As the times change, so does the approach and avenues of attracting followers to different religions. Christianity is and remains one of the oldest religions, and attracts the largest following, in the world. However, the ever-changing human lifestyle of the secular world threatens the maintenance and spread of Christian evangelical beliefs globally. To counter the fading appeal of faith and to maintain its relevance in a secular world, most religious leaders turn to alternative techniques of justifying Christianity. This paper reviews an in-depth analysis of some of the approaches that pastors and preachers use to attract worshipers to their churches.
Mark A. Noll is a renowned philosopher and scholar of history. This academician’s vast knowledge and expertise in religion and theology gives him the authority to provide advice and opinions on specific topics about the development and transformational of religion and its facets. In his book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, Noll decries the lack of intellectualism in the pursuit for American evangelism: “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.” As a matter of fact, Noll explains that the bid to beautify the word is a threat to the main purpose of religion, especially through its teachings. According to Noll, the evangelical movement emulates much of the American culture in an attempt to popularize the religion. The feel-good effect of the popularization dilutes the intellectual appeal and the intention of the sect. According to Noll, “The point of Christian scholarship is not recognition by standards established in the wider culture.” Instead, people should focus on praising God’s name rather than adulterating the religious integrity for fame. Noll continues to elaborate that it is the same anti-intellectualism in evangelical Christianity that led to the establishment of slavery: “The crisis created by an inability to distinguish the Bible on race from the Bible on slavery meant that when the Civil War was over and slavery was abolished, systemic racism continued unchecked as the great moral anomaly in a supposedly Christian America.” For most religious leaders, the validation for the lack of academic pursuit in evangelism is the claim “Americans follow a higher law” without regard if its effects on the Christian faith.
Judging from Noll’s words, there is no doubt that modernity and secularism affect the originality of Christianity. As a leader in my religion, I take Noll’s claim of anti-intellectualism seriously. It is up to us, as leaders, to uphold Christian evangelical values while attracting more worshipers to the word at the same time. Nonetheless, the adoption of culture should not override the initial intent of the religion. Moderation is an aspect that all religious leaders should emulate and include in their teachings. Change is a constant factor in every aspect of life. However, religion should not stoop to adopting the cultural changes of the society. Instead, the community should shape up in a manner that aligns with religious teachings without eliminating the validity of the gospel.
The main strength of the book is in its discussion of the rise of Fundamentalism and its effect on the pursuit of Evangelical scholarship. There is much about this book that has had a lasting effect upon my thinking concerning particular areas of thought. However, upon this reread, I was struck with the lasting influence of fundamentalism on general patterns of evangelical thinking. Noll makes a very good case that this effect upon intellectual thought in general—not just creation science, dispensationalism, an overemphasis on supernaturalism, etc.—has been the most tragic result.
The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind was written as a heartfelt plea to evangelicals to rethink the connections between the intellectual and spiritual. Noll writes in the preface: “This book is an epistle from a wounded lover.” Noll undertakes a valuable social-historical survey of evangelicalism in the United States to understand why things have fallen apart. From Jonathan Edwards to Charles Colson, Noll carefully analyzes the trends in American evangelicalism over the last three hundred or so years. This analysis gives a clear picture of how evangelicals have become lifeless and puerile, unable to contribute in any meaningful way.We should think twice before so cavalierly turning to the evangelical tradition for guidance in academic and spiritual matters. Our commitment must be to the Lord Jesus Christ.
. Richard Lints, Renewing the Evangelical Mission, 1st ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2013).
. Raymond Edward Grizzle, Science and Religion in Dialogue, 1st ed. (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2012).
. Mark A Noll, Protestantism, 1st ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011).
. Mark A Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, 1st ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1994), 5.
. Reid B. Locklin, “Teaching with Complicating Views: Beyond the Survey, Behind the Pro and Con,” Teaching Theology & Religion 16, no. 3 (2013): 201–20.
. Ibid., 248.
. Mark A Noll, The Civil War as a Theological Crisis, 1st ed. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006), 52.
. Carl R. Trueman, The Real Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Chicago: Moody, 2011).
. Randall J. Stephens and Karl Giberson. The Anointed: Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2011).
. Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, 5.