The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind

Mark Noll
published The Scandal of the Evangelical
in 1994. It has become essential reading for all Christians since that
time. His main thesis is that
“The scandal of the evangelical mind
is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.” How well he knew and
knows the culture; how well he knew me at the time. This book, and Harry
Blamire’s 1963, The Christian Mind,
represented a turning point in my understanding of cultural issues, mystery,
and complexity. Noll spends the first chapters outlining the problem and is
necessarily negative toward the Christian community of the day. This blog will
explore the hope and positive directions the book suggests in later posts. For
now, let us hear what Noll said to us in 1994 and compare it to the circumstances
of 2017. Have we journeyed very far beyond the concerns he expresses here?
To put it most simply, the evangelical ethos is activistic, populist,
pragmatic, and utilitarian. It allows little space for broader or deeper
intellectual effort because it is dominated by the urgencies of the moment. In
addition, habits of mind that in previous generations may have stood
evangelicals in good stead have in the twentieth century run amock. As the
Canadian scholar N. K. Clifford once aptly summarized the matter: “The
Evangelical Protestant mind has never relished complexity. Indeed its crusading
genius, whether in religion or politics, has always tended toward an
over-simplification of issues and the substitution of inspiration and zeal for
critical analysis and serious reflection. The limitations of such a mind-set
were less apparent in the relative simplicity of a rural frontier society.”[1]
How would
you understand the Evangelical or Christian ethos today? Is it still
activistic, populist, pragmatic, and/or utilitarian? Do we relish or avoid

The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, Mark A. Noll, William B. Eerdmans Publishing
Company, Grand Rapids, 1994.

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