I understand where Noll is coming from in his, albeit harsh, critique of the “innovative theologies” of the Pentecostal and Holiness movements. The eschatology formed from the revivalist movement, which taught believers to forego thinking and education for the sake of evangelism due to the imminent return of Christ, did cause many Pentecostals to diminish the need for the development of the “life of the mind.” This is a framework many of us are still pushing against today as we encourage Pentecostals to engage the intellectual landscape and take their place among thinking Christians. For those who are in the midst of this invisible fight, Noll’s words can be confirmation of a battle not yet won. For others, especially those Pentecostals who have given their lives to the development of the mind, Noll can be frustrating and is often viewed as an elitist. The irony is not lost on me that Noll finds his harshest critics among Pentecostal academics.
In the 90s, Noll caused quite a stir among Pentecostal scholars with this work, Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. Thankfully, Daniel Castelo recounts the squabble succinctly in his book, “Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition.” To begin, Cheryl Bridges Johns, dealt with Noll in her response, Partners in Scandal. Johns’s critique of Noll was that he “is utilizing one historically conditioned form of mind to criticize another historically conditioned mind.” In other words, Noll has stated that there is only one particular form of Christian mind, one based on modernist rationalism, and all other forms are unacceptable. Johns sees this as a “tribal form of the Christian Evangelical mind” and refers to Noll’s work as “a text which victimized some and is victimized by others.” Johns understands Noll’s framework to be modernist at the core and offers that Pentecostalism could more easily align in the postmodern space than the rigidity of modern thought.
James K. A. Smith also had an issue with Noll’s critique of Pentecostalism. For Smith, the problems Noll has with the “innovative theologies” reveal more about his specific orientation than the lack of desire in these traditions to “think like a Christian”. Smith proposes that Noll is not clear on what he believes theology should be, but he is clear that proper theology should not encourage a supernatural experience that would take away from attentiveness to a rational, this-worldly center. Smith argues that Pentecostals are not anti-intellectual, but they do value the experiential understanding of faith as well. The Pentecostal “life of the mind” cannot be simply reduced to theory and rationality since it is also informed by the personal encounter with God.
Later, Amos Yong, Pentecostal systematic theologian, weighed in encouraging both Johns and Smith to consider their own critiques of the tradition. He invited them to consider how these arguments impact Pentecostals outside the academy: the efforts to uphold the metanarrative of Scripture, and the encouragement of formal theological education.
Ultimately, I agree with Castelo when he says:
“Clearly, not simply outsiders to the movement but insiders as well are not in agreement with how to honor some of the most important features of Pentecostal life within a broader intellectual and theological framework.”
All arguing aside, I admit I had a bit of a love/hate relationship with Noll as I read through his work. I appreciate the way he returns to many of the issues stated above with a more open mind in Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind. However, I am still bothered by the idea that “to think like a Christian,” I must reduce my faith framework to theory and reason. Though I value the gift God has given us to think and I believe this gift should be cultivated and stretched, I am unwilling to accept that my relationship with God is only cerebral.
This week, I have been listening to a book about the life of Dallas Willard. It seems to me that Willard himself is a grounded answer to Noll amidst the volley of ideas and opinions. Though he was a great Christian philosopher whose contribution to the “life of the mind” could not be argued, he was also aware of the invasion of the invisible life into the visible world. He prayed over his students that their lives would be “abundant in supernatural results.” Though he was not Pentecostal, he was a long-time member of a Vineyard church and emphasized the life in the Spirit. His life exemplified a dynamic intellectual pursuit as well as the welcomed supernatural experience in every-day life.
Like Willard, I desire to live in this space of both/and.
 Mark A Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2008).
 Daniel Castelo, Pentecostalism As a Christian Mystical Tradition (Eerdmans, 2017), accessed January 23, 2020, http://web.b.ebscohost.com/ehost/ebookviewer/ebook/bmxlYmtfXzE1MjE1NTFfX0FO0?sid=e3fd5525-4d07-4fb3-bad2-8e261dcc9c77@pdc-v-sessmgr02&vid=0&format=EK&rid=1.
 Cheryl Bridges Johns, “Partners in Scandal: Wesleyan and Pentecostal Scholarship,” Pneuma: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies 21, no. 2 (Fall 1999): 183–197.
 Ibid, 189.
 Ibid, 190.
 Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.
 Castelo, Pentecostalism As a Christian Mystical Tradition, 9.
 Ibid, 11.
 Gary W. Moon, ed., Eternal Living: Reflections on Dallas Willard’s Teaching on Faith & Formation (Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Books, an imprint of InterVarsity Press, 2015).