The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind

by Mark A. Noll

Paperback, 1995



Call number




Eerdmans (1995), 274 pages


Winner of the Christianity Today Book of the Year Award "The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind." So begins this award-winning intellectual history and critique of the evangelical movement by one of evangelicalism's most respected historians. Unsparing in his indictment, Mark Noll asks why the largest single group of religious Americans-who enjoy increasing wealth, status, and political influence-have contributed so little to rigorous intellectual scholarship. While nourishing believers in the simple truths of the gospel, why have so many evangelicals failed to sustain a serious intellectual life and abandoned the universities, the arts, and other realms of "high" culture? Over twenty-five years since its original publication, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind has turned out to be prescient and perennially relevant. In a new preface, Noll lays out his ongoing personal frustrations with this situation, and in a new afterword he assesses the state of the scandal-showing how white evangelicals' embrace of Trumpism, their deepening distrust of science, and their frequent forays into conspiratorial thinking have coexisted with surprisingly robust scholarship from many with strong evangelical connections.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member bulbul
I agree with jstamp26's assessment: Noll is quite right in arguing that evangelicals have abandoned all meaningful intellectual pursuits (save perhaps for those involving certain aspects of Biblical studies, like philology), but he is sorely mistaken in two aspects. First, the picture he paints of
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evangelicals of the past in either too naive or incomplete - if there has ever been a vigorous evangelical intellectual life, it existed in spite, not because of the faith of those who practised it and it all went to hell (quite literally, this Catholic feels compelled to add) with the advent of dispensationalism. Secondly, and most importantly, Noll calls for something that is quite impossible: sectarian science and scholarship. He defines 'evangelical life of the mind' as 'the effort to think like a Christian ... across the whole spectrum of modern learning, including economics and political science, literary criticism, and imaginative writing, historical inquiry and philosophical studies, linguistics and the history of science.' This shows an astonishing lack of understanding of what modern learning actually is and how scientists operate. It is impossible to imagine what, say, specifically Christian linguistics - let alone specifically evangelical linguistics - supposed to look like. Do we abandon the scientific method and use quotations from the Bible to support whatever our argument is? Noll doesn't say, but every time he brings up this issues, he cites the example of many Catholic, Lutheran or Orthodox scientists and scholars, always failing to be specific. In the end, it is obvious that he does not understand that any Catholic who becomes a top-rated scientist or a scholar is first and foremost a scientist and a scholar who just happens to be a Catholic. According to Noll, the problem with evangelicals is that "they neglected sober analysis of nature and human society" when in fact they purposefully ignored it believing, the literalists that they are, that the Bible has all the answers. How do you become a scholar when you believe the are no questions to be answered?
In short, 'The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind' is a wonderful history of evangelical anti-intellectualism, but Noll's failure to recognize that this is a feature, not a bug, makes it at times an infuriating read.
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LibraryThing member elimatta
Bulbul has found the flaw, which the author fails to see. To add other examples, what would evangelical psychology look like, or evangelical biology? What would be abandoned from what he at one places calls "aggressive secularization" in university research? The descriptive part of the book is fine
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for the most part, where he analyses when evangelicals abandoned serious thought. But his prescriptions are fatally flawed aren't they?
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LibraryThing member kijabi1
Some of evangelicalism's best minds discuss why evangelicalism doesn't have better minds.
LibraryThing member Theoscholar
This was a truly great read!

Physical description

274 p.; 9 inches


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