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The Evangelical Mind Today

Written by: on February 8, 2017

 

“Gird up the loins of your mind …” (1 Peter 1:13 NKJV). You are probably thinking, What does that mean? It’s basically saying we need to get all the junk in our mind out of our way so we can keep running our race in Christ Jesus and have the victory God wants us to have. Then we are ready for action to follow God’s plan for our lives.

 

Introduction

In 1994, Mark Noll, a professor of history and a prolific author published The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. In it, he critiqued the simplistic scholarship and shallow intellectual performance of the evangelical life. Nearly two decades later, in his sequel, Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind, Noll’s views are more constructive: He is attuned to the possibilities rather than inabilities. Through Christology foundations, he offers an update to his prime assessment by providing a way forward to improving the Christian mind and the evangelical scholarly enterprise.[1]

Summary

Two definitive parts form the basis of this book. Chapters 1–3 form the first part. Here, Noll develops a Christ-centered framework for learning. Chapter 1 gives a summary of Christology. Chapters 2–3 elucidate how Christ and the theology of atonement generate insights for the intellectual undertaking of the Christian mind.[2]

The second part consists of Chapters 4–7, which reveal the application of the Christological framework. This framework is applied to biblical studies, history, and sciences as academic disciplines.[3] A hopeful postscript by Noll offering an updated assessment of the Christian mind concludes the book. The book, along with Mark Noll’s bibliography of respected published works since 1994, creates an awesome resource for Christians and those interested in learning about Christianity. His prose, as always, is erudite and well articulated, and this 180-page book should be a quick read for anyone.[4]

Reflection

Noll’s book can be viewed as a helper in the theological exploration giving answers to major queries of how Christ influences in the evangelical mind. In the first part of the book, he uses the famous creeds of faith—the Nicene, the Chalcedonian, and the apostolic creed to elucidate some merits.[5] The merits highlight the creeds being widely adopted by different branches of Christianity. Through their liturgical functions they firmly ground the mind of Christian believers of the assembly. Finally, they define the Trinity and Jesus Christ as the central focus.

Noll uses the seven motives in Chapter 2 to flesh out how the undivided attention of the person of Christ informs Christian intellectual life. These motives stand as pillars or guidelines that clearly define the vision for evangelical intellectual improvement for the serious scholar and also to establish the current status of the Christian mind.

With respect to how this book can be of help to leaders or Christians, I believe the principles mentioned therein are a great reference. The first principle outlined is called doubleness. The doubleness of Christ as both human and divine, undergirds the complexity of the mind and Christian life. This should enable scholars to pay assiduous attention in their endeavor: seeking knowledge from different angles. Contingency counters the propensity of academics to rely on their own deductions instead of allowing the proof of experience to lead their thinking. The Christological concerns yield an antidote to ethical and moral decay—namely, the intellectual mind’s disease of self-exaltation.[6] As Noll puts it, knowing Christ is learning humility.[7] As many may intuitively practice these principles in their daily lives, fulfillment is found in the concept of grounding the principles with the Christian perspective of reality that inspires confidence in the self-discovery process. According to Noll, the theological principles should serve as a compass.

For those considering the Mission of Christ as articulated from Genesis to Revelation, I suggest using the Christological framework as the guiding compass to scholarship.[8] In being heedful to the attention of the principles of Christ, Christians will present a brilliant and beautiful assembly of knowledgeable and faithful believers. I highly recommend Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind by Mark Noll to all the Christians, laity and scholars alike.

 

Bibliography

Enns, Peter. Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2015.

Lints, Richard. Renewing the Evangelical Mission. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2013.

Noll, Mark A. Between Faith and Criticism: Evangelicals, Scholarship, and the Bible in America. Vancouver, BC: Regent College, 2004.

Noll, Mark A. Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2013.

Noll, Mark A.  The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1995.

Pazmino, Robert. Principles and Practices of Christian Education: An Evangelical Perspective. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2002.

Sider, Ronald J. The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience: Why Are Christians Living Just Like the Rest of the World? Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Books, 2005.

Wenham, John. Christ and the Bible. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2009.

Wolfe, Alan. “The Opening of the Evangelical Mind.” Atlantic Monthly 286, no. 4 (2000): 55–76.

 

Notes

[1]. Mark A. Noll, Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2013); Mark A. Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1995).

[2]. Peter Enns, Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2015).

[3]. Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.

[4]. Richard Lints, Renewing the Evangelical Mission (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2013).

[5]. Ibid.

[6]. Ronald J. Sider, The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience: Why Are Christians Living Just Like the Rest of the World? (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2005).

[7]. Noll, Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind.

[8]. Robert Pazmino, Principles and practices of Christian education: An evangelical perspective (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2002).

About the Author

mm

Rose Anding

Rose Maria “Simmons McCarthy” Anding, a Visionary, Teacher,Evangelist, Biblical Counselor/ Chaplain and Author, of High Heels, Honey Lips, and White Powder. She is a widower, mother, stepmother, grandmother, great grandmother of Denver James, the greater joy of her life. She has lived in Chicago, Washington, DC, and North Carolina, and is now back on the forgiving soil of Mississippi.

6 responses to “The Evangelical Mind Today”

  1. mm Marc Andresen says:

    Rose Maria,

    I love your statement, “Through their liturgical functions they firmly ground the mind of Christian believers of the assembly. Finally, they define the Trinity and Jesus Christ as the central focus.”

    Is there any more you can add (in brief) about HOW the creeds ground our minds?

    Thanks

    By the way I also love this statement: “In being heedful to the attention of the principles of Christ, Christians will present a brilliant and beautiful assembly of knowledgeable and faithful believers.”

    The Creeds do keep us focused in life and in scholarly pursuits.

    • mm Rose Anding says:

      Thanks Marc for sharing!
      In reference to your question… first let us look at the word “creed”, comes from the Latin “credo” which means “I believe.” As new converts were being baptized, Hippolytus would ask them, “Do you believe in God?” and they would answer “I believe in God, the Father Almighty…” “Do you believe in Jesus Christ?” and they would answer, “I believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God…,” working their way through the entire formula. Thus the roots of the Apostles’ Creed are found in the declarations of faith made by converts at the time of their baptism.
      Creeds are not about warm-fuzzies or even felt convictions. They are the substance of the faith the church has stood upon since soon after Jesus left. They are like marriage vows-so much so that they form the substance of the promises one makes in Holy Baptism. There is a reason we take marriage vows – It is because human love is fickle. We imagine that love sustains commitment, but actually it is just the opposite. It takes great commitment to sustain love. A couple makes vows and clings to them through thick and thin…and, at the end of life, a thing of loving beauty has been produced. The historic creeds work the same way.
      The Nicene Creed proclaimed in church is a promise to cling to the glory and vastness of God, even when the pressures of life scream to give up. When said in church, by the community of faith, the Nicene Creed is a weekly prayed promise to act in love toward God. It is our spiritual, “for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish, and to obey, till death us do part.”
      Therefore Creeds have been and continue to be an integral part of Christian life. “Every Sunday all over the world,” “millions and millions of Christians recite or sing (or, at any rate, hear) one or another creed, and most of them have had a creed spoken over them, or by them, at their baptism.”

      With the Nicene Creed as the framework, the index lists the various Christian doctrines under accessible rubrics (such as “became incarnate,” “his kingdom will have no end,” “who spoke through the prophets”) and provides extensive references to creeds and confessions in which the doctrines are expounded. We have to take a look at “The Mercersburg Movement”, and how it came to be known, was an effort to recover “catholic” substance in doctrine and liturgy by returning to the classical sources of Christian faith, chiefly the writings of the Church Fathers.
      The creeds were written by the early and undivided church as summaries of the faith. They have been vetted by universal acceptance of the entire church, both through time and across geography. When Vincent of Lerins wrote in the 500’s, “What has been believed everywhere, always, and by all,” he was referring to the faith bounded by the Nicene Creed.
      How the creed ground our mind, it is a “Baton”, we are Passing the Baton…“For I handed on to you as of first importance what I received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures …” (I Cor 15:3-4),
      Our role is to explain not to change, according to the scripture, “the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” (Jude 3) The creed is the universal. Beyond that is adiaphora (things indifferent) – perhaps helpful. Perhaps important. Just not mandatory for recognizing a “like” faith. So we do not change the core. We pass it on, handing the baton of faith to the next generation.
      Thanks Rose Maria

  2. Hi Rose. You mention the principle of doubleness from the book. Do you see this as helpful for the work you are doing?

    • mm Rose Anding says:

      Thanks Aaron P,
      In reference to principle of doubleness, which is one of the four fundamental principles that inform and encourage Christian Scholarship.Yes these are principles that I am able to use in pursuing my doctoral. They are helpful in preparing me in my study, because these motives stand as pillars or guidelines that clearly define the vision for evangelical intellectual improvement for the serious scholar and also to establish the current status of the Christian mind.

      The author spoke about seeking knowledge about particular matter from more than one angle. The wisdom of expectation… which are supported by several scriptures. Example:
      “Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters,
      though your footprints were not seen”(Psalm 77:19 (NIV).

      We don’t know which way God will lead us, but we must trust him. God’s way is in the sea. In things changeable, ungovernable, vast, unfathomable, terrible, overwhelming, the Lord has the ruling power.

      Thanks for sharing Rose Maria

  3. Claire Appiah says:

    A Great Post Rose, one of your best! Informative and succinct.
    I noticed Peter Enns work in your bibliography; he is an outstanding resource. According to Nolls he has allowed scholars to realize afresh how crucial the Scriptures are for proclaiming Christ as Redeemer and Lord. One of the values of his work is his emphasis on the portrayal of Christ in the scriptures as a basis of ALL intellectual endeavors.

    • mm Rose Anding says:

      Thanks Claire !
      I appreciate and accept your words of encouragement. However, this book was a easy read for me it touch the core of my being.
      How are you doing these rainy days? Sometime we think it raining all over the world, because of the many tornadoes we have had in the south.

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