In a recent lecture delivered at George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon, Mark Noll discussed the state of Christian education. In many ways, it was a rehash of content from The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, indicating that the real scandal of his book is that it didn't cause one.
The scandal is that there isn't much of an evangelical mind, and as a historian Noll tackles the problem from a primarily historical perspective. Like a good scholar (which he is), he begins by framing his argument and defining his use of terms in the book, leaving no room for speculation as to what he might mean.
Evangelicals, Noll points out, are really good at doing. They can organize, mobilize, and be activists. But they aren't good at thinking. Or more specifically, engaging in serious scholarship. Why does this matter? For many reasons, one being the fact that we are called to live in the world, take every thought captive, and do all to the glory of God.
Another vital reason is actually apologetic. We cannot defend our faith effectively if we have a faulty understanding of what are typically considered "secular" concerns, like science, history, philosophy, etc. The section on science is particularly interesting, as Noll looks at the origins of current creation science and explores the negative impact it has had on Christian public discourse.
The book has four parts. Part 1 addresses the scandal itself and why it matters; Part 2 considers the historical origins of the scandal and how various factors led to the current intellectual impasse; and Part 3 addresses the ways the scandal of the evangelical mind has affected Christian public discourse in the realms of political reflection and the study of science.
Part 4 looks to the future, asking whether there's reason for hope and if the scandal can be scandalized. Noll clearly wants to be able to answer in the affirmative, and there are clearly reasons for hope, but he's also a realist and there's a bit of reservation of judgment on his part as he wraps up his assessment.
Some readers will no doubt bristle at Noll's assessment of creation science. But it's essential that we listen to what he's saying, and not disregard his message on account of what he's not saying. Noll's message is gravely serious, and one Christians can't afford to ignore—let us pray that it isn't ignored for another two decades.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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