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The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind [Paperback]

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Item Specifications...

Pages   274
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.95" Width: 6.06" Height: 0.74"
Weight:   0.9 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Oct 19, 1995
Publisher   Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
ISBN  0802841805  
EAN  9780802841803  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
"The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind." So begins this award-winning intellectual history and critique of the evangelical movement by one of evangelicalism's most respected historians. 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 liutle 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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More About Mark A. Noll

Mark A. Noll Mark A. Noll (born 1946) is a historian specializing in the history of Christianity in the United States. He holds the position of Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame. Noll himself is a Reformed evangelical Christian, and in 2005 was named by Time Magazine as one of the twenty-five most influential evangelicals in America.

Noll is a graduate of Wheaton College, Illinois (B.A, English), the University of Iowa (M.A., English), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (M.A., Church History and Theology), and Vanderbilt University (Ph.D, History of Christianity). Before coming to Notre Dame he was on the faculty at Wheaton College, Illinois for twenty-seven years, where he taught in the departments of History and Theology as McManis Professor of Christian Thought. While at Wheaton, Noll also co-founded (with Nathan Hatch) and directed the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals.

Noll is a prolific author and many of his books have earned considerable acclaim within the academic community. In particular, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, a book about anti-intellectual tendencies within the American evangelical movement, was widely covered in both religious and secular publications. He was awarded a National Humanities Medal in the Oval Office by President George W. Bush in 2006.

Noll, along with other historians such as George Marsden, Nathan O. Hatch, and David Bebbington, has greatly contributed to the world's understanding of evangelical convictions and attitudes, past and present. He has caused many scholars and lay people to realize more deeply the complications inherent in the question, "Is America a Christian nation?" In 1994, he co-signed Evangelicals and Catholics Together, an ecumenical document that expressed the need for greater cooperation between Evangelical and Catholic leaders in the United States.

Since the Fall of 2006, Noll has been a faculty member in Department of History at Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. He replaced the retiring George Marsden as Notre Dame's Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History.Noll stated that the move to Notre Dame has allowed him to concentrate on fewer subjects than his duties at Wheaton had allowed.

Mark A. Noll currently resides in the state of Illinois. Mark A. Noll was born in 1946.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Hard questions for the Evangelical Church  Jul 27, 2007
A good history of the church in North America, and the division between the mainline church and the the fundamental branch of the church. Noll details the criss of the evangelical mind that follows.
Excellent book on evangelicalism and the Christian mind  Feb 23, 2007
If there is one book that I would recommend to my evangelical friends regarding how to be a faithful Christian in a post-Christian world while at the same time using your brain in a responsible way this book would be it. Mark Noll has done the evangelical Church a great favour by writing and publishing this book. The key statement in the book comes right at the first line of the first chapter: "The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind" (p. 3). Too many professing evangelicals these days want to have a Christianity that is fundamentalistic, highly emotional, prosperity-driven, and individualistic at the expense of good academia, deep theological inquiry, and responsible biblical exegesis.

Noll discusses various issues related to the "scandal of the evangelical mind" like the intellectual disasters of fundamentalism (the need to worship the Bible rather than using the Bible as a means to an end), the culture-Church synthesis (using the surrounding culture as the hermeneutical crux), the individualizing and privatizing of the faith (the problem of the me, myself, and God mentality), the dispensational reading of Scripture (or exegetical naivete and obsessive apocalypticism), the political impact on evangelical Christianity (irresponsible right-wingism), and the allergy to modern science by hardcore evangelicals (trying to put a rigid gap between responsible scientific investigation and responsible biblical reading). Noll goes over all these issues and provides an informative and theologically sound response to all of these problems.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book. It appears that so many so-called Christians today are being sucked into the anti-theological, highly emotional, and individualistic "Christianity" that is inconsistent with the true message of the gospel. As Jesus told the Pharisees: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (Matt 22:37). It is too bad that so many Christians today only want to love God with their hearts and souls. They do not want to love God with their minds. However, Jesus commands us that we love God also with our minds. If more Christians started to love God with their minds and embraced proper theological reflection for their spiritual growth we would not have so many hokey views of the gospel that are prevalent today.
Generous 3 stars - needs a lot of work and a good editor  Sep 27, 2006
This book is a very mixed read and a rather generous 3 stars. Although many of his conclusions were true and he brings up some good points, quite frankly the delivery could have used a lot of work. I was very disappointed upon finishing this book, because it is a very interesting and relevant topic. I really wanted to like this book, but unfortunately, I couldn't.

The positive is, as I said above, many of his points are good, as is his conclusion. I'm just glad that someone finally had the courage to say what he said. Evangelicals do have the unfortunate - and often deserved - reputation of weak-mindedness and lack of critical thought. Not only that, but numerous studies have shown that Christians are thinking exactly like the world, and that self-identified evangelical Christians don't know the Bible much better than non-Christians (I personally know atheists who know the Bible better than many evangelicals I know, which is really sad). There are many especially disturbing trends, such as the trends towards "circling the wagon" with respect towards scholarship and culture (rather then engaging them), lack of a comprehensively Christian worldview, and a disconnect between study of the Bible and thought and action about other areas of life. Noll rightly faults many elements such as Pentecostalism and its dislike of critical thought, some elements of fundamentalism, and dispensationalism (in particular dispensational eschatology, which tends to dominate the evangelical landscape and also tends to be heavily escapist and discouraging of long-term strategies for engaging the culture - after all, if we are living in the end-times and the Rapture is going to take place within our lifetimes, why worry about the world's institutions? As one person said, "why polish brass on a sinking ship?" If the world and its institutions are doomed to inevitably get worse and worse, why try to be salt and light in the world? As Noll points out, this type of escapism and the tenancy to rely on "newspaper eschatology" and to use Biblical eschatology as a "crystal ball" has not exactly been helpful to the church). Many of his ideas about the problems in the church are right on, but some of his ideas are totally off base. He really loses me on his comments about young earth creationism, for example, which he faults for being part of the problem (although he never tells us why we're not supposed to believe it and never bothers to examine what either the Bible or the scientific record say about the topic).

In spite of the positive aspects of this book, as I said before, the delivery could have used a lot of work. Frankly a lot of the book was downright boring, which is surprising since he is discussing many topics that I find very interesting. The tone was sometimes arrogant or even mocking, and often seemed "pseudo-academic." For example, in the beginning of the book, he has a "let's-define-our-terms" section which was very clumsily written and said absolutely nothing that wasn't already obvious while leaving many of the terms that actually needed to be clarified undefined. He defines "confusing" terms that the unenlightened layman "clearly" won't understand like "America," "the life of the mind," and "anti-intellectual." Not only is this section completely unnecessary, it's actually insulting to the readers' intelligence. This section didn't even fit with the rest of the text, and it seriously interrupted the flow of his argument; quite frankly it seemed like he added this section as an afterthought to meet a word count requirement.

No particular effort was made to be concise or clear, and often I would read a section and then have to stop to think hard about what, if anything, the author was trying to say. Numerous sections should have been shortened or omitted completely.

Also, I found numerous logical errors in this book, which is ironic since this is supposed to be about the evangelical mind. He quotes Scripture surprisingly infrequently and opts for illegitimate appeals to authority instead in many cases. He seems to give more weight to the opinions Calvin, Luther, Edwards, and Aquinas than to Scripture itself, or at least he seems to quote them much more frequently. Often the limit of his "argument" for something is something along the line of "Luther said it so it must be right!" Certainly the people he quotes have great authority in the church but ultimately conclusions need to be based on the Bible, not on the opinion of the Reformers or other theologians.

I was also surprised and disappointed by how little Noll talks about what to actually do about the problem. He discusses what the problem is and how we got here a great deal but spends very little time discussing practical solutions. When he does talk about solutions much of his advice isn't especially practical.

Overall, I don't recommend this book too enthusiastically. I was disappointed with it and quite frankly thought that Noll took a long time to say very little. I wanted to like this book, but I can't say that I did; I kept hoping it would get better but it didn't, and I'm not sure at all that it was worth the time I spent reading it. The issue in question clearly needs to be addressed, but this book doesn't do a good job of doing that and could have benefited from a lot more work.
A valuable historical study.  Sep 3, 2006
This book sustains the punchy style of its opening sentence: "The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind." That directness makes it consistently engaging to read and forceful in argument. On the whole it is a striking and lucid explanation of issues that have bothered this 56-year-old Christian for most of the thirty years since his conversion: the tendencies in evangelicalism and pentecostalism to be satisfied by lightweight thinking or to be overtly or covertly anti-intellectual. Noll's arguments are focused on North America; and he does acknowledge that the situation in Europe can be somewhat different. However, the tendency for American cultural hegemony to filter into the church worldwide gives his main points a universal relevance.

While a majority of reviewers on this site, elsewhere on the Internet, and in published journals and papers have praised this book, it is only fair to point out that there has been a number of negative responses; and that, if you take into account the objector's starting point (something that Noll himself does very effectively in the earlier chapters of the book), some of those responses cannot be shrugged off as obscurantist or anti-intellectual. For example, some critics might have been disarmed if the entirely sound point that modern, young-earth creationism is indeed modern, had been bolstered by showing exactly how it differs from the views of important scholars from earlier centuries, such as Archbishop James Ussher (1581-1656), who developed the Biblical chronology that is still accepted in some fundamentalist quarters.

However, the vast majority of negative responses have come from those who hold a fixed position on matters over which Christians have always disagreed; and that fixity makes the objector latch onto the words under their noses rather than hold onto the broad perspective that is this book's starting point and its purpose. For example, one learns far more about the critic than about the book when the objection rests on an unstated assertion that five-point Calvinism has a monopoly on truth, or on a belief that the theological strength of dispensationalism and "plain reading" of scripture exclude any other position on the relationship between the Bible and human history.

And there's the nub of the matter. This is not a theological treatise. It is written by a distinguished academic historian who is himself an evangelical; and its historical perspective searches for the origins of a problem that, even by some of Noll's sternest critics, has been acknowledged to exist. The problem is that evangelicalism has marginalised what Noll calls "the life of the mind", a life that earlier generations, epitomised by Jonathan Edwards (1703-58) and some other great American thinkers of the eighteenth century, took for granted because of its historical pedigree and, above all, because Jesus said that we are to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind." (Matthew 22:37) Noll finds the roots of this decay in multiple places, including the post-Enlightenment corruption of puritan thought, in the irresistible tendency of pentecostalism to privilege personal experience over disciplined thinking, and in the growth of populist movements that were by no means confined to christianity. He seeks to find causes, to trace why, over the last 200 years, the USA has led the way in making evangelicalism and anti-intellectualism walk hand-in-hand. And on the way he offers plenty of food for thought to those who, like this reviewer, have an instinctive sympathy with the very movements that he identifies. He does this efficiently, sympathetically and, on the whole, with a strong sense of what is central and what is peripheral -- something that most of his critics are not so good at.

Those distinctions are especially valuable when the author, in the final chapters, discusses the relationships between culture and belief. He says (p. 243) that ". . . historical study or travel throughout North America and the rest of the world should help evangelicals realize that much of what is distinctive about American evangelicalism is not essential to Christianity." Ah! that little word "should"! Noll shows little optimism that it will bring about a change in evangelical culture at large; but he does find evidence of fresh thinking among that small number of American evangelicals who try and cultivate a true life of the mind, as distinct from the easy assertions of popular evangelicalism. He also sees a welcome move away from those "habits of intuition" that keep evangelicals bogged down in discussions about peripherals, and that can boast of success only in promoting division in the church.

So this is a positive book. It is a study in history, not in theology; though it makes theological points along the way. It is a good read; and it is a striking demonstration of how things have changed since 1753, when Jonathan Edwards was appointed principal of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) precisely because he had the finest evangelical mind around. It will be most appreciated by those who are capable of taking off their "doctrine-spotting" hat -- and this reviewer had to pull hard!
"This book is an epistle from a wounded lover." This is the first line of the Preface, and it says it all. The Author (Mark A Noll) is both in love with Jesus Christ and the human mind (i.e. thinking), yet in the current climate of evangelicalism, these two loves are viewed like fire and ice.

I have found myself in the same quandary in recent years as I have started to explore deeper thought about the world and human nature (i.e. psychology, philosophy, political science, etc.). I have been WARNED not to study too much into these topics as they will cause me to doubt or become lost since these topics will contradict my faith. Evangelicals view these intellectual pursuits as secular pursuits and not Godly. How can this be? How can studying all of God's creation with my mind be contrary to my faith or be harmful to me? Why should I be afraid?

My conclusion to this is that any real thought into these topics forces you to think outside the neat little box that evangelical movements throughout the past 2 centuries have created. You may actually no longer see the world in black and white, but shades of grey. For reasons outlined in this book, this is a threat to the evangelical mind as they are convinced the Bible addresses and is very clear on all issues in life (black and white, right and wrong). But when one truly reads the Bible as it was intended (i.e. not as a textbook), it is obvious to me that it does not offer simple black and white answers as evangelicals want it to, but instead it allows for shades of grey, especially on issues such as science, nature, psychology, politics, etc. The Bible encourages the use of our minds to worship and explore the mystery that God has made; the mystery that modern evangelicals refuse to admit exists.

Additionally, the modern evangelicals discourage any "real" research and deep thought into these areas for fear that they will contradict the "Bible Only" world view that they hold. Instead of using the data and facts that modern science has uncovered to interpret the Bible, the evangelical is content with using only the Bible as a textbook to authoritatively answer all of life's answers, regardless what the facts show. We haven't learned our lesson from the past when the church stated explicitly that: "...the Bible says the earth is flat." Well it wasn't flat... and chances are, the earth isn't less than 10,000 years old either. Even so, we hold to this stance and disregard any evolutionary science even though the Bible is ambiguous on this issue. We might as well be saying the earth is flat yet again as we continue to ignore real science.

This lack of unbiased evaluation of facts coupled with the simplicity in thought that evangelicals have demonstrated (at least in my lifetime) has bothered me for some time now. I always had a hard time placing my finger on what exactly bothered me about modern evangelicals' way of thinking, but after reading this book, I now know. The author, through rigorous research and detail, lays out an outline that shows the decline in the evangelical mind and our inability to critically analyze what exactly is going on around us. The world is changing and we aren't keeping up. From the post revolutionary war Christians uniting themselves with the political movements of the late 18th century to the apocalyptic movements of the early 20th century, evangelicals have developed a certain way of thinking and seeing the world. This way of thinking has created the current evangelical climate which is either activism (us vs. them) or isolating ourselves from "secular society" all together. Involvement and influence in the "real" world is now a thing of the past.

The author recognizes that evangelicals have done many wonderful things throughout the past two centuries including mission, generosity, maintaining the gospel message through hostile times, and defining morality and Christian living. He agrees and is grateful for these contributions. However, he is keenly aware that we are losing our influence in this world as it changes around us and is concerned about our future as more and more denominations are embracing the dispensational, eschatological, and "Bible Only" ways of thinking. We are ignoring science, nature, human society, art, literature, politics, etc. and this shouldn't be.

"The problem is not only to win souls but to save minds. If you win the whole world and lose the mind of the world, you will soon discover you have not won the world. Indeed it may turn out that you have actually lost the world." - Malik

What a great book, and a must reading for any honest and thinking Christian. It is reassuring to know that it is ok to love Jesus and to ponder the great mysteries God has created all around.


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