Those “courageous” progressives don’t really value the opinions or affirmations of conservative evangelicalism anyway. What they really value, long for, and try to curry is the favor of “the Enlightened”–whether that’s the mainstream academy or the progressive chattering class who police our cultural mores of tolerance. Sure, these “courageous” progressives will take fire from conservative evangelicals–but that’s not a loss or sacrifice for them. Indeed, their own self-understanding is fueled by such criticism. In other words, these stands don’t take “courage” at all; they don’t stand to lose anything with those they truly value.
Similarly, “courageous” conservatives who “stand up” to the progressive academy aren’t putting much at risk because that’s not where they look for validation and it’s not where their professional identities are invested. They are usually “populists” (in a fairly technical sense of the word) whose professional lives are much more closely tethered to the church and popular opinion. And in those sectors, “standing up to” the academy isn’t a risk at all–it’s a way to win praise. When your so-called contrarian stands win favor from those you value most…well, it’s hard to see how “courage” applies.
But here’s what we don’t often see: Christian scholars who have vested their professional lives in the mainstream academy willing to take stands that would be unpopular at the MLA or APA or AAR. Conversely, we don’t see many conservative scholars willing to defend positions that would jeapordize their favored status with popular evangelicalism.
Now both of those options would require courage.