The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind. An extraordinary range of virtues is found among the sprawling throngs of evangelical Protestants in North America, including great sacrifice in spreading the message of salvation in Jesus Christ, open-hearted generosity to the needy, heroic personal exertion on behalf of troubled individuals, and the unheralded sustenance of countless church and parachurch communities. Notwithstanding all their other virtues, however, American evangelicals are not exemplary for their thinking, and they have not been so for several generations.

So begins Mark Noll’s work The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, which brings to light the areas of deficiencies that thwart the intellectual life of evangelicals. As Noll aptly describes the situation from a historical perspective to a modern-day reality, the evangelicals “nourished millions of believers in the simple verities of the gospel, but have largely abandoned the universities, the arts, and other realms of ‘high’ culture.”

Noll examines the evangelical mind in history, detailing how it took shape through the Enlightenment, and it thrived in the period’s embrace of empirical thinking and categories. Society drifted towards a reality, in which “matter in motion” was the most fundamental truth, with reason being the only point of departure for expressing the disciplines of understanding worldview. Jonathan Edwards contended against such false assumptions, finding himself in love with learning, but learning led to love God with the entire mind.

This love of learning turned awry for evangelicals, who were determined to shelter themselves from the world at-large. Noll points to Christian colleges and universities as forms of retreating from the world, refraining to engage in wider discussions, while holding to a substandard level of excellence. The evangelical mind is losing its grounds, its place in intellectual life.

Is there hope? Noll expresses his concern only out of the frustrations, which he faces in the evangelical world. There is some progress with schools like Samford and Wheaton, but ultimately there is a lag, which evangelicals must address.

These must be resounding echoes of Charles Malik.

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