Patheos – Roger E. Olson: The Dark Side of Evangelicalism

– The first weakness I find is a tendency of evangelicals to lean toward anti-intellectualism. Evangelical historian Mark Noll examined and critiqued this so well in his book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Eerdmans, 1999) that I don’t feel the need to repeat that.

– The second weakness I find is a tendency of evangelicals to succumb to hero-worship. By this I mean a tendency to identify men and women among themselves—past or present—who are placed on a pedestal as “especially spiritual” and expected to be immune to the vagaries of fallenness and given spiritual authority beyond that which any human (other than Jesus Christ) deserves.

– The third weakness I find is a tendency of evangelicals to eschew organized efforts at social reconstruction to eliminate poverty, hunger and oppression. Oppression is a concept almost totally lacking among evangelicals—except the spiritual oppressions of Satan, sin and “the world.”

– The fourth weakness I find is a tendency of evangelicals to follow a “Christ against culture” approach (H. Richard Niebuhr) to the arts. By and large, with some exceptions, evangelicals have neglected the arts.

– The fifth and final weakness (for now) is a tendency I find among evangelicals toward spiritual elitism—to the point of often believing that non-evangelical Christians are not authentically Christian or even saved. Especially in the past, but still to a very large extent, evangelical Christians have been conditioned to regard Catholics (to say nothing of Eastern Orthodox about which they tend to be ignorant) and “mainline Protestants” as false Christians and unsaved.

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