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Intellectual Authority and its Changing Infrastructures in North American and Australian Christianity, 1960s-2010s

Intellectual Authority and its Changing Infrastructures in North American and Australian Christianity, 1960s-2010s

Event Venue:

ACU Leadership and Education Centre Level 3, Cathedral House, 229 Elizabeth Street, Brisbane, Australia ( Map )

Tickets are available for in-person and online attendance

The seismic events of 2020—a global pandemic with differing levels of trust in public health authorities, the prominence of conspiracy theories, and fresh attention to the ongoing impact of systemic and individual racism — have once more made clear the significance of the way Christians relate to issues of knowledge, expertise and authority in the public sphere.

Yet the events of 2020 did not come from nowhere. This workshop aims to explore the longer historical crises that lie behind the present picture. It is 25 years since the publication of Mark Noll’s landmark Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, (Eerdmans, 1994) which surveyed the historical roots of what Noll saw as the lamentable state of evangelical engagement and involvement with mainstream knowledge production enterprises. More recently, Molly Worthen’s Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism (Oxford, 2014) provided a nuanced account of the many ways in which US evangelicals since the 1960s sought to respond to the “crisis” of epistemic authority in the US. She described how many US evangelicals had developed an alternative intellectual infrastructure of their own, generating a distinctly evangelical expert whose authority was recognized and deployed in an evangelical mediascape and educational network.

This workshop seeks to widen and build on such US-focused work by including the Australian context, encompassing a scope broader than just evangelicalism. By “infrastructures” of intellectual authority, the workshop aims to put into historical perspective the way Christians in Australia and North America have licensed and credentialed ideas and their purveyors as authoritative or not. This includes churches and their professions of adherence to the authority of scripture and ecclesial authority but goes beyond these dimensions to explore actually practiced historical mediations of intellectual authority over the previous 50 years at the interfaces of universities, Bible colleges, publishing and marketing houses, media ecologies and parachurch ministries and more. It also includes factors shaping orientations of trust or suspicion toward mainstream expertise and theological relations with secular disciplinary knowledge.

The workshop also considers these infrastructures in the light of the ongoing imperative to decolonize knowledge production. We ask about the way that such infrastructures of intellectual authority in Christianity have been racialized, taking whiteness, in Willie James Jennings terms, to be their “facilitating reality.”


  • Assoc. Professor Willie James Jennings of Yale Divinity School, author of After Whiteness: An Education in Belonging (Eerdmans, 2020)

  • Professor Kristin Kobes du Mez of Calvin University, historian, and author of Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation (Liveright, 2020)

  • Dr Garry Deverell, inaugural Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow in Indigenous Theologies at the University of Divinity in Melbourne, and the author of Gondwana theology: A Trawloolway man reflects on Christian faith (Morning Star, 2018)

  • A roundtable of Australian and North American Indigenous theological educators from the NAIITS (formerly North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies) community.


We seek further individual papers to address questions including:

  • How have Australian and North American Christian churches, groups and individuals changed over time in the way they exercise, license, distinguish and generate intellectual authority?

  • How has the construction of Christian intellectual authority in Australia and North America been shaped by and contributed to a social ontology of whiteness?

  • How have churches and theological colleges in both Australia and North America responded to the call to ‘decolonise’ ways of knowing?

  • Are there distinctively North American modes of generating intellectual authority, leadership and credibility, and have these taken root or been adapted in Australian culture?

  • What are the implications for Christian responses to and acceptance of expert knowledge regarding science, health, the environment, and sexuality?

To express interest in presenting, please submit a 200- word abstract and title, together with a brief 3 sentence biography by 15 May 2021, to

A limited number of attendees are also invited to attend in person without presenting. Please use the ‘in-person’ ticket when registering.

We welcome contributions and participants from church history, intellectual history, theology, religious studies or other related fields.

Workshop Convenors: Dr Joanna Cruickshank (Deakin), Dr Christopher Mayes (Deakin), Dr Michael Thompson (ACU)


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