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”. 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 The creeds of the early church were acknowledged as historical documents but as Noll says, “‘no creed but the Bible’ put themselves at an enormous disadvantage.”
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.”
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.” 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.”
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.”
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.” 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.”
 Mark A. Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2011), 239.
 Mark A. Noll, Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2011), 1.
 Ibid., 124.
 Ibid., x.
 Ibid., 126.
 Ibid. xii.
 Ibid., 2.
 Ibid., ix-x.
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