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The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind Paperback – October 19, 1995
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"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."
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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.
I had been wanting to read some church history for a while and have investigated a lot of the books available on amazon. This is the one I happened on though, by accident. Church history made personal.
I've read some complaints here that it's very hard to read - well it is kind of. I found it fascinating enough that I struggled through. Some things I probably missed - not sure if it was because of his lack of clarity or my own ineptitude. Would have appreciated a little more clarity early on in the book about what was meant by baconian science. This figured big in Noll's description of the evangelical mind - it wasn't until late in the book that I got a bit more clarity on what was meant by baconian science - still not sure I understand it 100%. I have enough experience with evangelicalism though, that I think I have a pretty good intuitive feel for what he was talking about.
Another thing I will say regarding how difficult the book is - he did dedicate it to the faculty and trustees of Wheaton College. Those were the people he wanted to have front row seats for this - the rest of us may have to struggle a bit. But it was fascinating and worth the struggle.
I have a list now of people and ideas mentioned that I want to do further reading on. It really was a good read.
I had Dr. Noll as a history professor many years back.
If evangelicalism is a part of your life and you want to do some thinking - this is a book for you - I think you'll like it.