Book Review of “The Anointed: Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age”
Randall J. Stephens and Karl W. Giberson,
The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2011.
I picked up this book as the cover and jacket held the promise of finding a way for evangelicals to live in the present age. My mistake. This book is, instead, an assessment of evangelicalism my means of character assassination.
Yes, as odd as that last sentence reads, that’s what The Anointed is about. By profiling and condemning prominent evangelicals like Ken Ham, James Dobson, Hal Lindsey and Jerry Falwell, the authors pretend to assess evangelicalism as a whole.
It is not a friendly assessment. One of the appalling aspects of liberals is their habit of sneering. They belittle what they don’t like with sneering innuendo and a smarmy expression. This is, of course, no genuine contribution to dialogue, no rhetoric of any intellectual weight, just a passive-aggressive put-down. Let the following quotation serve the reader as an example of this attitude as well as the authors’ frequent use of gross and unfounded generalities:
“Known as young earth creationism or simply creationism, this unconventional ‘theory’ entails the belief that Earth is less than 10,000 years old, a sharp contrast to the 4.5 billion years determined by the scientific community. Against mountains of evidence from geology, physics, biology, astronomy, and other sciences, creationists insist confidently that their estimate is correct, despite being unimaginably smaller than that of the scientific community.” (p. 11)
Note the quotation marks around the word “theory” intended to imply creationism doesn’t even qualify for the proper use of such a vaunted term as an example of the aforementioned smarminess. Note also the phrase “mountains of evidence” as an example of crass generalization.
I do not have a personal need to rise to the defense of any of the persons vilified in this book. They are not leaders to whom I have given the anti-intellectual, media-saturated, uncritical admiration the authors repeatedly decry. My protest is the objective and means the authors employ to reach that objective.
Additionally, there is nothing new or first-person in this volume. Instead, the authors have done a lot of research; enough to fill sixty pages of notes. One never discerns a personal reason for all their work. (I at least have a personal letter to Oral Roberts and a personal reply!) The only reason for the work I could divine is a filial attitude toward higher education as an end in itself and the academy as the only justification for life. (While assailing these evangelical personalities as merely “popular,” the authors repeatedly rely on masses of academic works and persons as justification for denying the validity of their teaching.) This affection for the academy is also identified by the institution for which they work, Eastern Nazarene College:
“Today, Eastern Nazarene College thrives as a Christian college of the liberal arts and sciences in a beautiful and historic seaside city. Professors at ENC are all committed Christians who hold degrees from top-ranked research institutions, receive national recognition for their academic achievements, interact with students on a personal basis, and are professionally active in Boston and beyond.” (From their website, http://www.enc.edu/About-ENC/History-of-ENC/.)
Please forgive the negative tone of this review. It would have been easier to say that there is little of value in the book’s pages and urge the reader to simply avoid it. My hope is that the reader will have gleaned some insights as to why that conclusion might be a defensible reaction to “The Anointed.”