Decisions…decisions! Perhaps “Scandal” is the best title for this book when reviewing this week’s reading, “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind;” after all, Mark Noll seems to enjoy hitting on some of those favorite topics of the modern-day preacher…evangelical or not. The fact is, he hit upon two of my personal favorites; Revelation and Evolution. Though neither of these topics actually has to do with my dissertation, I did find that the reasoning behind his arguments does. One particular comment that caught my eye to explain this connection read; “This situation, however, reverses the scale of confidence communicated by Scripture, where we are taught, first, to respect God and what He had done (including His creation of the world, His guidance of all human affairs, and His preservation of the human ability to learn something about the world) and, second, to mistrust our own deceiving hearts.” When I view the way churches view baptism today, I feel that too many influences from outside of Scripture have impacted the understanding of its value. I believe this is one of the common assertions Noll kept eluding too; though I must admit; at times, I was not sure if he was ‘for’ or ‘against’ the progression of thought that these topics and others were taking.
So, let’s look first at Revelation (don’t worry, though I love teaching Revelation, I will not go all ‘Days of Wrath’ in this this post). You can imagine how quickly the text caught my attention when I read, “Those who don’t learn from the past are condemned to write end-times books.” Considering the fact that I just finished teaching a 6-month series on the book of Revelation; which included my own personal outline of the entire book, I figured I should pay attention. Interesting enough though, the comment was actually more focused on those who try to force modern day politics into the prophetic warnings believed to be found primarily in the book of Revelation. On this point, I was in agreement; it seems everyone is desiring to prove who the “anti-Christ” is; which usually includes their least favorite president of governor. I believe the struggle with modern day religious scholars who get caught up on Revelation, is the fact that we are given scriptures that tells us:
“…so much the more as you see the Day approaching;”
“For false christs and false prophets will reise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.”
“And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity…”
“The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders.”
And my own personal motivation (scripture concerning interpretation of 666)
“Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.”
It is the desire of the heart to not only know the things we believe God has set before us in His Word; but also the desire to show to Him our love for studying that Word. However, Noll’s warning should be heeded by all who profess to be ministers of the Gospel; sometimes our hearts can be deceived as a result of our own lusts, wants, desires, and environmental surroundings. We see perceived evils surrounding us and immediately want to find God’s guidance through those times. It is not that I believe these things should not be studied; in fact, I believe the exact opposite. However, I also believe that it is important to “clean our plates” before opening God’s Word. We cannot allow our own preferences to interfere with His instruction.
Second, the issue of evolution. Okay, so here is another one of my favorite sideline bible studies; so favorite in fact that I have been working on my own independent paper, which deals with evolution, Pangea, and even the history of the ‘flat earth’ teachings throughout the ages. Noll discussed three perspectives that have erupted within the evangelical movement as a means of dealing with the scientific approach as it pertains to God’s Word.
- “Conservative opponents reject evolution out of hand; primarily for religious reasons, because it did not square with their understanding of the bible.” Again, there must be caution with automatically dismissing anything simply due to our own understanding. Science itself, at least when practiced properly and correctly, is supposed to be based upon observable facts. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary online, scientific method consists of “principles and procedures for the systematic pursuit of knowledge involving the recognition and formulation of a problem, the collection of date through observation and experiment, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses.” Here lies the problem though; how can science make any real assertions concerning evolution, when it is impossible for anyone to have ever actually observed it taking place the proposed billions of years ago. For a Christian, we have faith in the bible and believe it to already be fact; so theories that conflict, yet fail to prove, that fact, are arguable.
- “Theological evolutionists thought it was possible to affirm evolution within the boundaries of historic Christian doctrines.” For someone like myself, I believe that Science can be very beneficial in proving things mentioned in the Bible; thus the evidence from the scientific method has merit. Science has supported the flood and yet, it has also been used to debunk every single “missing link” proposed up to this day. If you expand this to other studies like, archeology, geology, and even astronomy; I believe that true and honest scientific methods have proven their place alongside of scripture on numerous accounts.
- “The majority who embraced evolution, however did so as part of a major adjustment in theology…a new trust in religious consciousness.” This is where I suppose my skin started to crawl; when words and phrases such as; “progressive advancements of the human race,” “trends,” and “to redefine the Bible as an expression, were being used. For myself, I have tried diligently to not challenge the God of Creation. I have never forgotten the first time I read Job 38:
“Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, ‘Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me. Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know!”
I will stop the quote here, though if you have not read this text in a while, I encourage you to return to it before challenging the Creation story of the Bible, or before trying to progressively advance or redefine the knowledge given to us in Scripture.
I believe one of the greatest challenges facing the Church today is the challenge of Faith; Satan does not have to honest, though God always is. Satan does not have to be fair, though God will always be just; and there is a reason God gave us this warning; “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”
Merriam-Webster Dictionary.2019. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/science (accessed February 21, 2019).
Noll, Mark A. The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995.
Noll, Pg 175
Ibid, p. 174.
2 Thessalonians 2:9.
Noll, p. 180.
Ibid, p. 181.
1 Peter 5:8.