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D’Souza’s Now Evangelical, or is he?

posted by Scot McKnight

D'Souza.jpgDinesh D’Souza, a Roman Catholic (or is he?), is now President of an evangelical Bible college in NYC: King’s College. Here are his comments from Sarah Pulliam Bailey’s article at CT:

“I’m quite happy to acknowledge my Catholic background; at the same time, I’m very comfortable with Reformation theology,” D’Souza told Christianity Today. “I’m comfortable with the evangelical world. In a sense, I’m part of it.”

OK, I get it that there’s more convergence today than there was five hundred years ago, but c’mon, one can’t be both Roman Catholic and “very comfortable with Reformation theology.” But there’s more to this story.


As the article at CT proceeds, we learn his wife is an evangelical and he’s been attending Calvary Chapel in San Diego for ten years, which means he’s been soaked in evangelical culture and he’s just not all that Catholic. Then the real truth comes out, and it’s a confusing blend of safe affirmations:

“I do not describe myself as Catholic today. But I don’t want to renounce it either because it’s an important part of my background. I’m an American citizen, but I wouldn’t reject the Indian label because it’s part of my heritage,” D’Souza said. “I say I have a Catholic origin or background. I say I’m a nondenominational Christian, and I’m comfortable with born-again.”

My prediction: King’s will do very, very well with D’Souza at the helm and it will attract conservative Christians with interests in conservative politics and apologetics. I see this as a good thing, but starting out with such confusing theological statements isn’t. 


D’Souza’s got one just a toe left in the Tiber on his way to Geneva.


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T

posted August 25, 2010 at 11:40 am


I can actually sympathize with his statements. I can see how he would be reticent to say, “I’m not Catholic anymore.” Such a statement probably implies more than he is willing to say.
I grew up mostly in Southern Baptist churches. While I’ve not been a regular attender or member of a SBC in over a decade, I would also be hesitant to say “I’m not a Baptist.” To me, it would indicate more of a break of fellowship, more of a judgment, than I would ever want to say toward many folks I still consider brothers and sisters more than just “Baptists.” It’s just part of my conviction that the label of “Christian” has far greater significance to me than denominational adjectives or participation. In the same way, I would, for instance, join a wide range of communities if God so led me and my wife, whether charismatic, covenant, anglican, baptist, etc., but wouldn’t necessarily identify myself by that sub-label by virtue of being part of a given Christian community.



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Scot McKnight

posted August 25, 2010 at 11:50 am


T,
My contention on what I think is confusing is that one can’t be both comfortable with Catholicism and Reformation theology. Analogy: one can’t be both Arminian and Calvinist, or charismatic and non-charismatic, or Cubs and White Sox.



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RJS

posted August 25, 2010 at 11:56 am


One can be both Cubs and White Sox … after all they don’t really play the same game do they (DH and all…)



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T

posted August 25, 2010 at 12:03 pm


Scot,
I don’t see him saying that, though, in what you posted. I see him saying he is happy to acknowledge and even show gratitude for his Catholic background and his reformation theology. I’d say the same for the SBC and a more Vineyard-esque theology today. In his/my background, there are people and a host of positive contributions to his life and faith, even though he now embraces a theology that has differences. I didn’t see in your post a statement that said “I embrace both Catholic and reformation theology.” I appreciate the nuance that gives the people and gifts of his Catholic background more honor that they likely deserve.
And I don’t know about Sox and Cubs, but I do know a few folks with ties to both UF and FSU. Crazy but true.



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dopderbeck

posted August 25, 2010 at 12:09 pm


Scot, you’re last line sums it up: this has nothing to do with any authentic theological or ecclesiological principles, and everything to do with the culture wars. It seems to me that they’re establishing a Christian culture war academy. I don’t think this is a good thing. I wish it weren’t in New York because lots of kids from my area will probably want to go there, we’ll have guest speakers from the school in our churches, and so on and on.
Maybe I’m not being generous enough here. Maybe it’ll be different and I’ll end up teaching an adjunct course on law someday. Maybe.



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Scot McKnight

posted August 25, 2010 at 12:19 pm


dopderbeck,
I like that a Catholic like this is interacting with the evangelical community, and that the evangelical community is permitting a Catholic to guide it. I see something good there.
But this is no doubt in part about survival in a competitive market and D’Souza is clearly a culture war guy, articulate and all, but very decisive and sharp minded.
Captcha: nice taxibbes



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kevin s.

posted August 25, 2010 at 12:25 pm


I think it speaks to the degree to which Catholics revere the tradition associated with their religion. I’ve had friends go to Catholic seminaries who aren’t at all Christian, simply because they embrace the Catholic culture and worldview.
I used to think it was terribly unhealthy, but now it isn’t clear to me that it matters. I don’t know that the reformed theology is compatible with Catholic tradition, but it doesn’t appear from the quote above that D’Souza is engaged with that tradition.
More likely he is parsing his words to avoid alienating potential students, which is a reasonable tack from his position.



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Lisa

posted August 25, 2010 at 12:37 pm


actually, he’d be called a heretic… but what kind exactly…
he’s fallen for Chuch Smith & his croneys – as for me, I’ll stick with Jesus and the guy He left in charge.



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Joshua Wooden

posted August 25, 2010 at 12:42 pm


dopderbeck,
Can you explain what you mean a little more? I am personally thrilled that an Evangelical school would hire a man who self-identifies as a Catholic.



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Allan R. Bevere

posted August 25, 2010 at 12:55 pm


Lisa #8, Heresy is a very serious charge and it is a word that is used all too flippantly in Christian circles today.



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Daniel Mann

posted August 25, 2010 at 1:05 pm


I like many of D?Souza?s stances, except for one ? theistic evolution (TE). In my many dialogues with TEs, I have been deeply troubled by their lack of respect for the Word as the Word. Although they admonish humility when it comes to interpreting Scripture, they do not exhibit a comparable humility when it comes to an acceptance of Darwin. This means that evolution becomes more certain than Scripture, and this also means that when they try to reconcile these opposing worlds, it?s Scripture that is inevitably compromised. Such a Christianity can not stand, nor should it!



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EricG

posted August 25, 2010 at 1:27 pm


A friend of mine is a prof there, and wouldn’t describe himself as evangelical. Although a non-evangelical President may be a bigger step. It is a very politically conservative school.



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Brad Boydston

posted August 25, 2010 at 1:46 pm


Geneva or Costa Mesa?



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Scot McKnight

posted August 25, 2010 at 1:51 pm


Brad, I’m coming up empty on the Costa Mesa.



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dopderbeck

posted August 25, 2010 at 1:57 pm


Scott (#6) and Josh (#9) — I see what you mean. Yes, I completely agree that it would be a wonderful thing for a serious Catholic to have a position at an evangelical school. I happen to be an evangelical teaching at an (officially, at least) Catholic school, so I’ve experienced first-hand the value of this kind of cross-pollination. So, by all means, I have no beef with that.
All I’m saying is that in this particular instance I’m not sure this appointment has much to do with Catholics and evangelicals working together in the same way as, say, Wheaton having (keeping) a Catholic political science prof. I suspect the common “religion” at play with D’Souza and Kings is Libertarianism.
Daniel Mann (#11) — trolling alert! c’mon, dude, that’s not what this discussion is all about!



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Kevin LeRoy

posted August 25, 2010 at 2:13 pm


RE: Costa Mesa
Costa Mesa is to Calvary Chapel what Geneva is to Reformed Theology.



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Kevin LeRoy

posted August 25, 2010 at 2:14 pm


Scot -
Costa Mesa is to Calvary Chapel what Geneva is to Reformed Theology.



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kevin s.

posted August 25, 2010 at 2:16 pm


“he’s fallen for Chuch Smith & his croneys – as for me, I’ll stick with Jesus and the guy He left in charge.”
The Pope?



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Joshua Wooden

posted August 25, 2010 at 2:18 pm


Professor,
Calvary Chapel is located in Costa Mesa, CA.



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AHH

posted August 25, 2010 at 3:34 pm


I had a grad school roommate who had gone to Kings as an undergrad.
Does anybody know if they still have the very tight behavior code on their students? 30 years ago, dancing was a no-no, as was playing any card game that used a regular deck (the face cards being too Tarot-like, you know).
If all that is still in force, it might keep away some of the young crowd that dopderbeck is worried about :-)
And D’Souza doesn’t strike me as somebody who would be into such legalism; Calvary Chapel doesn’t do things that way, nor does Rome.
(wow, I think that’s Hebrew I got in my Captcha the first time, now the iodate ion which I am more familiar with)



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Daniel Wesley

posted August 25, 2010 at 4:20 pm


Hi Scot
FYI King’s College is no longer a bible school. Everyone studies a Bachelor’s degree either in PPE (Philosophy, Politics, and Economics) or Business.
AAH, this is a different King’s!! far different from evangelical colleges…it has only three or four rules “don’t steal, don’t lie….”
Go to http://www.tkc.edu and check for yourself.
I’m a member of the methodist church, but I’m more baptist by conviction…so I think D’Souza fits in with King’s vision. He might be a catholic but it does not mean he embraces or become a dogmatic catholic. Peter Kreeft, a catolic is also teacing at Kings



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dopderbeck

posted August 25, 2010 at 4:46 pm


AHH (#20) — The King’s College you’re referring to was located in Tarrytown, New York. It went under sometime in the late 1980′s. Lots of kids from my high school youth group went there (including a girl I used to date …). It was a decent school for its time, but certainly had fundamentalist roots.
I believe, but I’m not sure, that the present King’s College in Manhattan is a successor to the King’s that used to exist in Tarrytown, in the sense that the prior King’s was never fully legally dissolved. But I think it’s correct that, even if this is so, the new King’s is not very much like the old King’s.



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David Moore

posted August 25, 2010 at 4:51 pm


Yay! Boo. Who cares?
This kind of post reaffirms the divisions in the church, no? Let’s be one church and celebrate that an intelligent, faithful person has taken the helm at a quality Christian institution rather than pick into which river his toes are dipped.
Denominational differences are slowly dying in importance for young people–let’s celebrate the commonality and respect the diversity.



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RJS

posted August 25, 2010 at 5:07 pm


dopderbeck,
The links on the CT story connect old and new King’s … demise in 1994 and reestablishment with campus crusade in 1998.
http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/1994/november14/4td066.html
http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/1998/february9/8t2090.html



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Calvin Chen

posted August 26, 2010 at 12:48 am


Scot,
This just shows that, especially since evangelicalism was hijacked by fundamentalists and political conservatives in the 70s and 80s, the vast majority of evangelicalism is a political rather than spiritual or theological movement.
This isn’t quite as egregious as Liberty U giving Glenn Beck an honorary doctorate, but it’s close. D’Souza is not an academic with any academic experience. Though he’s written on apologetics, his main qualification is his infamy as a conservative pundit. Wow, that’ll sure help evangelicalism be taken seriously by the secular academy.
That said, D’Souza will probably be an incredible fundraiser, collecting all the Moral Majority / Christian Coalition dollars for his crusade against secular liberalism right in the heart of Satan’s capital.
Some administrators at Liberty down in Lynchburg may have just broken a sweat. Next up, Sarah Palin as the chancellor of Oral Roberts!



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Sue

posted August 26, 2010 at 1:39 am


Unfortunately I believe that this indicates that denominational commitments are not nearly as important as one’s views on women and sexuality. D’Souza writes about Saudi Arabia,
“She [Hughes] subsequently discovered that the women didn’t feel oppressed by Saudi driving laws because, like other well-to-do women in nnon-western societies, most of them had drivers. …”
D’Souza seems to be quite unaware of the petitions and protests, of poor women, of divorces and widows, of wives of migrant workers, all of whom experience this as a financial hardship. He continues with reference to women,
“What is the joy of going to work and being ordered around by a boss, when you can stay home and order around the domestic servants?”
The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11
page 161
I would like to ask D’Souza what about the domestic servants and the poor. He appears to admire the role of women in Islam. I wonder if he also praises FGM.
With reference to his own country, he says,
“Patriarchy doesn’t make women less powerful – it merely diverts their power to the domain of the household.”
While it may be true that some Asian mothers-in-law had the power of life and death over their daughters-in-law, Chinese women were tottering around on bound feet and many women in India still suffer enormous violence in the home.
That any human being can be so callous always shocks me.



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Sue

posted August 26, 2010 at 1:43 am


Unfortunately I believe that this indicates that denominational commitments are not nearly as important as one’s views on women and sexuality. D’Souza writes about Saudi Arabia,
“She [Hughes] subsequently discovered that the women didn’t feel oppressed by Saudi driving laws because, like other well-to-do women in nnon-western societies, most of them had drivers. …”
D’Souza seems to be quite unaware of the petitions and protests, of poor women, of divorces and widows, of wives of migrant workers, all of whom experience this as a financial hardship. He continues with reference to women,
“What is the joy of going to work and being ordered around by a boss, when you can stay home and order around the domestic servants?”
The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11
page 161
I would like to ask D’Souza what about the domestic servants and the poor. He appears to admire the role of women in Islam. I wonder if he also praises FGM.
With reference to his own country, he says,
“Patriarchy doesn’t make women less powerful – it merely diverts their power to the domain of the household.”
While it may be true that some Asian mothers-in-law had the power of life and death over their daughters-in-law, Chinese women were tottering around on bound feet and many women in India still suffer enormous violence in the home.
That any human being can be so callous always shocks me.



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AHH

posted August 26, 2010 at 10:54 am


RJS wrote:
The links on the CT story connect old and new King’s … demise in 1994 and reestablishment with campus crusade in 1998.
http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/1994/november14/4td066.html
http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/1998/february9/8t2090.html
————
That connected some dots for me. I used to get Campus Crusade mailings due to a missionary I supported. I remember them touting their new university in Manhattan. What I specifically remember is that they were bragging that their President, or Dean, or some high academic office, would be Phil Johnson (of Darwin on Trial and Discovery Institute fame, not to be confused with the similarly named guy associated with John MacArthur). I don’t think Prof. Johnson actually held that job for long (if at all) as he started having health problems about that time.
But that supports dopderbeck’s observation that the college has a pretty heavy “culture war” bent. Which the D’Souza appointment would be consistent with.



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