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Letters

Begging the Wrong Question

Eric Metaxas ["To End All Wars," July/August] misuses the phrase "begging the question." "Question" here derives from quaestio and means "topic," more or less. To beg the question is to make an argument that assumes in its premises the conclusion it is supposed to prove. Anytime an author puts •' a question after the phrase—as in "This begs the question:

What are we to do next?"—it's almost certainly wrong: what he means by "begs the question of is usually "leaves unanswered or unexam-ined the question of." To phrase it as a rule: There is no question in begging the question.         --

Joseph Bottum Books 6- Arts Editor The Weekly Standard Washington, D.C.

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea?

James M. Penning and Corwin E. Smidt ["The Decline that Wasn't," July/August] report that students at evangelical colleges (presumably evangelicals themselves) are not getting all slack and secular, as James Davison Hunter claimed in his 1987 book, Evangelicalism: The Coming Generation. On the contrary, their new study reveals that evangelical college students are now more evangelically orthodox than ever. Most of the students surveyed by fcpenmng and Smidt believe that "The only hope for heaven is through personal faith in Jesus Christ" and "The devil is a personal being who directs evil forces and influences people to do wrong." Eighty-one percent of the students surveyed believe that "God created Adam and Eve, which was the start of human life." When questioned about the Bible, the largest group (47 percent) responded that "The Bible is the inspired Word of God, not mistaken in its statements and teachings, and it is to be taken literally, word for word."

Ironically, this survey indicates failure, not success, from the perspective of Mark Noll's classic. The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. Noll politely suggests that it was a serious mistake for conservative American Protestants to make rationalistic and scientific defenses of their faith — like a literal reading of Genesis—a point of orthodoxy. Tackling literalism and inerrancy in evangelical theology, Noll

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in American evangelicalism. Further, he asserts that "To confuse the distinctive with the essential [as evangelicals and fundamentalists have done] is to compromise the life-transforming character of Christian faith. It is also to compromise the renewal of the Christian mind."

Daniel Knauss Department of English Marquette University Milwaukee, Wise,

Left,Right

I enjoyed reading Lauren F. Winner's welcoming yet even-handed review of

 

several important studies of the postwar American New Right ["Why America Turned Right," March/April]. Winner correctly links the fortunes of American conservatism with the declining status of any sort of liberal consensus. One could push this argument further to note that the New Right and its seeming ideological opposite, the New Left, shared a reaction against the statism and bureaucracy . of postwar liberal politics. As a comparison of Billy Graham and Jim Wallis reveals, a similar left-right anti-liberalism existed within the American evangelical community during the late 1960s and

early 1970s. Significantly for the emergence of a conservative epoch, the New Left and New Right diverged in their strategic responses to liberalism. The latter movement linked its agenda to both legislative (e.g., anti-tax referendums) and electoral (e.g., Ronald Reagan and the Republican Party in general) mechanisms, while the descendents of the New Left to this day remain ambivalent about participating in traditional party politics.

Steven P. Miller Doctoral student in American history Vanderbilt University Nashville, Tenn

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