“A new book by Mark Noll deserves thoughtful consideration by all of Christ’s followers…not just those serving in academic venues. Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind challenges everyone to consider the difference the Christian worldview makes in the ways we think and the ways we think about thinking.
George Marsden’s landmark work from 1997, The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship, argued that the pillars of the Christian worldview – creation, fall, redemption, and consummation – should shape the way Christian scholars approach their work.
Noll’s new book zeroes in on the specific doctrinal category of Christology and asks what difference our Christ-centered faith makes in classrooms, research, writings, and all internal thought. He argues persuasively that it should make a world of difference.
Consider some of these excerpts:
“Christianity is defined by the person and work of Jesus Christ. The doctrinal truths supporting this assertion – provide a compelling reason for pursuing human learning. At the same time, they also offer strong protection against the abuses of human learning. Understanding more about Christ and his work not only opens a wide doorway to learning, but also checks tendencies toward idolatry that are as potent among scholars as in the rest of humankind.” (ix)
“Other aspects of Christian faith also play a part in human learning: for example, the divine creation of the world, the fact of human sinfulness, God’s merciful resolve to rescue sinners, the convicting work of the Holy Spirit and the providential oversight of everything that ever takes place.” (ix)
“My contention in this book is that coming to know Christ provides the most basic possible motive for pursuing the tasks of human learning.” (ix-x)
“The message in this book for my fellow evangelicals can be put simply: if what we claim about Jesus Christ is true, then evangelicals should be among the most active, most serious, and most open-minded advocates of general human learning. Evangelical hesitation about scholarship in general or about pursuing learning wholeheartedly is, in other words, antithetical to the Christ-centered basis of evangelical faith.” (x)
“If the world and human culture constitute the venue that God chose to reveal himself in Christ and accomplish his great work of salvation through Christ, then that world and culture have been lent an extraordinary dignity-not in and of themselves, but as the God-blessed arenas of redemption.” (18-19)
“Thus, the greatest hope for Christian learning in our age, or in any age, lies not primarily in heightened activity, in better funding, or in strategizing for the tasks at hand- though all these matters play on important part. Rather, the great hope for Christian learning is to delve deeper in the Christian faith itself. And going deeper into the Christian faith means, in the end, learning more of Jesus Christ.”(22)
“The light of Christ illuminates the laboratory, his speech is the fount of communication, he makes possible the study of humans in all their interactions, he is the source of all life, he provides the wherewithal for every achievement of human civilization, he is the telos of all this is beautiful.. He is, among his many other titles, the Christ of the academic Road.” (22)
It is my prayer that this book will make an even greater impact than Noll’s earlier landmark work, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. That book woke many up to the dire problem of Christian anti-intellectualism. The church is different today because of Noll’s prophetic concerns. May that trend continue.