Monday, November 21, 2011

The University Atmosphere

Over twenty years ago Eta Linnemann wrote an amazing little book entitled Historical Criticism of the Bible: Methodology or Ideology  (Baker, 1990).  Linnemann had been trained in the German university tradition and took her degrees for New Testament scholarship.  She studied under such critical theologians as Rudolf Bultmann and Ernst Fuchs.  After having a profound conversion experience she renounced her prior presuppositions.  There are a number of fascinating thoughts in her book but I picked the following quotation because it is relevant to the American university scene and highlights the need to navigate the university intellectual currents carefully.
 Every student who entrusts himself to the university must accept the yoke of the atheistic intellectual starting point as an inescapable necessity.  This is a yoke which bends the bearer cruelly, and which is placed on the student apart from conscious choice, by means of the completion of the course of study in a major field--a field dominated by the atheistic starting point.  Even Christians who attend the university come under this yoke.  They are permitted, to be sure, to have their faith in their private lives by those around them who may view that faith favorably, or derisively, or perhaps even share its convictions.  But they are forbidden to retain the living God and his Son Jesus Christ in their academic thinking, or to grant him any material function therein.  So they retain Jesus in their feelings, but they deny him daily in their thinking, because this thinking follows atheistic, anti-Christian principles." (p. 33)
There is a desperate need for the establishment of the life of the mind--especially for those going off to colleges and universities.  They need to understand this underlying clash of ideas.  More importantly, they need to know how the university system with its methodological naturalism will be the atmosphere in which they will be pursuing their labors and skill set.  Without an understanding of this dynamic people will simply breathe in the noxious fumes of methodological naturalism without realizing it until too late.