“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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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. 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. As Noll puts it, knowing Christ is learning humility. 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. 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.
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.
. 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).
. Peter Enns, Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2015).
. Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.
. Richard Lints, Renewing the Evangelical Mission (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2013).
. 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).
. Noll, Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind.
. Robert Pazmino, Principles and practices of Christian education: An evangelical perspective (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2002).