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The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind Paperback – October 19, 1995
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Unsparing in his judgment, Mark Noll ask why the largest single group of religious Americans--who enjoy increasing wealth, status, and political influence--have contributed so little to rigorous intellectual scholarship in North America. In nourishing believers in the simple truths of the gospel, why have evangelicals failed at sustaining a serious intellectual life and abandoned the universities, the arts, and other realms of "high" culture?
Noll is probing and forthright in his analysis of how this situation came about, but he doesn't end there. Challenging the evangelical community, he sets out to find, within evangelicalism itself, resources for turning the situation around.
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From the Publisher
Praise for THE SCANDAL OF THE EVANGELICAL MIND
KRISTIN KOBES DU MEZ, author of "Jesus and John Wayne"
“More than a quarter century ago, Mark Noll issued a scathing indictment of the evangelical mind. The fact that the scandal has only intensified since then is a testament both to the depth of the problem Noll identified and to the urgent need to revisit its causes and reconsider its remedies at this critical juncture in evangelical history.”
ANTHEA BUTLER, author of "White Evangelical Racism"
“Mark Noll’s Scandal of the Evangelical Mind remains a fresh yet searing critique of anti-intellectualism in evangelicalism. The book is a powerful antidote for evangelicals swayed by soundbites, conspiracy theories, and political hucksterism. An eminent historian of the movement, Noll takes on a prophetic voice once again to save evangelicals from intellectual and spiritual death.”
HEATH W. CARTER, coeditor of "Turning Points in the History of American Evangelicalism"
“This book changed my life. Like countless others who grew up in the thick of the scandal, I found Noll’s ‘cri de coeur on behalf of the intellectual life’ at once revelatory and convicting. In this new edition Noll tackles the post-2016 landscape head on, considering whether ‘the evangelical mind’ is in fact an oxymoron—and ensuring in the process that this book will remain a must-read for decades to come.”
Meet the Author
Mark A. Noll is the Francis A. McAnaney Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Notre Dame. His many other books include A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada, The Civil War as a Theological Crisis, Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind, and America’s God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln.
"That anti-intellectualism is not inherent in evangelicalism Noll demonstrates by presenting evangelical intellectual history, primarily in the U.S., with scholarly thoroughness and journalistic accessibility. . . Noll well exemplifies what he prays evangelicals generally will learn to value again: thinking like a Christian."
"Mark Noll is the McManis Professor of Christian Thought at Wheaton College, and so has a vested interest in adding to the number of thinking evangelicals. That he had the capacity to do so is demonstrated by this learned, lucid book. . . In any case, Noll's excellent book is likely to influence the development of the evangelical mind and deserves the widest discussion."
"Noll's book provides a bold analysis of the history of evangelical thought in America. Scandal may itself be a history-making book. Named 'Book of the Year' by Christianity Today, this volume is a vigorous sign of the renewal of evangelical thinking for which its author calls. This book should be read by persons interested in enlightenment in America, the legacy of fundamentalism, and the relationship of evangelical Christianity to science and politics. This book should be required reading for anyone who still does not know the difference between a fundamentalist and an evangelical."
Equip for Ministry
"This book must be rated as one of the top ten books of the year, at least for our readers."
Evangelical Studies Bulletin
"This is a book that every American historian ought to read precisely because it makes one think hard about a subject and a discipline in a way that few books do. The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind brilliantly reverses the balance in the principle that the best scholarship is necessarily morally informed, a principle widely, if quietly, shared by the left and right."
"Required reading for those seeking to understand the often peculiar relationship between Evangelical religion and secular culture, this is a brilliant study by—yes—a first-rate Evangelical mind."
Southwestern Journal of Theology
"This is a must read book. Its being named the 1995 Christianity Today Book of the Year is not undeserved. It sets the agenda for a very interesting discussion."
The Church of England Newspaper
"Agenda-setting work. . . A 'must-read' for any thinking evangelical."
"A most impressive book, combining passionate engagement with careful and rational analysis."
- ASIN : 0802841805
- Publisher : Eerdmans (October 19, 1995)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 274 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9780802841803
- ISBN-13 : 978-0802841803
- Item Weight : 14.4 ounces
- Dimensions : 6 x 0.71 x 9 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #575,203 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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In the four sections of The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (covering the importance of the scandal, an historical analysis of the scandal, negative repercussions of the scandal, and some hopeful signs of a renaissance in Evangelical thought), Noll meticulously builds a case that the Evangelical disengagement from intellectual pursuits has rendered it impotent to interact within the major intellectual currents of the day. Unable to develop a uniquely Evangelical approach to issues of higher culture, the Evangelical response - if any - is often dependent upon the work of scholars from Roman Catholicism and other Protestant traditions. This sterility of thought fosters a retreat into an Evangelical ghetto where the lack of interaction with competing ideas leaves faulty presuppositions unchallenged and its own fruitful sources untapped.
Noll is particularly to be commended for his excellent insights into the genesis of the current intellectual malaise. Pointing out the strong efforts of Puritans such as Jonathan Edwards to vigorously address the major intellectual themes of their day (following a long tradition of such efforts by Protestants since the Reformation), he traces a number of interacting factors joining together to produce the uniquely American strain of Protestantism. These include the populist revivals of the Great Awakening, the "common sense" Baconian approach to all inquiry promoted by the Scottish Enlightenment, and the spirit of anti-intellectualism spurred on by modernist views of the Bible and debate on the Darwin's evolutionary theories.
Noll sees in current Evangelical uses of Scripture an attempt to recycle ideas discarded elsewhere in the Church as lacking a proper appreciation for historical and cultural contexts. Locked into a system of thought indelibly marked by the nineteenth century, they find themselves unable to respond to intellectual movements far more complex than their narrow categories can handle.
Becoming more optimistic in the last section of the book, Noll focuses on signs of a possible renaissance of Evangelical thinking. Interestingly, much of what Noll views as positive signs are the result of influences from interactions with other Christians. In the process of pointing out many that Evangelical distinctives are not essential to Christianity, Noll seems to inadvertently suggest the way for Evangelicals to become more intellectually rigorous is to become less Evangelical.
It remains to be seen whether it is possible to reform Evangelicalism along the lines Noll poposes without becoming something else entirely. Whether one thinks of them as strengths or weaknesses, a downplaying of those aspects of Evangelicalism that Noll finds most disturbing (anti-intellectual strains of populism, self-righteous separatism, strict interpretations of Biblical inerrancy, methods of hermeneutics based upon outmoded theories of textual objectivity, dispensational approaches to eschatology, attacks on scientific theories) would so alter the landscape of the Evangelical movement as to lose any claim of continuity. Is it possible for a Christian who eschewed the imminent rapture, did not approach the Bible as a source of "proof texts", and reconciled his faith with evolution to be identified as an Evangelical? Without the emotional hold those distinctives generate would they not then descend into the same malaise as mainstream Protestantism?
Noll is not off target in his criticism, but the solution may not lie in Evangelicalism. Many thoughtful Evangelicals, disturbed by the anti-intellectual and ahistorical approaches to the faith common in their doctrine and worship, have resolved the issue by moving to the Anglican, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, and Reformed traditions where a richer theology exists, a more dignified worship of God prevails, and intellectual inquiry is accorded a more vital role. Thus the best solution to the problem of the Evangelical mind may well lie in turning one's back on Evangelicalism.
Regardless of the future resolution of these issues, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind is among the most important books on the state of American Christianity written in the last fifty years. For anyone attempting to understand the place of Christianity in American life, it is a must read. For Evangelicals themselves, it may be shocking to grasp the biases within their approaches to their faith, but it may also lead them to a more faith rooted more in the Gospel than in nineteenth century America.
The book is divided into four parts: (1) The Scandal; (2) How the Scandal has Come to Pass; (3) What the Scandal has Meant; (4) Hope? Part 1 depicts the situation in 1994: Evangelicalism as a separatist movement within society which represents a large portion of the population but has been unable to contribute much to broader society’s thinking. There are Evangelical institutions, but very little Evangelical innovation or influence. He ends this section presenting his reason for writing this book and why the problem he is addressing should matter.
Part 2 is where Noll thrives as a historian. There is too much data to adequately summarize here, but the reader may find his or herself in the same place I found myself: it was like hearing stories about your family that you knew in gist, but not in detail. Why did Revivalism emerge? How come Evangelicals seem to have such an ambiguous relationship with the State ranging from Fundamentalist sectarianism to the Moral Majority? Why does our theologizing seem so dictated by Enlightenment ideals while decrying the very worldview that supports it? Why do Evangelicals need their own educational institutions and why do they seem so uncomfortable in the university?
Part 3 focuses primarily on Evangelical engagement with politics and science. Noll traces the ebb and flow of Evangelical engagement and disengagement with these two. In Part 4 he asks if there is hope for Evangelicalism and asks how Evangelicalism’s uniquely crucicentic approach to the Gospel may have anything to offer.
It was an interesting experience to read this book in 2013, almost twenty years since its first publication. A lot has changed for the better; much has remained the same. Evangelicals are trying to rethink the biblicism they received from their Fundamentalist parents. Organizations like BioLogos are evidence that there is a desire to reengage the sciences. Evangelicals are no longer completely co-opted by the political right anymore. That said, as Noll points out, many of the great advancements in Evangelical thinking have not emerged from Evangelicalism itself, but engagement with other traditions: Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism, Lutheranism, Anabaptism, and the Reformed. While Pentecostalism takes a harsh beating from Noll alongside Dispensationalism, one could argue in retrospect that Evangelicalism and Pentecostalism have found a way to mutually inform and mature one another (Noll places Pentecostalism as a subset of Evangelicalism). Evangelicalism’s ability to adopt and adapt ideas from these groups has given the movement more intellectual credibility.
On the other hand, many Evangelicals are still pigeonholed politically. There remains schism causing, life altering debates over things like biblical inerrancy and other disagreements that seem to continually end with an impasse like Evangelical engagement with theories related to human evolution. As the rash of firings and dismissals at various Evangelical institutions of higher learning have proven, we’re not quite sure what to do with the idea of intellectual freedom as it relates to “orthodoxy”. In this sense, Noll’s diagnosis that Evangelicalism has squashed the life of the mind remains true. While there have been advances we have a long way to go still.