I heard a pastor preach who mentioned on any given Sunday he had at least three dozen PhD’s in the audience. He was the lead pastor in a town with a significant Christian liberal arts college. This particular pastor was a DMin graduate and no slouch, but he lamented to me how difficult it was to teach his high IQ congregation. I cannot imagine how hard it would be to be a pastor for Mark Knoll, author of The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, especially with such a provocative first sentence in his book, “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.”  Wow, what a start! No pressure at all on his pastor…
I was warned I might get defensive after reading this book. Thankfully, I read Noll’s preface and remembered him saying about his writing, “It is meant to incite more than it is meant to inform”.  He was successful in inciting much, and made me think deeply about the intellectual level of my thinking and preaching. I must admit, I am more of a practitioner than an intellectual (hence, the DMin degree I seek instead of a PhD). I am more application than I am a thinker. This fact has bit me in the hind end more than once…
I found myself wondering why Christians might shy away from intellectualism. Was it out of fear of becoming a gnostic? As we know, several books in the New Testament were written to combat gnosticism. Gnosis means “knowledge”  and this form of intellectual heresy crossed over into idolatry of the mind in my less than intellectual opinion.
Noll brought more heat by saying, “…and you can see that most evangelicals simply don’t think.”  Ouch. Why would this be? I think Jake from our Elite 8 Cohort said it best when signaling perhaps it is because of the whole science and creation debate. I was going to write on that, until I saw Jake stole my thunder (grin). For me, that would certainly be a concern, being a former science teacher in public schools, I was looked down on OFTEN because of being a Christian creation scientist, apparently to them of being unable to speak wisely about the earth’s origins, especially when compared to carbon dating or evolutionism. Here is a picture from my visit to the “Ark Encounter” in Kentucky, with Noah’s Ark life-size replica in the background. Show this in some science circles, and you would be publicly humiliated!
Most of us don’t strive to be anti-intellectual, but knowledge puffs up and we try to stay humble. Does not mean we are against using our brains–I am reminded today that the original 12 disciples were regular un-learned men, mostly fisherman, so obviously we don’t have to pull a brain muscle to try to impress our congregations intellectually.
The author certainly has a point that many Christians check their brains at the church door. It frustrated me often that some folks simply liked to be spoon fed as far as Scripture goes. More than a few times, us Pastors tell people not to take our word for what is preached, but to check us against what the Bible says. Few people do! There is also what I call the eraser effect because folks listen to deep sermons but when they walk through the back doors of the sanctuary like an eraser, they quickly forget every important word of the sermon because their football team is playing on TV. It is legitimate to say the modern church at times can be a mile wide intellectually, but only an inch deep.
I was intrigued with the author’s bashing, maybe deserved, of so called fundamentalists, literalists, conservatives, etc. Particularly, his downgrading of the holiness movement  was penetrating. Half our Cohort and most of our Professors came in his line of fire for that one. Thankfully, he thanked Billy Graham for being a good role model of intellectualism, specifically citing his work in starting the magazine, Christianity Today.  I was also thankful he acknowledged the intellectual abilities of Augustine in writing, The Literal Meaning of Genesis. 
My final comment before taking into consideration several book reviews, I think Noll took it too far by saying, “Evangelicals have been deeply sinful in being anti-intellectual.”  Sinful? I would rather be humble than be like the arrogant folks who made the Tower of Babel with their superior but misguided intellectualism.
Drat, I was prepared and excited to go into a book review by Noll himself titled The Evangelical Mind Today , where Noll admitted (kind of) his shortcomings of his original writing. I was pumped to share his own 10 years later evaluation, then I noticed Dave from our Elite 8 Cohort ALSO stole my thunder by using the same resource. No fair!
Happily, in Noll’s follow-up book titled Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind, credit was given to theologian and evangelist Jonathan Edwards for saying, “Jesus Christ sought the glory of God as his highest and last end.”  THERE IT IS. The goal of intellectualism is not knowledge, the goal is to glorify God through that knowledge. Amen!
In fact, in Billy Graham’s Christianity Today, a striking quote by Jonathan Edwards summed up intellectualism for me, “[I wish] to lie low before God, as in the dust; that I might be nothing, and that God might be all, that I might become as a little child.”  Children aren’t known to be intellectual giants, they only need a child like faith to be commended.
Therefore, I will not shy away from deeper intellectual pursuits, nor will I apologize for not being the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree.
 Noll, Mark A. The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2010. 3.
 Ibid. Preface.
 Williams, Michael. “Gnosticism.” Encyclopædia Britannica. June 18, 2017. Accessed February 22, 2019. https://www.britannica.com/topic/gnosticism.
 Noll. 23.
 Ibid. 146.
 Ibid. 214.
 Ibid. 202
 Noll, Mark. “The Evangelical Mind Today | Mark Noll.” First Things. October 01, 2004. Accessed February 22, 2019. https://www.firstthings.com/article/2004/10/the-evangelical-mind-today.
 Noll, Mark A. Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2013. Loc 515.
 Person, Richard. “Jonathan Edwards.” Christian History | Learn the History of Christianity & the Church. February 18, 2016. Accessed February 22, 2019. https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/theologians/jonathan-edwards.html.