‘Evangelical knowledge class’ loses outlets but finds broader influence

The recent loss of the magazine Books & Culture and of the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals (ISAE) due to lack of funding has been a setback for evangelical intellectuals and scholars, but they are spreading their influence outside of their own institutional channels, writes John Schmalzbauer in Comment magazine (January 12). Evangelicals widely lamented the closing of Books & Culture at the end of 2016 as ending a 21-year era of publishing the leading literary and scholarly lights of conservative Protestantism, often with participation and recognition by other Christians and secular critics. The publication reflected the growing evangelical engagement in the arts and scholarship and came out just at the time that evangelical scholars were despairing and writing about “the scandal of the evangelical mind.” The magazine faced the same lack of funding from evangelical philanthropists that closed the ISAE two years earlier. Historian Michael Hamilton says that the closing of the ISAE “may indicate that in the future, serious evangelical scholars may continue to depend on non-evangelical support for their work….”

Several other intellectual-oriented evangelical periodicals have also ceased publishing in recent years, such as the Wittenburg Door and The Other Side. But Schmalzbauer is convinced the “evangelical knowledge class is here to stay.” There are new book blogs and publications, such as the Englewood Review of Books. It is likely that evangelical writers and other intellectuals will ply their trade in like-minded if more ecumenical outlets, such as the conservative First Things (building on the growing evangelical-Catholic alliance), and more toward the mainline and evangelical left, the Christian Century and Sojourners magazines. Schmalzbauer notes that Books & Culture had a uniquely wide theological and political breadth, with its editor John Wilson strongly avoiding culture war rhetoric—something that seems to be in short supply “in an age of polemics and partisanship and gotcha-journalism.”

(Comment Magazine, https://www.cardus.ca/comment)