Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Sandlin's De-Intellectualization: A Response Part I

Andrew Sandlin has written a blog called, The De-Intellectualization of the Reformed Movement. It is a piece that deserves attention and probably will receive several responses from me at least because of the many things within it that deserve full treatment by all men.

I do want to say right off the top that I am not against intellectuals or the church having rigorous thinking. I think Sandlin and I would define intellectual very differently, but I understand and appreciate his point that the church needs serious thinkers to interact with the culture at large.

That being said, I disagree with almost everything else said in the blog/article. Let us start with what everyone is expecting me to say: this is pure blooded theological development. I have long thought Sandlin is the most honest and up-front about his holding to theological development that is similar to Schaff. Sandlin again makes that clear here. He starts it in the very title by making sure he always refers to it as the Reformed Movement rather than Reformed Theology or the Reformed Church or the Reformed Tradition. All of that is pushed aside so that we know to be truly reformed means to be moving into new theological ideas all the time. He praises the idea of theologians doing ‘paradematic science’ which he defines as:

"Paradigmatic science," on the other hand, is a landscape-altering scholarship that rearranges the scholarly data into a new model or way of looking.

What Sandlin advocates is a completely new way of looking at the Bible or at Christ or the world through Christ or something. He leaves it a little unclear, but what he misses is the people who took Christianity and jumbled it up, changed it up, twisted it up, and said "here a new theology." To Sandlin that is the heritage of the Reformation. I could not disagree more. Sandlin goes on to bemoan the fact that

The latter [Van Til, Rushdoony, among others], creative thinkers, were, in one way or another, reshaping the theological landscape. The former [Scott Clark, Lig Duncan among others], plodding thinkers, are today trying to get the landscape back to what it looked like before the creative interlopers came along and messed up the lawn.

Sandlin glorifies the ‘creative thinker’ as if the Bible needs to be viewed creatively. If we need to reshape what the Bible teaches every generation or maybe even more often. When we see this love of theological development in Sandlin, it becomes easy to see how this undergirds the modern movements toward Theonomy and why so many theonomists continued on into the Federal Vision. And one can see why Norman Shepherd is beloved. They crave the new. Anyone who comes along and preaches a new way of doing ‘Christianity’ will be the champion. Those who desire something new will continue to move with any new thing because the newness is itself a good virtue. Not following new things is a sad misplaced staleness which Sandlin insults as plodding thinking. He continues his backhanded assault.

First, the bright younger leaders, lacking the intellectual firepower of their immediate predecessors, retrench in a scholastic orthodoxy, taking refuge in the older confessions, wary of the speculation, innovation and daring that characterized those predecessors and committing themselves to policing the ranks of all heterodoxies — real or imagined.

Listen to the insults and see what he is actually insulting. Yes, he is insulting everyone who is not following some new trend and some people are specifically named. But look at what else he insults. "They take refuge in the older confessions". The confessions themselves are insults. Who would want to cling to such ‘old’ (read ‘outdated’) relics. Only the wimps, the intellectual lightweights. The confessions are not good because they do not speculate, change, and innovate. This is very much like Nevin’s comment that they are a ‘necessary evil’. Once people use creeds to hold on to they have missed the point and become intellectual lightweights.

Where oh where do we see the Bible speak like this? Does the Bible invite us to innovate or does it say that it can be understood now and forever. "And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, And the flower falls away, But the word of the Lord endures forever." (I Peter 2:24-25). Does the meaning of the Bible change or does it endure as a timeless truth to be held by all?
I cannot but help but think of Jeremiah 6:16, "Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein."

More to come


John Lofton, Recovering Republican said...

No surprise here re: Sandlin. He also urged Christians to vote for George Bush.

John Lofton, Editor, TheAmericanView.com


Former columnist for 11 years for Dr. Rushdoony's "Chalcedon Report"