Noll’s Hopefulness

Posted by on Feb 6, 2012

In the previous post I quoted some lines from Mark Noll’s new book Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind. I think this book is worth careful study and thorough discussion by Christians called to academia. It is also worth a close read by others who value the life of the mind.

Given the negative tone of Noll’s earlier landmark book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, it is encouraging that he is now more hopeful. Here is an important line from his new book’s postscript, “How Fares the ‘Evangelical Mind’?”

“…were I to attempt another full-scale historical assessment like The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, it would have a different tone – more hopeful than despairing, more attuned to possibilities than to problems, more concerned with theological resources than with theological deficiencies.” (p.153)

He then offers ten “hopeful signs” that bear repeating:

1. Stirrings at evangelical colleges and universities.

2. The growing presence of Christians at the nation’s pluralistic universities, which enroll far more students of evangelical persuasion than do evangelical colleges and universities.

3. The maturity of evangelical theological seminaries.

4. The growing cooperation between evangelical and Roman Catholic scholars.

5. Strong support of evangelical scholarship from philanthropies.

6. Some academic disciplines having a renascence of Christian scholarship, with philosophy leading the way.

7. Some willingness to discuss integration in the field of science.

8. Greater depth in the world of publication.

9. Growth and maturity in world Christianity.

10. An awareness of the positive effect that individual Christian scholars are having in the broader academy.

I share Noll’s hopefulness, although his book is not without its problems. All the more reason why  thoughtful Christians should read it, discuss it, accept some challenges from it, reject some insights from it, and ask God to advance his kingdom in unprecedented ways. I hope you’ll consider it for your reading list in 2012.

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