Mark Noll’s book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind caused fervor of controversy amongst Evangelicals when he said in his opening sentence “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind (3).” He goes on to say that he is a wounded lover of the mind and the evangelical Protestant and the purpose of his book is to incite evangelicals to give more intellectual thought to their dialogue with the world and to their actions.
He continues to explain that the failure of evangelicals is to think more about what being a Christian is when addressing “the nature and workings of the physical world, the character of human social structures like government and the economy, the meaning of the past, the nature of artistic creation, and the circumstances attending our perception of the world outside ourselves. Failure to exercise the mind for Christ in these areas has become acute in the twentieth century (7).”
Although, he may be right in that many churches and Christian Evangelical Universities fail to prepare evangelicals in the intellectual disciplines in research and intellectual dialogue with secular institutions, there are some evangelicals who have taken up the challenge to prepare graduate students to think through their faith and to prepare them to make a difference in politics by using their minds. One such program is the John Jay Institute.
I became aware of this organization when my daughter came to me and shared she had just been accepted into the John Jay Institute and that she would be moving to Philadelphia for 4 months of an intensive study to prepare her to make a difference as a Christian in politics. As a concerned father, I immediately went to the internet and researched this organization. Its mission is to prepare principled leaders for faith-informed public service. She has just completed her first month. The program has her reading a book a day and preparing essays to discuss each day in class. It is a community fellowship with high achieving students living together, studying together and dialoguing about theology, sociology, psychology, government and economics. At the end of the semester, they move into an internship to put into practice their intensive learning experience.
Charles Howard of the Huffington Post had this to say about the Institute. “The John Jay Institute and those affiliated with it might be described as “conservative”, in many ways they are “progressive” for encouraging mutual respect, mutual learning, a commitment to serving, loving our neighbors, and dialogue with both the ideas of the past and the ideas of the present. The Institute’s work is an effort that I think will bring much progress, no matter how one politically identifies.”
I believe Noll has incited many of us to reflect on our own Christian thinking and how we interact with the world. I agree with his conclusion that there is a reawakening and the John Jay Institute is a good example of training our young leaders how to discipline their thinking to make a difference in the political arena according to their Christian faith.
The Scandal of The Evangelical Mind. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994.