Being Right Minded
Mark Noll’s The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind and sequel Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind are books that evaluate, critique, provoke, and promote evangelicals toward a more intellectual relationship with Christianity. This post will read in and around both books and look for ideas, themes, and connections that can help my investigation into the phenomenon of spiritual warfare.
Book 1, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind from 1994, is a critical “historical meditation” where the author examines the tension between being evangelical and intellectual. Noll says the scandal results from the failure of Christians to use their Christ-like minds to better understand “the nature and workings of the physical world. Noll offers a comprehensive historical review on how he sees knowledge change over time between science and evangelicalism. He describes and applauds the rise of creationism and then rebukes it as an intellectual tragedy because evangelicals who simply defend the literal Bible have lost their “ability to look at nature as it is.” He goes on to offer a glimmer of hope by saying that despite their intellectual gap he believes that the ideas from “mainline Protestants, Roman Catholics, or perhaps even the Eastern Orthodox” will help inspire traces of intellectual depth that evangelicals can leverage to improve their worship with God “through their mind.”
Fea, who serves as a professor of American history, believes Noll’s fear that Christian universities cannot change the “deep structures of modern intellectual life” may be fundamentally correct, but that is no excuse for not still trying to overcome the “scandal.” Fea, inspired by Noll’s work, was convinced that “the life of the mind was a legitimate calling” despite the advice of his mentors and spiritual advisors. I agree with Fea and Noll who believe that in order for the evangelical mind to flourish is needs certain academic disciplines “across the whole spectrum of modern learning.” I think George Fox University offers an excellent Leadership and Global Perspectives program with an array of theologically challenging courses, personal reflection exercises, cohort interactions, and mentor intersections that helps advance my evangelical mind to fulfill my hallmark goals of knowing God and reflecting Christ. So, I respect Noll’s fundamental challenge for Christians to extend their intellectual reach in appropriate evangelical ministry contexts.
Book 2, Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind is an encouraging continuation, over 15 years later, on his theme to challenge and inspire evangelicals to move toward some “serious learning.” Watts points to Noll’s “doubleness, contingency, particularity, and self-denial” as four intellectual discovery portals that evangelicals can open to find the mind of Christ. Noll’s work on self-denial most closely resembles the challenges of spiritual warfare that I see in my dissertation research. He calls it the “sins of scholars” and lists some of Satan’s most common schemes that intellectuals may fall prey to unless they are girded for defense. He says that formal learning can create temptations of pride over the number of degrees earned, books and articles publishes, and positions held, just to name a few. So, LGP8 cohort members, please continue to gird yourself daily and wear Christ as your spiritual armor so that you can defend against the tricks, traps, and temptations of our own intellectual pursuits.
I see a lot of theological leadership maturity from Noll in the second book. For example, he warns against scholars “trying to race ahead of their Savior” and points to Christ given verses on nothingness, servanthood, gentleness, humbleness, and duty as the attributes of a rightly minded Christian intellectual. Veenaman gives Noll a thumbs up on how well he advances Evangelicalism with Christian “motivation and guidance” toward intellectual pursuits. Noll gives readers an accessible book that appeals to Christian’s interested in adding liberal arts and sciences to their theological ministry toolkit.
In summary, Noll’s work to promote the intellectual advancement of the Christian mind with the goal of finding a deeper form of personal worship with God is both academically and theologically brilliant! Byers commends Noll and affirms that his Life of the Mind book is “evolved,” moderated, and hopeful to more intellectual possibilities than in The Scandal. Noll’s work both inspires and advances my research into spiritual warfare. He has encouraged me to reach further, dig deeper, and keep crawling forward in search of safe, practical, and non-threatening Biblically centric forms of written and verbal expression that help challenge and communicate the principles and doctrines of spiritual warfare. This is a cruciform driven passion of mine to help others defend and overcome the debilitating and destructive strategies and schemes of the evil one against the body of Christ. Some evangelicals get it, some don’t. But like Noll suggests, we must never stop trying to advance God’s call on our lives to help others in need, which is for our good and His glory. In closing, consider Noll’s life’s work summary, “Whatever may be the actual intellectual practice of Christian believers, the Christian faith contains all the resources, and more, required for full-scale intellectual engagement.”
 Mark A. Noll. The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 2010) Kindle Location 85.
 Ibid., 6.
 Ibid., 198.
 Ibid., 238.
 John Fea. “What Is the State of the Evangelical Mind on Christian College Campuses?” Christian Scholar’s Review 47, no. 4 (2018): 342. (Fea is the Chair of the History Department at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, PA).
 Noll, Scandal, 6.
 Jonathan K. Watts. “Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind.” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 64, no. 4 (2012): 266.
 Mark A. Noll. Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind. (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 2013) Kindle Location 734.
 Mat. 11:29, Phil. 2:7, Luke 17:10.
 M. Veeneman. “Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind.” Choice 49, no. 6 (2012): 1079.
 Philip Beyers. “Jesus Christ Is the Life of the Mind: A Review of Mark Noll’s The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (1994) and Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind (2011).” Christian Higher Education 12, no. 3 (2013): 230.
 Noll, Life of the Mind, 1676.
10 responses to “Being Right Minded”
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Thanks for the intellectual engagement! And calling our author’s work “brilliant” said volumes. Obviously this book has challenged the church, and has moved us to higher use of “love the Lord your God with all your …. mind.”
To God be the glory!
We are both gaining intellectually, but I must admit I was farther behind than you…
Thanks for the feedback! I agree we are making some progress and I enjoy the journey with you.
Mike, great job. I like how ou ewre so enthusiastic about the challenge for evangelicals to elevate their thinking even when your topic is so entirely spiritual. Unlike other topics, spiritual warfare happens invisibly, and perhaps this even more the reason why we need serious and clear theological thought. I think you are doing great work which will help fulfill Noll’s challenge.
Thanks so much for your review and feedback. Much appreciated sir.
I liked how you emphasize the link Noll made between thinking and worship. This is an interesting way to look at it.
Have you ever considered how spiritual warfare is a subsection of worship? It seems you infer that with the comments that followed, and I also think that’s a brilliant way to understand the spiritual battle.
SW as a subsection of worship is an excellent idea! I am going to think and reflect on that. I might call you sometime to discuss further.
I really appreciate you Mark. Thanks!
I believe you are right in your belief that these works should act as an encouragement to you and your dissertation topic. Thoroughly linking the theme of spiritual warfare to rigorous intellectual pursuits will serve to provide greater opportunities for you to share with others. I look forward to your ongoing results.
Your feedback is very encouraging and I am going to try just that and see how the Holy Spirit leads. Mark associated SW with worship, and I thought that was a good intersection too!
Hi Mike! I always appreciate your perspective – and the fact that you see the value in education for evangelicals. I don’t remember your story – what made you choose a DMin at GFU in the LGP track? Just wondering why this line-up of content was so attractive to you?
Good question Jean, thanks. In short, I have always been a student of leadership and GFU LGP offered one with the cross-cultural and missional intersections that I am drawn towards. Dr. Cliff did a 1 hour Skype interview with me while I was in the Middle East and once I knew I could research and write on SW I was hooked and confirmed by the HS.