Several years ago I met in D.C. with a group of young evangelical professionals. While certainly not world-fleeing fundamentalists, they were not theocrats either. They were seeking an alternative approach.
I collect expressions of anti-intellectualism. I even consider myself to be a connoisseur of the sorts of things that fall within this genre. But this is no mere hobby. I was raised in a spiritual environment in which the intellectual life was regarded with suspicion, even with overt hostility at times. The anti-intellectual one-liners of my childhood still echo in my heart.
For several months during my time as a seminary student I worked the night shift at a local mirror factory. My title was prism inspector, and for every hour of work I was expected to check about a hundred car rearview mirrors for possible defects. But I was also required to take a ten-minute break each hour, to rest my eyes from intently staring at mirrors for the previous 50 minutes.
Several years ago I engaged in a public dialogue with a Roman Catholic theologian about prayers to the saints. I went into the discussion with my mind made up on the subject. We Protestants—especially we evangelicals—do not pray to anyone but God. Directing our prayers in any other direction is at best theologically confused and at worst idolatrous. I came away, though, a little less convinced that the theological case was as tightly shut as I had thought.
I have spent a number of years engaged in Jewish-Christian dialogue. More recently, I have been involved in extensive exchanges with Muslim scholars. I regularly visit Utah for off-the-record discussions with Mormon leaders about deep disagreements between Mormons and evangelicals. I approach all these conversations with great enthusiasm.