Matthew Lee Anderson is at the head of a class of young Christian intellectuals who sharpen their minds by way of the blogosphere. Since his 2004 graduation from Biola University's Torrey Honors Institute, he has held jobs in book publishing and finance. But he lives through his blog, Mere Orthodoxy, which has won a small, loyal audience with its ruminations on political theory, ecclesiology, anthropology, and other rarified topics.
Blogging on weighty matters has refined Anderson's own critical thinking, he says—especially as an intelligent and diverse audience worldwide reads and reacts. "If you write a quick response that is terrible," he says, "you find out."
Anderson got quite a quick response to his 6,000-word essay "The New Evangelical Scandal," published early this year in The City, Houston Baptist University's journal "on the critical issues of the times." Anderson, 27, argued that in the process of distancing themselves from their parents' thinking on religion and politics, young evangelicals are tossing the baby out with the bathwater by shunning some worthwhile—and biblical—ideas.
"In that distancing from our parents' generation, we've bought into many of the same problems we are reacting to," says Anderson, who has applied to graduate school to study political theory—and further sharpen his thinking, as well as that of his readers.
Question & Answer
What kind of reactions did "The New Evangelical Scandal" get?
Overall, it was received reasonably well. I expected younger evangelicals to react pretty strongly, but a number of them told me I had articulated their experiences and intuitions better than they had been able to. Most who criticized it said that I got the section on eschatology wrong and that I was overly generous toward traditional evangelicals.
Where are young evangelicals most misguided?
I like a lot of what younger evangelicals are about—the emphasis on the arts, the pursuit of social justice. But I worry that we haven't actually escaped the problematic foundations that have led to the problems we're critiquing. Our sympathies with postmodernism are worrisome to me. I think young evangelicals need a deeper, broader education that is historically grounded.
On the political and theological continuums, where would you place yourself?
Politically, I was for Mike Huckabee, which put me at odds with a number of people in the party. But my positions on abortion and marriage put me at even deeper odds with Democrats. My disposition is toward conservatism, since I think we need to be chastened by history. But I am increasingly suspicious of the whole architecture on which contemporary political conversations and categories are based, which has made me want to find other options.
Theologically, I'm a conservative, but an eclectic one.I'm open to those aspects of postmodernism that function as heuristic devices, such as deconstruction, as they create an opening for theological knowledge. But I'm still a foundationalist, which puts me at odds with a whole host of younger evangelicals and emerging church folks.
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Matthew Lee Anderson's blog can be found at MereOrthodoxy.com.
Previous "Who's Next" sections featured Margaret Feinberg and Jonathan Merritt.
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