Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Mark Noll)


One of the (few) advantages to being ill and lying in bed all day is the chance to finish off some reading, starting with this book, which I would warmly recommend to anyone interested in evangelical theology. Lots of insights; very well written and - rather obviously if you're familiar with the author - impeccably researched; and yet, I can't help but believe that Noll has constructed a cast-iron case for the terminal decline of evangelical thought. He tries to open out some room for hope at the end, but his penultimate conclusion is pretty damning:

"The scandal of the evangelical mind seems to be that no mind arises from evangelicalism. Evangelicals who believe that God desires to be worshiped with thought as well as activity may well remain evangelicals, but they will find intellectual depth - a way of praising God through the mind - in ideas developed by confessional or mainline Protestants, Roman Catholics, or perhaps even the Eastern Orthodox. That conclusion may be the only responsible one to reach after considering the history sketched in this book. Even if it leaves evangelical intellectuals trapped in personal dissonance and the evangelical tradition doomed to intellectual superficiality (or worse), the recent past seems to point in no other direction."

His actual conclusion is that as evangelical thought is Christian thought it may be resurrected. I'm not convinced of that. To my mind evangelicalism is much too heavily implicated in the Modernist project to survive the post-Modern shift, let alone what comes afterward. There are some essential things about evangelical Christianity - but it is in Christianity that they will be preserved, not in evangelicalism.

BTW - saw this today, very interesting.

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