Before I was a therapist, I was a preacher’s kid, a Christian school teacher, pastor’s wife, and actively involved in church leadership. From 4th grade on, I have attended private schools, universities, and ultimately seminary. I often felt valued and impressed upon to be an active part of church and community leadership due to my education and experience. When I pursued a career as a therapist, I was shocked at the distinct difference in which I was treated by some of the local church leaders, especially by the fundamental religious community. Religious people and leaders who were unfamiliar with my background, approached me with caution and wariness since I was educated in the “humanistic field of psychology.” Some pastors in my area openly condemned therapists as being dangerous to employ as they led people astray from spiritual teachings.
To argue, defend, or even acknowledge such rigid perspectives became a dreary exercise I had no desire to participate in since I found their value for psychology or anything intellectual absent. Noll’s statement rang true for me: “Evangelicals do not, characteristically, look to the intellectual life as an arena in which to glorify God because at least in America, our history has been pragmatic, populist, charismatic, and technological more than intellectual.” To the fundamentally religious, therapists were not divinely inspired to bring glory to God, and were leading people to look inward instead of upward for guidance.
Adhering to a rigid set of beliefs and promoting exclusive teachings while resisting outside influences is unhealthy for individuals or groups, for it produces narrow-mindedness and segregated thinking. Relationally it is problematic, as it can be offensive to those outside of the fundamental beliefs who are dubbed as “heathens” and “heretics” since they do not fit within the fundamental culture. It is limiting and dangerous for the emotional, spiritual, and neurological health of an individual to exclude outside intellectual concepts. In addition, it cripples the task of developing a healthy thriving community of diversity. Although a bit dramatic and a tad overstated, I can appreciate the heart of Noll’s words: “The treatment of fundamentalism may be said to have succeeded; the patient survived. But at least for the life of the mind, what survived was a patient horribly disfigured by the cure itself.”
Ironically, the familiar tune of fundamentalism rings loudly in the message of revivalists as they urgently insist their followers to acquiesce to their perspectives and revolutionary beliefs. “Revivalists, moreover, regularly challenged their hearers to seize the faith immediately. They insisted that what had gone on in the churches through the centuries was irrelevant to what must be done with respect to the faith now.” Not unlike the fundamental movements, this has an arrogant tone as it demands followers to dissociate from their past beliefs systems and rituals, while blindly embracing their newly introduced belief system. Again, this points to an absence of critical thinking skills and devalues the intellectual and spiritual wisdom of yesteryears. Personally, that’s why I love rearranged hymns as they bring the old and new together, in a nostalgic yet trendy, vintage sort of way.
In stark contrast to fundamentalism, it can be disturbing to see the evolution of the church in today’s society, as Noll’s words describe a consumer church mentality, with marketing questions guiding the church’s development: “What message would be most effective? What do people most want to hear? What can we say that will both convert the people and draw them to our particular church? The heavy pressure for results meant that very little time or energy was available to think about God and nature, God and society, God and beauty, or God and the shape of the human mind.” This is a disheartening truth for many churches today. Numbers, size, giving, and expansion plans often dominate conversations, sermons, and meetings. Consumerism seeps into our congregations, relationships, and leadership as we find the topic of God’s role in our lives and society subtlety hi-jacked. There is nothing wrong with a well-done marketing campaign, but when that is primary to the voice and direction of the Holy Spirit, we must give pause for concern for the sacred development of the Bride of Christ.
In conclusion, Noll recaps his writing with a dismal summary and a familiar negative reference to fundamentalism: “In the preceding chapters I have argued that contemporary “evangelical thought” is best understood as a set of intellectual assumptions arising from the nineteenth-century synthesis of American and Protestant values and then filtered through the trauma of fundamentalist-modernist strife.” Fortunately, he doesn’t conclude his writings there and offers hope for a promising church future. “Even a brief examination of recent evangelical thought in politics, science, and philosophy leads to inescapable conclusions: Evangelicals now are participating fully in the renewal of Christian thinking that has been underway for several decades in North America.”
With the renewal of Christian thinking, it is a great contribution to the health of the church and its leadership. A profound task of Christian leaders that cannot be understated is to develop healthy leadership, churches, and organizations. “Creating an emotionally healthy culture and building a healthy team are among the primary tasks for every leader, whether that leader is a senior pastor, a para-church ministry department head, a nonprofit or a marketplace executive, a church board member, or a small group leader.” Healthiness becomes a possible task when rigid, fundamental beliefs give way to intellectual thinking, and respectful appreciation is expressed for enlightened works. A closing message for the fundamentalist: scientists, politicians, engineers, health providers, philosophers, and even therapists can be a part of pointing people towards a loving Creator and bringing glory to God.
 Mark A. Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 2010), 55.
 Ibid., 146.
 Ibid., 63.
 Ibid., 67.
 Ibid., 211.
 Ibid., 238.
 Peter Scazzero, The Emotionally Healthy Leader: How Transforming Your Inner Life Will Deeply Transform Your Church, Team, and the World, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan), 213.