Symposium: ‘Scandal of the Evangelical Mind’ 30 Years Later

"With the publication of an anniversary edition, containing a new preface and afterword by Noll, I asked various scholars across institutions to reflect on the book’s significance and ongoing relevance for the church today." - TGC

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josh p's picture

Not to sidetrack too much but this is an absurd statement in the extreme. TGC is losing focus. 
"The assumption was that agreement on the gospel also meant agreement about the unconscionable nature of lynching and racial violence. Unfortunately, that was not the case then, and it’s still largely not the case now."

Ed Vasicek's picture

Although it is true that evangelicalism has a track record of disregarding the mind, there are greater issues. First of all, American evangelicalism reflects the population of America, to some degree.  What many people do not get is that most people -- evangelical or not -- are not into feeding the mind deeply. Watch TV commercials. It is obvious that many Americans think with their feelings and follow the fads. Why are we surprised that Christians do the same?  It shouldn't be, but it is. Just different fads and different feelings. When you are an academic, hanging around academics, you can be tempted to forget that others -- while not stupid -- are not into academics.

About .42% of Americans have a bachelor's degree in philosophy. About 37% of Americans have a degree, but not all those degrees are in highly intellectual areas.

Maturity in the Lord hopefully leads people to a better process of living life, but many (most?) never attain this.

So when people become believers, they tend to focus upon loving God with the heart and assume that loving God with the mind is cold, calculating, and uncaring. And it takes mental effort, and thinking deeply is not what many Christians want to do when it comes to Bible, theology, or other issues.  The same criticisms leveled against evangelicals can be leveled against the average American.

Secondly, I have run across so many "wounded" and bitter people raised in evangelical homes who retain evangelical beliefs, but resent that they do. They often try to bring about change or reform, etc., but they eventually end up defecting.  Think of Franky Schaeffer.  Their wounds are real, but sometimes a deeper problem is that such people are not honest with themselves; they hide the wounds and deny the wounds, and when they finally get to addressing them, it is too late.  I do not know what the answer is.  Yet many people, having been similarly wounded, seem to eventually recover. I wish I knew what distinguished the two groups, beyond denial and suppression. Since I wasn't raised in an evangelical home, I guess I can't understand. It is different being brought up in a Christian home; I sometimes think I have an advantage because I wasn't; there is so much bitterness out there. I sometimes wonder if we have so much bitterness because we are spoiled; in earlier centuries, when people worked together to survive, I think people were more appreciative of their family than in our demanding perfectionist age.

Thirdly, even if pastors saw the need to focus on the intellectual, etc., it would not work; evangelicalism is a populist movement.  You will end up like past versions of Christianity, where people mindlessly trust the clergy because theology and the Bible are beyond them, so they leave it to the experts. The advantage of the Scofield era was that the Bible was thought to be understandable to the average layman.  Evangelicalism/fundamentalism were and are populist movements.  Lower levels of intellectualism can be appreciated my many, but few appreciate higher levels.

Therein lives the problem. Perhaps in a college town it is different, but rank and file Americans are not usually into debating philosophy and do not even know what epistemology is. 

Yes, we need Christian academics.  And yes, there is a lack of Christian academics who will accept Scriptural boundaries and consider themselves regulated by Biblical teaching.  But evangelicalism -- except perhaps at a highly academic level or among prestigious professionals -- is and will continue to be a not-so-intellectual movement. The best we can have are islands of higher intellectual involvement.

Classier Christians have long despised "red necks" and "blue collar" workers.  This is rarely factored into the equation.  The best and brightest are concerned primarily with their domains, foraging to help the poor needy or racially abused and then retreating back; they don't want to shop at Wal-mart with the country bumpkins.

What we need, more than anything, is a return to Sola Scriptura, rather than populist fads and human reasoning.  We need more Biblicism, and that requires intellectual effort.  This includes a thelogical base, but all of this must be presented in a way that accommodates the layman, not excluding him.


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