book, per se, but about something I read in the review.

In the fifth paragraph, Dr. Henebury comments,

"...the most glaring fact about this chapter is McCune’s reliance upon the very people whom he criticizes in his book! The names of Nash, Marsden, Brown, McGrath, Demarest, Davis, and Schaeffer (who is identified as neo-evangelical later on) are appealed to for the substantiation of the writer’s data and critique. And while a writer may legitimately quote an author with which he disagrees, it should be recognized that no fundamentalist is called upon in this chapter - an indication at least that the charge of anti-intellectualism against American fundamentalism does contain enough adhesive power to call any critic of neo-evangelicalism to a little self-examination once in a while."

Now, as far as I know, I have not met or interracted with Dr. Henebury before, so I hope that those reading this do not view this as an attack on him, instead I am using this statement as simply a representation of many similar statements I have heard and read over the years.

When I read a statement like this, two particular questions come to my mind:

1. What is so glaring about quoting from people within a movement to help make a case against the movement?

It seems to me that this is actually a good strategy, rather than a glaring weakness. Calling a proponent of an idea or position or institution as a testimony against that very same idea or position or institution seems even more condemning that merely quoting from opponents or stating your own case. A proponent who admits to a particular problem or error seems to add some credibility to the idea that this is not just an outside observer who recognizes this, but that even some on the side being criticized even recognize this. It is also harder for other proponents of that same issues or institution to argue against or to just dismiss, whereas if the same thing were said by someone who was from the outside or viewed as an opponent, it could more easily viewed as something from someone who just has an "axe to grind" or "has it out for" the particular idea or institution.

Is this not part of what Paul is doing in Titus 1:12?
One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. (Titus 1:12)

2. Why does a lack of writing or a lack of being published equal "anti-intellectualism"?

The charge of anti-intellectualism - or at least of a lack of scholarship - has been leveled against Fundamentalism from many sources. It has gotten so much press, that it has become a "self-evident truth" that does not even seem to need support by the one making the claim - after all, everybody knows that Fundamentalism is anti-intellectual.

One of the "proofs" often thrown up regarding this is the lack of writing by Fundamentalist. In fact, it was a discussion on this topic a couple of years ago that led to my original "The Best and the Brightest" post.

Here's part of the problem with that thinking.

* It assumes that the end of scholarship is the production of a book.

While I think it is great to produce a valuable book on an important topic, the assumption that "published" equals scholarly and that "non-published" equals "non-scholarly" is unsupportable. Many pastors and professors have made the conscious choice that the focus of their lives and ministry - and study - is to be the maturing of saints for the work of the ministry. They do not denigrate the value of books - yea, the ones I know love books, but they do make a deliberate choice to directly pour their lives into people, not pages.

* It fails to recognize the reality of unpublished scholarship.

Every published scholar was, at one point, an unpublished scholar. While it is certainly true that the act of refining material to produce a book may enhance a person's understanding and expertise in a subject, the usual reality is that a person who knows his stuff is a "scholar" even if he has not yet - or ever is - a scholar. Dr. Barrett did not suddenly become a "scholar" by the publishing of his first work - the publishing of the first work merely confirmed to a wider audience the nature of Dr. Barrett's scholarship.

Not only do men not become a "scholar" by publishing, some of the wisest and most scholarly men were unpublished.

The obvious example of this, of course, is Jesus Christ. In speaking regarding the judgment due to those of His generation that rejected Him, he commented that, while the queen of Sheba had come "from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon," that He Himself was "greater than Solomon." (see Matthew 12 and Luke 11).

In the secular realm, most people consider Socrates one of the world's greatest philosophers, yet we have nothing written from Socrates.

In more recent days, it was said of Dr. Charles Brokenshire (a former professor at Bob Jones College before it became Bob Jones University) that "on his faculty record (dated 1930), one finds an impressive list of the languages of which he had mastered a reading knowledge or better: French, German, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, Swedish, Norse, Latin, Greek (classical and koine), Hebrew, “Chaldee” (Biblical Aramaic), modern Greek, Yiddish, Arabic, Syriac, Samaritan, Ethiopic, Babylonian, Coptic, Egyptian Hieroglyph, and Esperanto (an artificial “universal language”). By the end of his career he had added Chinese, Japanese, and Russian to this list." Does Dr. Brokenshire's lack of publishing make him less of a scholar?

* It fails to recognize the reality of publishing

While this is beginning to change due to the decreasing cost of some publishing forms, the publishing of a book requires more than just the producing of quality materials. Book publishers are wanting materials that will sell. A scholarly work on "A Study of Greece in the Fourth Century B.C., from the Peloponnesian War to the Reign of Alexander—404 B.C. to 336 B.C" (Brokenshire's Master's Thesis) is not as likely to be put into print as "Five Ways to Grow Your Church" by Mega-church Pastor. The Mega-Church Pastor already has a larger potential audience and is writing on a subject more likely to produce revenue.

* It fails to understand the financial and workload issues at play.

When someone like John MacArthur writes a book, a lot of the work is done by his editor, Phil Johnson (of Pyromaniacs fame). Someone takes what MacArthur has preached and does some of the necessary research leg-work and then they go over the final product and re-write sections, etc. with the main author. Others take writing sabbaticals. That is great, if you have the funds available from your church or institution to hire a guy like Phil Johnson to help with the writing/editing of your material or to pay the Pastor or professor while he is on sabbatical. Most Fundamentalist churches and schools do not have that kind of finances. Not only do they not have the finances to hire someone like Phil Johnson to do a lot of the leg-work, the churches are not generally large enough to have enough Pastors on staff to cover for a Pastor on extended sabbatical. In addition to this, many of the professors at the Fundamentalist schools are teaching a full-load and don't have the kind of extra time needed in order to write a book.

I would love to eventually get to the point where I can actually write a book that others would want to read and I rejoice that we are starting to see more and more books become available that are written by Fundamentalists. I just think that we need to re-think this idea that "scholarship" = "published" and its reciprocal, "unpublished" = "anti-intellectual" (or at least, "unscholarly").

Just my thoughts,



Chris Anderson said...

Good thoughts, Frank. Both points are helpful.

To equate scholarship with being published is obviously bogus, especially when you consider how much foolishness is available in print. As you say, there are many fundamentalists whose scholarship is dedicated primarily to preaching and teaching--think of a Dr. Minnick, Dr. Doran, or Dr. Horn. I'd love to see them published, but to equate that with scholarship (or lack thereof) is silly.

There is plenty of anti-intellectualism available inside and outside of fundamentalism, and it's displayed primarily in pulpits, not books. No movement has a corner on ignorance.

Jason said...

Reading your post makes me both happy and sad. Happy that there are corners of Fundamentalism where the claim of anti-intellectualism doesn't have all that much credibility. Sad that so much of Fundamentalism fits the accusation so thoroughly and perfectly as to make arguing futile. Honestly, I would suspect that the most published Fundamentalists of our day are not scholarly and show all too much sympathy for anti-intellectual ideas.

The problem goes deep into the fibre of fundamentalist thinking. While this may not be the case in your corner of the movement, unfortunately I believe it is the case in what is probably a majority of the movement.

I'm interested in your take on this...

Chris Anderson said...

It is true that the "wacky" side of fundamentalism has tended to be the portion most often published.

I read something a while back that cracked me right up. If memory serves, it was a spoof announcement about the Pastor of an IFB Church being being burdened to write a book (probably on modern versions), then announcing that the release date would be sometime the following week. :-)

But I still say that there are wacky Pentecostals, wacky church growth gurus, and wacky evangelicals of every stripe.

Frank Sansone said...


I agree that there is and has been a side of the movement that indeed fits the description of "anti-intellectualism" that is often thrown at the movement as a whole.

I don't think that the existence of "thinking Fundamentalism" is a new thing - the existence and scholarship of the authors of "The Fundamentals", Drs. Brokenshire, Custer, Robert Bell, Cederhome, Clearwaters, Pickering, Barrett, Doran, Bauder and others like them show that there has been a group of scholarly Fundamentalists throughout the history of the movement.

I agree with Chris that there is a similar element of extremes in practically all movements, but it is still frustrating to see this fringe be allowed to be viewed as the whole - especially when they are repudiated by most of what I refer to as "mainstream" Fundamentalism (such as the AACCS schools and their constituency).

I do think that there may be some reasons that this tag has stuck, although these are "off the top of my head."

1. The very existence of Fundamentalism in its beginning was a stand against the "more enlightened" modernism of the day. When the accepted "scholars" of the day were denying the possibilities of miracles and the virgin birth of Christ, the very fact that Fundamentalists affirmed these things made them subject to the charge that they were "anti-intellectual" by default. In other words, the lack of scholarship and anti-intellectual nature was considered true regarding Fundamentalism on an a priori basis - since the "scholars" believe this, if you don't believe this, you cannot be a "scholar." (Creationists face the same type of a priori bias against their scholarship today.)

2. The relative lack of publishing and the view that I already addressed in the original post helped to confirm in the minds of many that the "anti-intellectual" claim was valid.

3. The gross error of the New Evangelical movement, which was willing to sacrifice Biblical integrity for scholarly approval made Fundamentalists even more cautious about engaging in these areas. When Ockenga and others made "intellectual respect" one of their goals of the "New Evangelicalism" and were willing to make the compromise of "we'll call you 'brothers' if you call us 'scholars'", many Fundamentalists wanted nothing to do with this compromise and the term "scholar" took another hit in the eyes of Fundamentalists at large.

4. A legitimate cautiousness regarding the "scholarly" designation and the motives behind it. Is the desire to be viewed as "scholarly" a pride issue? For sincere believers, this can be a true concern. For instance, when I was younger, I often considered pursuing a doctorate (and wish now that I would have done so), but since I felt at the time that my ministry was to be primarily directed towards teens, I questioned whether my desire to pursue that degree was legitimate - after all, who needs a Youth Pastor with an earned doctorate? Was the pursuit of the degree merely a pride thing, rather than a learning thing. I saw friends and contemporaries completing their Ph. D. degrees and knew that I had consistently performed better than them in my Master's program (I finished my Master's with a 4.0) and thought, "I could have completed my Ph. D. by now." For me, the pursuit - at that time - would have been a pride issue.

5. The nature of extremism in any movement. Those most extreme in their views are also most generally the most dedicated and most vocal in their views. Witness the "" section of political liberalism. Many more conservative Democrats would like to distance themselves from the radical views of such groups, but the vocal and financial nature of such groups have helped to define the whole. Likewise, the more extreme sections of so-called "Fundamentalism" tend to have more vocal elements that are committed to their extremism - and their anti-intellectualism - and this is the loud voice that tends to be heard by many.

I am sure there are some more reasons, but these are just a few from the top of my head.

Don Johnson said...

on the other hand, guys, let's hear it for anti-intellectualism.

intellectualism is over-rated, in my opinion.

That is not to say I am against education or scholarship. But those two concepts are quite different from intellectualism.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Frank Sansone said...


Thanks for the big club you just handed those who wish to continue to promote the caraciture of "those stupid Fundamentalists" :). Oy vey.

Am I correct to assume your issue is with the "ism" part?


Don Johnson said...

I am not sure that it is just the 'ism' part I have an issue with.

But the charge of anti-intellectualism seems to be rooted in over-weening pride. I don't let it bother me. Call me an anti-intellectual, and then look to see if I care.

I think, though, that this is worth a whole post of its own. So maybe later tonight on my site. We'll see.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Jason said...

Wow Don. Yeah. See, that kind of thinking is no doubt well intentioned, but misguided in my opinion.

Frank, I appreciate the points you've made. They make sense. My questions are, why are we taking so long to correct our imbalance on the issue? These point might explain why we were wary of the idea of scholarship, but they don't excuse our response.

Also, I don't really buy the "every movement has extremists" thing. Sure, it's true. But I believe our extremists make up the majority of our movement. Seriously, many of our most prominent colleges and churches are caught up in this extremism. Overall it would have to be at least 40% (I'd guess closer to 60-70%) of the movement that holds to this extremism.

Don Johnson said...


First, you do need to realize that I am writing somewhat tongue in cheek. However, it might be helpful for you to explain how you think my comment is misguided.

Second, Frank's point, as I understand it, is not that we are wary of scholarship but that we are actively involved in different pursuits.

Personally, I don't think there is an imbalance at all. Many of those parading around in scholars clothes are like the emperor of fable. Dr. Charles Smith, one of my profs at BJU, later of Masters, gave us this definition of a scholar one time: "A scholar is somebody who agrees with me." In other words, you will hear people citing 'the great scholar so and so' [who (ahem, ahem) happens to agree with my view]. Or you will hear someone say, 'the so-called scholar so and so' [who doesn't agree with my view]. Most of this is just posturing.

Finally, by definition, the people that you claim are extremists -- the 60-70% -- are the movement. They aren't the extreme. So perhaps you need to rethink the definition of extremist and/or your understanding of the movement.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Frank Sansone said...

Wow, Jason. I am not sure I share your pessimism. While I have exposure to some of the "extreme" side, I would not imagine that it is any where close to 40% - let alone 70%!

My guess is that the vocal nature of the extremes makes them seem like they are really larger than their true representation. I am not sure, however, how we could actually determine the numbers on this - but I would love to hear some ideas. Many of the web-sites that claim to be a listing of Independent Baptist Church or of Fundamental Churches are self-selecting in that they include the KJVO position as part of their doctrinal statement or as part of the requirement for a church to be listed. I have also found many of these to be fairly unreliable, since I have found our church listed with descriptions (and other information) that were not accurate on a number of these sites. They also fail in that they generally do not take into account any of the non-Baptist Fundamental churches - such as the OBF, Free Presbyterians, the many Fundamental Bible Churches and other churches that are part of the ACCC.

I may be wrong on this, but this has been my observation from visiting a number of Fundamental churches over the years. I hope and pray that my experience is more reflective of the "movement" (if Fundamentalism can still rightly be considered a "movement"), but you may be correct.

If you look at the enrollment in the AACCS schools, for instance, I think they match up pretty well in enrollment versus the more Hyles-type schools. For instance, the enrollment of BJU is approx. 4,200 compared to HAC (since it is the flagship of the extreme wing) has an enrollment of approximately 2,700.


Frank Sansone said...

Don responded while I was responding. I guess it would be helpful to understanding what is being meant by "extreme".

I took you to mean the same thing I was meaning - the Hyles type, for instance. However, it appears that Don took you to mean something different than what I mean - or I am really missing the boat here in regards to what both you and Don are saying.

Jason said...

Don, I'm not referring to the extreme edge of the movement. I'm referring to extreme theology (things like TR-onlyism, hyper-anti-Calvinism [how's that for a new term!], um-what-does-"exegesis"-mean-again?, etc.).

Of course we've all heard the "we're-busy-doing-other-stuff" argument, but that seems to me to be a cop out. Is John MacArthur not busy building a church and a college as well? Sure he's got Phil. If we had something to write about, we could afford a Phil as well. We do what we value. None of these things excuse our imbalance in this area.

And I'm not stressed about the term "scholar" or the prestige/posturing aspect of it. I'm talking about the real stuff that comes out in the pulpit every Sunday. I'm talking about being epistemologically responsible and exegetically accountable.

Frank, Compare on the one side BJU, MBBC, NBBC, CCC, Calvary, CBTS, Faith Baptist College, and a handful of other smaller colleges with PCC, Crown, WCBC, Hyles, Champion, Ambassador, BCA, Golden State, Heartland, Tabernacle, and probably a hundred other colleges (take a look at the Sword college section). I'd disagree with Hyles being the flagship school since many of these places strongly and publicly repudiate Hyles extremes. Kent Brandenburg and David Cloud are two good example of this. They both take a strong stand against Hyles' extremes, but are spokesmen for a different kind of extremism.

Of course you may not agree with me on all of my classifications, and granted, I haven't been to some of these colleges so I'm limited by that, but I have been to many of them and to a lot of church across the nation and I really have trouble believing the extreme part of the movement isn't close to half. Again, I'm interested in your take on this... I'm sure some of it has to do with where you draw the line.

Grace to you.

Chris Anderson said...

I can't get back into this discussion, but I did want to comment on this:

Jason said, "Also, I don't really buy the "every movement has extremists" thing. Sure, it's true. But I believe our extremists make up the majority of our movement."

Seriously, look around your home town, wherever it is. How many of the "evangelical" churches are really represented by D.A. Carson and John MacArthur?? Few or none, I would guess.

People judge fundamentalism by its wackos, then judge evangelicalism by its cream.

Don Johnson said...

hi guys

Chris' last comment is where I was heading with mine. When Jason says 'our' movement is made up of 60-70% extremists, the argument breaks down. 60-70% of anything is the thing.

That would make the 'extremists' in fundamentalism those who actually hold to a more scholarly approach. The norm would be the 'wackos' to use Chris's term.

But really, the makeup of the movement is a side issue to the discussion at hand (interesting though it might be). The real issue is the value of scholarship. The whole discussion starts with Frank's response to a comment slamming fundamentalism (and Dr McCune, actually!!) for anti-intellectualism. That kind of charge against Dr. McCune is kind of laughable...

At any rate, I think there is a difference between intellectualism and scholarship. I think that the difference can be seen in the dividing line between neo-evangelicalism and fundamentalism at the beginning. The neos wanted intellectualism, the fundies were fine with scholarship. Think about it. I think that was generally true at the time of the divide.

Please note that I am generalizing.

Also please note that I am sure there are plenty of evangelicals today who are not all that enamored of intellectualism and are simply good careful scholars.

Anyway, for those who wish fundamentalism had more scholars, or more intellectuals, or whatever, I wonder if they could tell us what that would look like. As opposed to what we have now. Quite frankly, I don't think it would look much different from the current scene.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Jason said...

Don, perhaps you missed my statement: "I'm not referring to the extreme edge of the movement. I'm referring to extreme theology." For instance, we'd be safe to say that most of Islamic Fundamentalism is made up of extremists. They are extreme because of what they believe, not extreme in the context of the movement.

Chris, I agree that the JMac's and the Carson's are the cream of Evangelicalism. Evangelicalism has got problems far worse than ours and I have no interest in defending them for a second.

Keith said...

Hello Frank,

1) I could be wrong, but I think that Dr. Henebury's point about quoting the new (or neo) evangelicals was not as you say, "Calling a proponent of an idea or position or institution as a testimony against that very same idea or position or institution."
It appears that the new evangelicals were quoted as testimony against THEOLOGICAL LIBERALISM not new evangelicalism itself.

Therefore, I think Henebury's critique does have some merit here. Fundamentalism and New Evangelicalism share disagreements with Liberalism, even though they don't share agreement regarding the strategy of dealing with Liberalism. Yet, when a fundamentalist writes a chapter about liberalism he quotes/cites only new-evangelicals. Why?

2) A lack of publishing does, in one sense, indicate a lack of scholarship – one use of the word scholarship refers to written scholarly product (journal articles, essays, books). The absence of such product is the absence of that kind of scholarship.

Furthermore, while it is certainly appropriate to refer to any school teacher or student as a scholar (school and scholar both from scola), and there are definitely independent, amateur, and part-time scholars, there is also such a thing as a vocational scholar. Vocational scholars usually work in universities and produce much useful scholarly product.

It is a good thing that many men make "a deliberate choice to directly pour their lives into people, not pages." We need many such ministers. They have a high calling. But, that choice is, by definition, the choice to not be a vocational scholar – to not contribute scholarly product.

Your argument about market share and publishing is not really apropos to scholarship. Scholarly writing usually does not sell well. Yet, scholarly writing is published by academic publishing houses.

Books by mega-church pastors, MacArthur/Johnson, etc. are not really scholarship – such do need market share to be published. (Although really unrelated, good questions for another day would be, “Why does MacArthur/Johnson get market share? Why do they get the resources? What does their arrangement say about their priorities?”)

Again, it is very good that many choose vocations other than scholar. And clearly “vocational scholar” and “wise” are not synonyms (Jesus was/is wise but not a vocational scholar). However, it is good that some choose (or it would be good for some to choose) the vocation of scholar. They provide information, knowledge, and ideas that ministers and the rest of us can use to fulfill our vocations more effectively.

So, the question is – where is the scholarly product of the fundamentalist vocational scholars, and why wasn’t it quoted in the chapter referenced? If it isn’t there, is Henebury’s call to “a little self-examination once in a while” really out of line?

Don Johnson said...

Actually, I wouldn't call Islamists extremists. They are doing exactly what their religion tells them to do, don't you think?

but regardless, I don't agree with your view that 60-70% of fundamentalists are extremists, even given your wording.


Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Paul said...

Dear Frank,

I have just posted a response to your article on my site. Maybe it will clear up some misunderstandings.

God bless you and yours.

Paul (Henebury)

Frank Sansone said...


I want to get back to this later, when I have a little more time, but I would say, first of all, that you are correct on at least one of your points and I thank you for pointing this out.

I misread Dr. Henebury's point regarding the use of the new evangelical authors. He is indeed arguing that McCune should not have needed them to point out the errors of liberalism rather than the errors of new evangelicalism. As such, that part of my criticism is in error (I have commented on that over on his blog, as well.)

Regarding your question of why the need to quote from the New Evangelicals in regards to Liberalism rather than Fundamentalists, it is a good question. It may be because of the fact that Fundamentalists have not published - and therefore there is not much to quote from in this regard. I do not think that this equals the fact that Fundamentalists have not dealt with these ideas, however, but rather that they have not dealt with them in print . I am sure that many of these same issues were dealt with in the classrooms of Fundamentalist seminaries, for instance, but taking that interaction and quoting from it in a book is difficult.

In regards to the term "scholar", I was using the term in the sense of "a person who has done advanced study in a special field" and "a learned person" (to borrow from Mirriam-Webster). I believe that we do have "vocational scholars" in Fundamentalism - but I fail to agree that the necessary product of vocational scholarship is the written word. Even if you want to deny my illustration of Christ as a scholar, I think my illustration of Socrates would have to hold up as an example of a vocational scholar without a written product. (I would also say that my illustration of Dr. Brokenshire reflects the same point.)

While, by definition, there may be a difference between "vocational scholarship" and Pastoral (or similar) ministry, I don't believe that difference exists if we leave out the term "vocational" (which I did). I doubt that very few people (regardless of theological persuasion) would likewise argue that Calvin was not a scholar because he chose to be a pastor rather than following Luther's example of remaining in academia. Or that many would discount the scholarly nature of Edwards even though his involvement with institutional education was only at the very end of his life.

I think that market share does have an effect, but I agree that popular writing is not necessary the scope of this discussion.

I would briefly comment that I believe the Johnson/Mac arrangement existed after G2Y was already on the airwaves and GCC was already large enough to be able to hire someone like Johnson. I doubt that Chris Anderson, for instance, has the funds to bring on a guy to edit his sermons and turn them into books at this point. (Although I would love to see someone at Hardingville pick up the ball and turn Pastor Franklin's series on 2 Peter into a commentary :). (But, again, you are correct that this is really a little off-topic.)

Lastly, I want to make sure it is understood that I am not against the idea of Fundamentalists writing. In fact, I have been an advocate of that in other discussions. I do think we need to write and I even agree that we need to be examining ourselves in this area. I do not, however, think that the charge of anti-intellectualism sticks, however.

In Christ,


(Now I need to go edit and print off the prayer bulletins for tonight since Phil Johnson is not able to handle this for me tonight :) ).

Keith said...


Even when I completely disagree with you, I admire your attitude. You are a decent guy.

I did not object to your use of the term "scholar". That is why I admitted in my comment that "there are definitely independent, amateur, and part-time scholars," and why I said vocational scholars "usually" produce written scholarship.

My point was not that fundamentalism does not have any men or women who could be called scholars, it was that fundamentalism appears to be lacking in scholarship. And, this lack makes Dr. Henebury's comments about the fundamentalist movement worthy of consideration.

Written scholarship is important. Had it not been for Plato's scholarship (books), we would know nothing of Socrates scholarly work. (Another day we can discuss whether or not Socrates himself would want to be called a scholar).

Everyone is not required of God to produce written scholarship. And, it may be that there could be a movement which rightly chooses to neglect the production of scholarly writing. Nevertheless, such a movement must admit to -- as a movement -- being a-intellectual if not anti-intellectual.

You wrote: "It may be because of the fact that Fundamentalists have not published - and therefore there is not much to quote from in this regard," and "I am sure that many of these same issues were dealt with in the classrooms of Fundamentalist seminaries, for instance, but taking that interaction and quoting from it in a book is difficult." And, that's the problem with the lack of written scholarship -- no matter how much the ideas are dealt with in the classrooms/churches.

Even in the classrooms, though, one wonders, is there no need for texts? What texts are these fundamentalist scholars using in their classrooms? And, if they are presenting it all as lecture, why not write down the lecture and edit it for publication? Surely some of the big fundamentalist colleges have sufficient resources to do that -- they seem to have gyms, pools, weight rooms, orchestra halls, and all sorts of other expensive stuff.


Don Johnson said...

A couple more thoughts on this...

First, Keith, yes, academic publishing houses do publish books that have limited selling power, but they don't publish books that have virtually no selling power. Market share still affects academic books, albeit in a somewhat different way than popular press type books.

And... BJU (for example, since I am familiar with them) do publish some in-house textbooks. I don't know how many, but when I was in school the Freshman Speech syllabus was published in house. Currently, the first year of Greek studies [and maybe the second year also] is taught from a book written by the Greek faculty and published by BJU whereas in the past they used other volumes. I am sure there are some other examples of such.

Back to the article in question, it occurs to me that Dr. McCune may have been trying to make a point using evangelical writers rather than fundamentalist writers. Surely fundamentalist writers have written against liberalism in the past. But McCune may have wanted to strengthen his argument in the minds of potential readers by citing men who might not be expected to side with him.

I don't know for certain, not having read the book. For those of you who have, could my scenario above be a possible explanation? If so, doesn't Frank's criticism stand?

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Keith said...

Why would fundamentalist scholarship have virtually no selling power?

Why is a non-fundamentalist like George Marsden the foremost scholarly historian of fundamentalism, and how did he get his books published?

Again, I'm not at all arguing that there aren't brillian minds in fundamantalism. I'm just asking what I'm asking.

Don Johnson said...

Hi Keith

If you are talking about academic titles, i.e.,textbooks, how many institutions would buy them? In the Fundamentalist orbit you have probably less than two dozen schools of any size. (Let's leave the academic standing question for now!) The more esoteric the class, the lower the demand. Junior/senior level classes are more specialized, fewer students. Seminary even less. So...

It would be exceedingly rare to see evangelical schools be interested in a textbook written by fundamentalists, especially if it is writing about fundamentalist philosophy.

And we are talking generalities. I suppose there may be some very rare exceptions that might go against what I am saying.

I'm more interested in seeing what folks think of my other point, though! What if McCune's citation of only evangelicals was intentional so that his arguments might carry more weight with non-fundamentalist readers?

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Keith said...


I've said more than enough in this discussion. So, I'm about to bow out. One final comment though . . .

You say: "In the Fundamentalist orbit you have probably less than two dozen schools of any size." But, why does that matter? Must fundamentalists sell their books only to fundamentalist schools? The Christian Reformed have only two or three schools of any size, yet they produce scholarship. Same for the PCA. This focus only on "our schools" is the lack of engagement that Dr. Henebury is addressing.

You add: "It would be exceedingly rare to see evangelical schools be interested in a textbook written by fundamentalists, especially if it is writing about fundamentalist philosophy," seems to reveal a certain mindset approach that would definitely lead a movement to anti-intellectualism (which I know doesn't bother you). But, must fundamentalists write only about fundamentalist philosophy per se? Why?

Can't fundamentalists produce scholarship on history, science, mathematics, ethics, politics, economics, business, education, music, art, literature, film, etc, etc? If not, why not? And, if they can, and they did it well, what makes you think evangelicals and others would not buy it?

Consider the BJU K-12 textbooks. Evangelicals aren't so anti-fundamentalist that their schools refuse to buy them (I know that in many cases the BJ books are the only, or one of few, "Christian" offerings available, still. . .)

Consider the scholars who have come out of Calvin College: Marsden, Plantinga, Wolterstorf. These guys are openly Christian, yet their scholarship and writing has set the standard for everyone else in their fields (history and philosophy) -- even non-Christians. Even non-Christians and others who don't agree with them, must interact/engage with them.

Consider a work like Clark's "Thales to Dewey". Written by an intense Christian, it was, at one time, one of the most widely used philosophy books.

Consider the work of Marvin Olasky, a conservative, evangelical presbyterian. It created the debate about conservative vs. liberal compassion.

Were fundamentalists to do high quality scholarly work, and publish it, I see no reason to assume that the rest of the world would refuse to interact with it. That would be engagement, and it could bring much good.

Andy Efting said...

Keith wrote: "Can't fundamentalists produce scholarship on history, science, mathematics, ethics, politics, economics, business, education, music, art, literature, film, etc, etc? If not, why not? And, if they can, and they did it well, what makes you think evangelicals and others would not buy it?"

Gary Guthrie and Larry Lemon, both BJU math professors, have co-authored a mathematics textbook that has been published by Prentice-Hall. It's only $113 bucks through Amazon. :)

Mathematics of Interest Rates and Finance

I happen to know other BJU math grads who have produced scholarly journal-type articles within the US Intelligence community but I, of course, can't site any of those works here.

Don Johnson said...

Hi Keith

I don't think fundamentalists must sell their books only to fundamentalist schools. Rather, I think that evangelicals tend to have a bias against fundamentalist philosophy.

Where fundamentalists are writing about subjects that are no more than tangential to fundamentalist philosophy, as Andy points out, there is a market for such books.

I would suggest, however, that fundamentalists, writing as fundamentalists in the field of religious studies are going to meet a "glass ceiling" [to 'coin' a phrase] of evangelical prejudice against their point of view. Hence, few if any published works. Hence, "no scholarship" charges. Hence, "anti-intellectualism" charges.

And I say, bring it on! Betray your biases and prejudices. It looks good on you!

Ok, I guess that last paragraph was a little sarcastic. Sorry about that.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Jason said...

Don, You're coming across with a fortress mentality. "We're like we are because they're all against us." Or is it that a lot of our thinking isn't substantial enough to be taken seriously? If our thinking and philosophy is right, we should be able to give enough strong evidence for our position that we make them think.

We use books by Evangelicals all the time. Sure we disagree with some things, but the books are useful overall. If we wrote good books, the same would happen the other way around. I say "if," but the fact is, many have already done so (as Andy pointed out). There is a side of Fundamentalism that really has shed it's anti-intellectual propensities. Unfortunately, I believe there is a side that has not.

Frank Sansone said...

Keith and Jason,

Thanks for the comments and interaction. I believe that Don may be on to something regarding the demand for materials produced by Fundamentalists - at least in the realm of theology.

As Andy mentioned, there is likely materials published and produced in some of the other fields, but I have not really taken too much notice of it.

In the field of theology, however, Fundamentalism is viewed from an a priori basis as not intellectual (as discussed in an earlier post) and coming from a wrong (i.e. separatist) view of theology. If you are an evangelical and you believe by default that Fundamentalism equals anti-intellectual, why would you be interested in purchasing and using the books produced by Fundamentalists in this area?

The same thing occurs in regards to the secular world and Christians in the field of science. Because they reject by default the fact that any scholar can hold to a creationism view of origins, you will not see any books (in that field) written by someone who holds a view they by default believe is unscholarly. If you will notice, creationists are usually restricted to being published "in house" (i.e. by other creationists) or to publishing on tangential areas. (For example works on some obscure thing in the area of physics where their views on creation will not seem to be such a problem to the secular publishers.)

Watching the case regarding the University of California this year and the Christian students that objected to classes being refused because they used BJU textbooks (among other things) has demonstrated this fact very clearly. I have read upwords of 50 articles and blogs that talk about this subject and the fact that the textbook was written by - gasp - BJU - was, for almost every one of the articles, evidence in itself that it could not be a good science textbook. Others went on to comment on specific statements regarding a Christian view of science as further proof that the book was unfit for use as a science text (even though almost all of them took the same quotes that got passed around and did not even bother to look at whether the opposing viewpoint was covered well enough to give an understanding of what the view teaches).

Rather than evaluating the understanding of students who used that textbook in comparison to the students as a whole, they have rejected the textbook because it specifically states that it will not contradict the Word of God in its explanation of science.

Regarding the acceptability and use of Fundamentalists texts in the realm of theology, the same type of bias exists. I recognize that Fundamentalists use books by other evangelicals all the time, but the dynamic would not work the same way in reverse. It is not unusual for a subset to use the materials from a broader set, but the same is not true of the broader set selecting from a sub-set - especialy if that sub-set is viewed as the unacceptable sub-set.

Many Christians in business may read material from Covey and find profit. We would not, however, be inclined to do so from a Mormon on the matters that more directly affect the areas of difference (e.g. theology).

I apologize in advance if this is disjointed. I got sidetracked a number of times while writing it and many of my trains of thought got derailed in the process.


Keith said...


There is no argument against your claim that bias can affect publication/use. It is definitely a factor.

However, I believe that Don's and your position on this issue is more absolute than reality. Further, I think that, within a movement, such a view quickly becomes both self-fulfilling and self-congratulatory.

The counter-examples that come most quickly to my mind are (as I mentioned before) Olasky, Plantinga, and Wolterstorff, although I expect with a little thought/research I could come up with a few more in the area of science, etc.

Here's what I mean. It is not uncommon to hear that, unless one is a Marxist, or a socialist, or a relativist, or a postmodernist, or a fill in the blank, one will not get published or receive university tenure in the social sciences. But there's Olasky, openly Christian, openly calvinist, openly conservative politically, and he's repeatedly published, interviewed on CSpan, and tenured in a state funded and controlled university.

Similarly, there's Plantinga who says that you don't have to prove the existence of God (belief in God is properly basic), who's openly protestant and openly works from that perspective. What do you know, he's repeatedly published and read in his field of philosophy, and he's tenured in a Roman Catholic University.

And then Wolterstorff. Again, openly Christian, has similar philosphical views to Plantinga, and he's tenured at Yale! on top of all his publications.

One more just came to mind -- Jellema. He was Plantinga's and Wolterstorff's teacher at Calvin college. He was regarded by some, while teaching at an openly Christian school, as the best undergraduate philosphy teacher in the country. Plantinga left Harvard to study under him at Calvin.

Oh yeah, one in the sciences -- the intelligent design proponent Michael Behe. Sure he gets derided by the evolutionists (I've seem him attacked by evolutionists in person). Nevertheless, he is published and has to be dealt with by the scientific community.

All that just to say, it may be more difficult, but it doesn't seem impossible for minority viewpoints to get published and dealt with. It would seem, therefore, that if fundamentalists produced high quality scholarship that had any validity, it would at least get dealt with occassionally.

Don Johnson said...

I think the ongoing debate we are having comes from differing definitions of terms. Keith is arguing about the fundamentalists lack of presence in academic publication, Jason seems to be arguing about the lack of presence in popular publication. All of us are probably thinking slightly different things with respect to intellectualism / anti-intellectualism / scholarship, etc. I posted a somewhat ... what shall we say ... snotty (?) comment on my blog regarding definitions. But it does seem to me that we are all talking past each other a bit because we mean different things by the same terms.

BTW, Keith, I note that your examples are all men who have put themselves in positions that fundamentalists probably wouldn't, whether they could or not. My perception is that some compromise is necessary for attaining tenured positions in schools such as you mention. Each man has to answer for himself, but I venture to guess that for most fundamentalists, the compromises that would have to be made along the way to tenure would be unacceptable.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Keith said...


It's a pretty serious thing to accuse someone of compromise (assuming you mean sinful compromise). Are you aware of specific compromises made by any of these men?

Don Johnson said...

No, Keith, I don't know anything specific about the names you mentioned. But none of them are fundamentalists and may not have considered the price they had to pay for their positions to be a compromise.

I do know, for example, that men like the late George Mulfinger were denied a PhD from a big name university (Syracuse?) because he would not change his creationist position in his thesis. Another BJU professor, the late Jesse Boyd was faced with a similar situation at the New Orleans Baptist Seminary I believe.

Maybe things are changing. I am hearing a good deal of disappointing news from the bastions of fundamentalism these days. It breaks my heart.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Nat said...

The apostle Paul was a highly educated fundamentalist, and yet he knew how to write in such a way that anyone could follow his thoughts.

Nice review on that review by Henebury. I personally know Henebury. He often makes those kind of broad sweeping statements that sound intellectual but are not.

Paul said...

"Nat" - I'm not sure who you are, but I'd be interested to know which "broad sweeping statements" you're referring to. I thought I was actually quite specific in my review and response. If such is not the case I would be happy to be corrected directly.

Your brother,

Paul (Henebury).