Ten years ago, evangelical historian Mark Noll attracted wide attention with a stinging critique on the lack of evangelical intellectual accomplishment. While there has not been dramatic improvement, today evangelicals have made significant strides toward increasing their intellectual caliber, writes Noll in First Things magazine (October).
Noll’ s 1994 book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, took evangelicals to task for their stress on immediate results and simple solutions over quality and depth. He also criticized the evangelicals’ tendency to Americanize the gospel, usually tilting to the right, and their apocalyptic, end-times fascination–traits that continue today.
But he also finds a new source of change in evangelicals’ deepening engagement with Catholics. Through the programs based at Notre Dame University, such as the Pew Program in Christian Scholarship, evangelicals have been brought together with Catholics for common projects and learning. The development and recognition of Christian philosophy as a serious discipline is another source of evangelical intellectual vigor.
The attempt to create a comprehensive and elite evangelical university at Baylor in Texas and Calvin College, as well as the new emphasis on scholarship at smaller Christian colleges will be especially important for the evangelical intellectual future, Noll adds.
Meanwhile a crop of free-standing evangelical institutes and centers have emerged around secular universities, perhaps moving to the British and Canadian pattern of having identifiably Christian units embedded in the broader university. Noll also cites new evangelical-science interchanges and the impact of such publications as Books & Culture and First Things on the evangelical mind. Noll stresses that all of these resources and innovations are providing new networks for once-isolated Christian scholars and students.
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