I am in a quandary. After reading and engaging with the concept of “evangelicals”, I thought I was easing in to a comfort zone of understanding and acceptance. Bebbington’s quadrilateral brought clarity and defined principles that caused this word to have definition.
I pick up Mark Noll’s, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, and begin to question my embrace and acceptance of this nebulous group of Christians. Noll records the slant of H. Richard Niebuhr, “From the perspective of 1930, the evangelical mind in America was dead, or at least perceptive commentators, including H. Richard Niebuhr, thought it was.” In Noll’s defense, he does believe there is a renewal of the evangelical intellectualism that is rising.
Noll prescribes to the definition of “intellectual depth” as, “…a way of praising God through the mind”. This is where the quandary set in. I can agree with Noll’s concept of intellectual depth being a reflection and an act of praising God. The main concern is how to keep intellectual depth from sheer intellectualism that is relegated to an elite group of brilliant minds?
Mark Noll balances the definition and understanding of “evangelicalism”. He states, “…evangelicalism” has always been made up of shifting movement, temporary alliances, and the lengthened shadows of individuals.” This combination of movement, alliances, and individuals has brought about the complexity of what an evangelical is, and how to understand this movement.
Noll’s “scandal” is the lack of scholarship within the evangelical movement. The pendulum swing from lack can be pride. As Noll says, “Pride of intellectual accomplishment is a real threat to humble faith. Intellectuals are susceptible to a temptation to trust in their wisdom as a substitute for trusting in the ‘foolishness’ of the gospel. Appeals for learning must acknowledge the seriousness of these objections.”
Noll points to the lack of scholarship, universities/seminaries/graduate schools, resources, and misdirected educational energies as contributors to this problem. Realizing that this book was written in 1994, was of interest also in light of Campbell and Garner’s, Network Theology: Negotiating Faith in Digital Culture. We live in a world where knowledge and technology increases faster than ever in the history of man. We have access to more knowledge than man has ever had. Have we grown intellectually to the worship of God with our minds? I think not.
The challenge to me is the accessibility to what truth is and what is anti-intellectualism? Noll seems to take a shot when he says, “This problem may not have been as serious as it first seems, for, however much defenders of supernatural religion, especially Pentecostals and advocates of Holiness, may have turned away from the world’s learning, their emphasis on the practical presence of God did represent pursuit of an essential Christian goal. The problem came not with the goal, but with the assumption that, in order to be spiritual, one must no longer pay attention to the world.”
I do believe that there has been decay in a solid understanding and defense of what we believe. But intellectual increase disconnected from the practical presence of God and His holiness, can bring about a stool that is sure to fall over. On the other hand God’s presence and holiness is not an excuse for the lack of intelligence or superiority.
 Mark A. Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994), 211.
 Ibid., 239.
 Ibid., 8.
 Ibid., 31.
 Ibid., 16-22.
 Ibid., 123.