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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

My Hacked Blog on Thinking

Written by: on February 10, 2017

One of my favorite family vacations every year is not on an island or a lake.  No, my bliss is found in the mountains.  Every year we load up our kids and go to Utah or Colorado for a bit of skiing.  My oldest daughter, Clara, is a great little skier.  In her young age of ten, she has already mastered blue slopes and has even done a few blacks.  Last year in Park City on the mountain, I took the wrong turn and we ended up on a black diamond together that was very narrow. There was no fencing on the edges and it ran straight down for about a quarter of a mile.  As we got to the edge, Clara was scared out of her mind.  I reminded her of the basics all the while fearing for her life.  As I stood at the top (I always go last in case she falls, I can ski to her), I watched her begin to carve up the mountain like a champ.  She made it all the way down without a fall which is more than what I can say. When we got down to the base, I made her turn around to see what she just accomplished. I wanted her to see the steep run from the base.  Her perspective changed looking up the mountain.  She was not nearly as afraid as when she was looking down.  For her, it was all about perspective.
Summary
Mark Noll’s Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind is his follow up to his popular yet controversial book <em>The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.  While the latter takes a negative tone in regards to Evangelical intellectualism, the former points to a way forward for Evangelicals in intellectual pursuits.  Starting with a view of the glory of God and the ancient creeds, Noll believes that Evangelical must root themselves in classical theology.  He states, “If Evangelicals are to make a genuinely Christian contribution to intellectual life, they must ground faith in the traditions of classical Christian theology, for these are the traditions that reveal the heights and depths of Jesus Christ (p. 22).”  From here, Noll unveils how the pursuit of Christ is not something evangelicals should shy away from but in reality it should be the center of their lives.  In other words, everything an evangelical views should be viewed from this mountain top.  Noll’s book teaches us where our perspective should be as Christians.  Christ is the center of everything.  Noll takes this concept and brilliant unpacks it.
Reflection
As I look upon the Christian landscape, I do not always see this Christocentric approach.  Often times, Christian thinking, beliefs, approach to politics and science gets hijacked and replaced.  Evangelicals in America do not center their lives from a Christian perspective rather they center on the American ideal.  This often times devalues what we do. Statistically, this is driving Millennials away from the church as well (Gabe Lyons and David Kinneman, UnChristian). I think Noll’s point is to pull us back to being Christocentric.  For instance, should American Evangelical Christians side with the immigrant or side with politics?  At first glance when I am confronted with the question, I immediately begin to answer according to our American ideal and values and not necessarily the ideals from a Christocentric perspective.  I could add more examples, but one will suffice.  While Noll paints a bleak picture for the Evangelical in <em>Scandal of the Evangelical Mind</em>, his emphasis on historic theology and Christ-centeredness is the way forward not only for the Evangelical but for the church as a whole.
Conclusion
Noll forces this perspective in his brilliant book.  Evangelicals have to start with a different approach to thinking which Christ is if it hopes to grow and develop intellectually.  After all for Noll, Christ is the fountain head in which all knowledge flows.

About the Author

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Jason Kennedy

I am a pastor of a thriving church in Grapevine, Texas. With two little girls (5,8), and a wife that is a medical doctor (family practice), life is non-stop.

15 responses to “My Hacked Blog on Thinking”

  1. Hi Jason. Yes, I agree Noll is calling us to put Jesus back in the center of everything we do. It encourages me that you see the question of siding with the immigrant and politics as an example of a situation where we have a choice to see Jesus in the middle. What would you say, or what do you think Noll would say, to the American Evangelical who sides with politics over against Jesus?

    • Jason Kennedy says:

      AP,
      I think he would say that they are wrong. Too much of American Christianity is intertwined with politics. Now, I believe we need Godly politicians, but American Christians put their hopes in a politician to solve their problems or give their life purpose more than they do Jesus. Every time I bring up immigration in a sermon, I hear about the rule of law. I believe the rule of law is important, but my starting place is for the soul of the person….human dignity…etc. Often times, we make the immigrant an “issue” and forget about their humanity. When we make them an “issue” then it allows us to treat them however we want to….I think Noll would side with showing compassion to the immigrant. Because I believe in this so much, I am actively trying to learn how I can help the immigrant to earn citizen status which is necessary because they often times are taken advantage of. Jason

  2. Aaron Cole says:

    Jason,

    I think its great that you used your “hacked” blog to get people to read it. Clever!

    Aaron

  3. Hacked!!
    I to thought this book was much for positive and Noll’s Christology is filled with hope instead of despair. How can we do something about the issues? Look to Christ to guide us in this day and time. Christ addresses a multitude of issues within the gospels, so it is a good place to examine life.

    I love the mental picture of you going down a black to try and “rescue” someone. I take that posture most of the time with my new students who want to get a different perspective. The “looking back up” really does tell the story of what they have accomplished. I always love sharing in those moments even today.

    Great thoughts

    Kevin

  4. mm Phil Goldsberry says:

    Jason (the hackee):

    It seems that both of us enjoyed the second book. His emphasis on Christocentric thoughts was great to balance his overstep on evolution.

    Do you sense that his pursuit of the “life of the mind” has balanced or imbalanced him? I felt the second book was a great balance point against the first one we read. He seemed to present an intellectual pursuit that put Christ in the forefront above all things.

    Phil

  5. mm Marc Andresen says:

    Jason,

    You wrote, “Evangelicals in America do not center their lives from a Christian perspective rather they center on the American ideal.”

    What do you think is the American ideal, and how is that consistent or not consistent with loyalty to the Gospel?

    • Marc,
      The American ideal is one of individualism rather than communal. For instance, Capitolism exists and thrives because it give us individual ability to achieve our own success. Now, this is not necessarily bad, but when this becomes a religion it is destructive.
      Largely, the health and wealth Gospel is Christianity and the American ideal gone wild. Sadly, many believe the point of Christianity is to make their lives inherently better. They seem to forget about the suffering parts of the Bible.
      I think we can believe in the American ideal when it comes to freedom….there is so much in America that is good. However, I “render to Caesar,” but I do not worship Caesars….they come and go.

      • mm Marc Andresen says:

        Jason, great responses, thank you.

        If you can keep a secret: I am beginning to cook a book in my head called “Is Individualism Killing America?” What you wrote about individualism is good.

        And, yes, how sadly true regarding health and wealth alleged-gospel: gone wild indeed. The more correct translation of “Without a vision the people perish” is “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint.” That is the Achilles heal of “free” enterprise, in that without our prophetic understanding of ultimate authority and accountability to God, restraint of self is thrown away and individuals run amuck.

  6. Pablo Morales says:

    Jason,
    As you pointed out, one of the things that has surprised me by living in this country is to discover the political flavor of evangelicalism. I am surprised how many Christians approach the country as if it were a church, and their national identity as if it were equal to their Christianity. I find Noll’s comments on this regard insightful. I enjoyed the way he brought Christ at the center of the intellectual pursuits.
    Pablo

    • Jason KENNEDY says:

      Pablo,
      Great perspective. I shared with my board today on how we have to leave the politics at the door and be Christocentric.

      Thanks.
      Jason

  7. mm Garfield Harvey says:

    Jason,
    Although a citizen of this country, I’m also an immigrant and I see a retooling of Evangelicalism with politics. I’ve been reading over the last few weeks and see a future attempt that will allow pastors to voice their political preferences without reprimand from the government. This I believe will challenge pastors like yourself who desire a more Christocentric approach. In recent years, I noticed many church leaders started to attend seminaries to develop intellectual conversations on theology. If the political landscape shifts, I wonder how the seminary programs will look in 10 years as pastors are challenged by church members to choose a political preference.

    Garfield

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