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Embracing Christology and the Creeds

Written by: on February 9, 2017

Introduction           My religious roots as a child were
in a classical Pentecostal tradition.  It was balanced but narrow in scope, some of that due to the lack and exposure to the “life of the mind” as Mark Noll references it.  It was not a literacy issue; it was an exposure and intellectual depth issue.

Noll, in his book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, prescribes to a definition of “intellectual depth” as, “…a way of praising God through the mind”.[1]  The “minds” around me were brilliant in many areas but lacked a sense of critical and historical Christian thought process.  The creeds of the early church were acknowledged as historical documents but as Noll says, “‘no creed but the Bible’ put themselves at an enormous disadvantage.”[2]

This “disadvantage” almost threw me for a theological loop from the deity of Christ to inerrancy of Scripture to the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer today.  My formal education began in a Bible School setting but progressed to state universities and then to Christian graduate studies.  I was not illiterate, I was lacking depth and longing for a way to know God through my mind as well as my spirit, soul, and body.

Noll’s book, seventeen years later, Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind, affirmed my many years of pursuit of “intellectual depth”.  The scholarly, yet simplistic, presentation of the truth represented in the creeds, the revelation of who Jesus is (Christology), the atonement, and the invitation to the sciences, will cause you to dig deeper.  I may have been theologically and mentally challenged with Noll’s look at evolution, but his reasoning resounds with an, “…expectant hope that grows directly from confidence in what has been revealed in Jesus Christ.”[3]

Summary

Noll’s clarity seems to resound with his purpose of writing this book: “The message in this book for my fellow evangelicals can be put simply:  if what we claim about Jesus Christ is true, then evangelicals should be among the most active, most serious, and most open-minded advocates of general human learning.”[4]  Evangelicals, that Noll is reaching to, are more than a political voting maxim.  Evangelicals are the purveyors and defenders of what has been handed down through the centuries from the birth of the church recorded in the Acts of the Apostles.

Noll does in 167 pages what others have written reams on.  His appropriate handling of the creeds (Apostle, Nicene, and Chalcedon) and their direct correlation to the efficacy of Jesus Christ and His Word, were exceptional.  “The creeds were never intended to be a comprehensive survey of all biblical wisdom.  But by their explicit references to Scripture as revealing the great work of God in Christ, Nicea and Chalcedon do make an indirect assertion about the primary function of the Bible.”[5]

Noll’s reference to the mind supersedes the call to academia for the sake of academia.  His reference to John 12:25 and the works and actions of Jesus, “…that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written”, calls us to greater depth.  “What is true for the life and work of Christ in general is also true for the life of the mind.  If the meaning of what Jesus did and is exceeds the capacity of all the books that could be written, so too the meaning of what Jesus did and is, with respect only to the intellectual life, exceeds the capacity of all the books that could ever be written.”[6]

 

Analysis

My childhood years were not influenced by the creeds or a great depth in Christology.  When I pastored Christ Church Nashville, things changed.  We were considered a Spirit-led, Spirit-filled church that embraced the historical church.  Our catechism class taught, explained, and required memorization of the Apostle’s Creed.  The sacraments (a term that was not used in my childhood) were embraced and practiced.  Our deep reference to the Spirit and Pentecostal roots, coupled with practices of the early church, caused eyes to lift and ears to perk up.

I concur with Noll that the creeds, “…remain important for Christian scholarship because they have stood the test of time as faithful summaries of biblical revelation concerning the person and work of Christ.”[7]  Processes and procedures are not salvific if the depth and understanding of Jesus are not present.  Rote memorization does not sanctify if Biblical truth is not incorporated.  As Noll said, “My contention in this book is that coming to know Christ provides the most basic possible motive for pursuing the tasks of human learning.”[8]

[1] Mark A. Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind,  (Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2011), 239.

[2] Mark A. Noll, Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind, (Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2011), 1.

[3] Ibid., 124.

[4] Ibid., x.

[5] Ibid., 126.

[6] Ibid. xii.

[7] Ibid., 2.

[8] Ibid., ix-x.

About the Author

mm

Phil Goldsberry

8 responses to “Embracing Christology and the Creeds”

  1. Thanks for this Phil. I appreciate hearing about your journey so far. Mine is similar but in different order. I started at a Lutheran church pastored by my grandfather. So I got the good Christology and Creed-ology there. Then my parents took us to pentecostals churches. 🙂
    What do you make of it, if anything, that Noll himself went from Wheaton to Notre Dame?

    • mm Phil Goldsberry says:

      Aaron:

      I’m not sure of Noll’s journey. His shift from Wheaton to Notre Dame seems to align with his premise and pursuit of the “life of the mind”.

      This second book was incredible for helping me to understand his works. His journey, your journey, and mine, are interesting in their scope and results. The similarities are “growth”, hopefully in the right direction. The “path” is different. The “impact”, well that is up to each of us.

      Phil

  2. Aaron Cole says:

    Phil,

    Very interesting about your Nashville church experience. I think that is cool! Question: do you wish you would have read this book before the Scandal of the Evangelical Mind? Would it allow to see any major issues you had with Noll’s writing differently?

    Aaron

  3. mm Phil Goldsberry says:

    Aaron:

    Good question. I’m not totally sure. The first book tainted me a bit, the second book was very redeeming. Saying that, all of us should be in “growth” mode. I would be willing to give Noll the benefit of the doubt on his progression, as well as mine.

    Phil

  4. Phil,

    Quite interesting your spiritual journey. I have been raised in Pentecostal Assembly of God theology all of my life. I have not always been the one just to hold on to whatever I have been told. Exploring things for myself has always been something that I have done.

    Do you think Noll is really on to something?

    What role does the mind play? Is believing the role of the mind? That eliminates reasoning in some church people’s mind. Blindly believing?

    What are your thoughts?

    Kevin

  5. Claire Appiah says:

    Phil,
    I enjoyed reading your blog and I am impressed with your Christian upbringing, exposure and praxis. Thanks for enlightening me concerning the value of the book for authentic Christian living and effective Christian scholarship. You have encouraged me to re-read this book more thoroughly. I had to read this book in haste and missed many of its gems for analysis. May God continue to be supreme in your life and those you influence.

  6. mm Marc Andresen says:

    Phil,

    I am intrigued and impressed with your journey from childhood, and your honest assessment of it. In what you wrote it seems clear that your faith has deepened and expanded through the years.

    You wrote, “Noll’s reference to the mind supersedes the call to academia for the sake of academia. “

    Are there a couple more sentences you can write about that? Can you say any more about your sense of that call to your mind?

  7. Pablo Morales says:

    Phil, it is is interesting to see how our Christian journey is similar in that it moved from a childhood faith to a growing desire to learn more. I am glad we are pursuing this degree together.

    By the way, I noticed at the footnote of your blog some adds for viagra. Apparently you’ve gotten hacked too. You may want to notify Adam McGuffie.
    Pablo

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