Alumnus Highlighted in Christianity Today and Wall Street Journal for Intellectual Leadership

A young scholar discerns “The New Evangelical Scandal” among his emerging generation

Feb. 8, 2010 By Jenna Bartlo

Biola University’s Torrey Honors Institute alumnus, Matthew Lee Anderson (’04), “is at the head of a class of young Christian intellectuals who sharpen their minds by way of the blogosphere,” wrote Christianity Today in their December 2009 issue. Anderson’s education at Biola contributed to the intellectual and integrative thinker he is being recognized as today.

In Christianity Today’s recently developed “Who’s Next” feature, the editorial board of the 150,000-plus circulated periodical has been identifying burgeoning evangelical influencers. While Anderson was the third person to be featured, he was the first in their series to be recognized for offering an “intellectual blog feast.”

Since 2004, the twenty-eight year old has been furiously cooking-up thoughts, ideas and distinctions at his loyally read blog, Mere Orthodoxy, which also showcases contributions from Biola alumni Jeremy Mann (’08), Cate McDonald (’06), and Gary Hartenburg (’01).

At “Mere-O”, readers are served substantial contributions on technology and culture, anthropology, politics and political philosophy, theology, spiritual formation, philosophy of education, along with deep appreciation for Anderson’s hero, G. K. Chesteron.

While Mere-O is Anderson’s abode, his thoughtfulness is a winsome read at ConversantLife.com, First Thing’s Evangel blog, and The Evangelical Outpost.

For some time, Christianity Today’s Senior Managing Editor, Mark Galli, was attracted to what was cooking at Mere-O and also what Anderson had published at Civitate, a publication of Houston Baptist University that features leading voices in Christian academia on the critical issues of the times.

“I am impressed with the consistent thoughtfulness he displays,” Galli observed of Anderson. “He comes at issues in a fresh way, and often transcends the left-right divide in evangelicalism. He tries to get at issues that lie beneath the debates we’re having.”

Shortly after the December Christianity Today profile ran on Anderson, the U.S.’s top-circulated Wall Street Journal, ran a “House of Worship” column by Jonathan Fitzgerald, managing editor of the post-evangelical outlet, Patrol Mag, where he used Anderson’s article as an example of how thinking about the “evangelical mind” has been stimulated in recent years. His apparent intellectual, truth-telling commentary and intolerance for false dichotomies has captivated Christian bloggers.

In early 2009, Anderson daringly published an article, “The New Evangelical Scandal” (an allusion to Mark Noll’s landmark book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind) in a Winter 2008 issue of Civitate. In that article, he showed how 20-something, young evangelicals are not substantially different from the previous generation; often ahistorical, individualistic, and avid consumers of culture much like their parent’s generation, which they routinely protest.

In his development, Anderson recognized that Christianity is a knowledge tradition and not merely a faith tradition, which is a common theme in Dallas Willard’s writings and highlighted in the talks and writings of Biola professors like John Mark Reynolds, William Lane Craig, Craig Hazen, and J.P. Moreland.

As a knowledge tradition, Christianity can credibly engage the public as a worldview, since its tradition is open for all to test, experience, and recognize as true. And being in the public where Christianity is, is exactly where Anderson has been, whether those publics are the blogosphere, lecturing for Torrey Academy, leading Wheatstone Academy, or working at Thomson Reuters.

When Anderson was a student at Biola, he came to appreciate the value of thinking historically, the importance of the body to human experience, and how Christian anthropology significantly forms our worldview.

In December 2009, Anderson signed a book contract with Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, “to write a book on the meaning and role of the body in young evangelicalism,” a project which originally grew out of a senior thesis with Biola’s professor Moyer Hubbard and other academic papers with professor Fred Sanders.

Tentatively titled, Body Matters: Overcoming the New Gnosticism of Young Evangelicals, the book will “provide, if possible, a plausible theological anthropology that will help evangelicals of all ages navigate embodiment in a distinctly Christian way.”

Clearly, Matthew Lee Anderson is an integrative thinker, whose intellectual and moral-spiritual well-being was trained and nurtured at Biola’s Torrey Honors Institute.

Mark Galli recognized the significance of that educational background when asked how Christian knowledge institutions, like Biola, can contribute toward the leadership of “young evangelicals.”

“Too often colleges merely get students to learn the Christian tradition – that’s good, but not enough,” said Galli. “That will leave students unprepared to grapple with the issues that their generation will face.”

The solution, educationally, is robust training in worldview integration, which would emphasize learning to “think Christianly” about reality, knowledge, ideas, people and life.

“That’s not easy, and it’s hardly a new idea,” notes Galli, “but my impression is that Biola is doing that better than most.”

But being in a “worshipping community,” and not merely an educational community, is where learning is best done, according to Anderson.

“My best days of class were the ones where I went to chapel (which I actually did regularly),” Anderson said.  

Moreover, as a worshipping community learning to love and to know what is good, ““I think that truth needs to be oriented around the revelation of Jesus, and so no ‘university’ can claim to be such without a theology faculty--and without the interaction of that faculty with the rest of the university.”

Thus, theology is intertwined with doxology. “If we as a Christian university really know the God who is at the center of the universe, then we must inevitably join in worship of him together.  And if we're not teaching our students that, then I wonder if we are teaching our students to really know Jesus.  After all, he is God, but he is God for us and if we do not know him as that, then I suspect we do not really know him at all.”

What can knowledge institutions like the Christian university, seminary or local church do to address the “New Evangelical Scandal”?

Anderson says, “try to make the knowledge of Jesus the center of our lives again.”

That’s not a simplistic answer. It is a wise answer, but not because it is religiously correct. It is wise because it recognizes how all human life is meant to be led: knowledgeably and Christianly.

Matthew and his wife Charity (also a Biola alum) currently live in St. Louis, Missouri and are the leaders of their local Biola alumni chapter.

Written by Joseph Gorra, Christian Apologetics.

Jenna Bartlo, Media Relations Coordinator, can be reached at (562) 777-4061 or through email at jenna.l.bartlo@biola.edu.

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