Hope for the Evangelical Mind

In 2004, ten years after the publication of
The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, Mark A. Noll was unrepentant about his
assessment of the Evangelical mind.
remain largely unrepentant about the book’s historical arguments, its
assessment of evangelical strengths and weaknesses, and its indictment of
evangelical intellectual efforts, though I have changed my mind on a few
matters. Some readers have rightly pointed out that what I described as a
singularly evangelical problem is certainly related to the general intellectual
difficulties of an advertisement-driven, image-preoccupied,
television-saturated, frenetically hustling consumer society, and that the
reason evangelicals suffer from intellectual weakness is that American culture
as a whole suffers from intellectual weakness.[1] 
He continues to point out the flaws with
words like, “
… we evangelicals as
a rule still prefer to put our money into programs offering immediate results,
whether evangelistic or humanitarian, instead of into institutions promoting
intellectual development over the long term.” Then, at a certain point in the
article, he turns to the matter of hope for the Evangelical mind.
reasons to hope for better things from evangelical intellectual effort spring
from the resources of classical trinitarian Christianity. Even if those
resources are unused or abused, they continue to exist as a powerful latent
force wherever individuals or groups look in faith to God as loving Father,
redeeming Savior, and sustaining Spirit. Various forms of evangelical
Christianity are, in fact, burgeoning around the world; the evangelical
proportion of the practicing Christian population in North America continues to
expand; where there is evangelical life there is hope for evangelical learning.[2] 
In Noll’s words, trinitarian
theology remains at the heart of his hope for the evangelical mind.
evangelicals are the ones who insist most aggressively that they believe
in sola scriptura , and if evangelicals are the ones who
assert most vigorously the transforming work of Jesus Christ, then it is
reasonable to hope that what the Scriptures teach about the origin of creation
in Christ, the sustaining of all things in Christ, and the dignity of all
creation in Christ” – about, in other words, the subjects of learning” – will be a
spur for evangelicals to a deeper and richer intellectual life: “He is before
all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:15-17).[3] 
Noll then goes on to
speak of signs of hope in contemporary Evangelical culture:
1.     “increasing engagement between evangelicals and
Roman Catholics,”
2.     “the ongoing renascence of Christian
3.     “‘more institutions of evangelical higher
learning’ … have seasoned their sectarian certitudes with commitment to ‘mere
4.     “the consistent quality of intra-evangelical
debate in forums such as the American Scientific Affiliation’s Perspectives
on Science and Christian Faith”
evolution and creation,
5.     “the multiplying
Christian presence in the nation’s pluralistic universities, where far more
students of evangelical persuasion receive their higher education than at the
evangelical colleges and universities,” and
6.     “greater
intellectual responsibility [in] the world of publishing.”[4]
It seems to me that both Noll’s original book, and his ten-year
assessment, offer an outline for those of us who still see ourselves in the
evangelical, but not fundamentalist, tradition. If we pay attention to the six
items listed and do our part to enhance each, we may yet redeem the Evangelical

[1] “The Evangelical Mind Today”, in First Things First, October, 2004, https://www.firstthings.com/article/2004/10/the-evangelical-mind-today
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.

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