Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind

I have never met Mark A. Noll; but, if we ever do have a conversation together, I expect I would find myself very much agreeing with him. He is the sort of intellectual writer who is unafraid to turn over all of the stones and search for every seed of truth. He desires to take each gem of enlightenment captive to Christ. His most widely read book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, contains many great insights on the way in which mainstream Evangelicalism strayed so far from truth. He says,

. . . in their defense of the supernatural, fundamentalists and their evangelical heirs resemble some cancer patients. In facing a drastic disease, they are willing to undertake a drastic remedy. The treatment of fundamentalism may be said to have succeeded; the patient survived. But at least for the life of the mind, what survived was a patient horribly disfigured by the cure itself.[1]

The disfiguring to which Noll refers is the loss of a critical mind that exhibits a measure of skepticism regarding the miraculous and a healthy measure of skepticism appropriate to the scientific method. He is desirous that all Christians might live within the tension of belief and uncertainty. He further explains. “I was brought up in a Christian environment where, because God had to be given pre-eminence, nothing else was allowed to be important. I have broken through to the position that because God exists, everything has significance.”[2]

Still more clearly he says,

Who formed the world of nature (which provides the raw material for physical sciences)? Who formed the universe of human interactions (which is the raw material of politics, economics, sociology, and history)? Who is the source of all harmony, form, and narrative pattern (which is the raw material for art)? Who is the source of the human mind (which is the raw material for philosophy and psychology)? And who, moment by moment, maintains the connection between our minds and the world beyond our minds? God did, and God does.[3]

These words are extremely helpful as we each consider the relationship between faith and science, belief and agnosticism, and spirituality and materialism. May those who have comprehending minds meditate upon these thoughts.

Works Cited

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

[1] (Noll 1995)
[2] (Noll 1995)
[3] (Noll 1995)

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