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The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  1,322 ratings  ·  133 reviews
"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 judgment, Mark Noll ask why the largest single group of religious Americans--who enjoy increasing wealth, status, and politic
Paperback, 274 pages
Published October 19th 1995 by Eerdmans (first published October 1st 1994)
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Ana Mardoll
Mar 02, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: ana-reviewed
The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind / 0-8028-4180-5

I read about Mark Noll's book through Fred Clark's superb Slactivist blog, and was intrigued. Although I am no longer a Christian myself, I do enjoy the writings of Christian intellectuals and I am sensitive to their pain in belonging to a community that, by and large, defines itself as anti-intellectuals and all others as apostates. I am surprised, therefore, to find myself in a position where I cannot recommend Noll's book.

"The Scandal of the
Jan 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
The Puritans who settled Massachusetts combined heart-felt devotion to Christ with a love of theology. They practiced a vigorous intellectual life centered on the Bible and embraced cutting edge science like inoculation against disease. By the time of the First Great Awakening however, this tradition had degenerated into a formal and lifeless orthodoxy. Noll argues that during the First Great Awakening evangelicals like George Whitfield tried to revive the church with biblical preaching and a th ...more
Douglas Wilson
Mar 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
Great, with some lousy bits.
Joel Wentz
Feb 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A clear and passionate explanation of the intellectual state of the evangelical movement in America. As someone raised within conservative evangelicalism, but drawn to intellectual pursuits, I found this book to be both clarifying and reassuring (I'm not crazy, after all!). The reader should know that much of the book is taken up with history - following, in broad swaths, the evangelical movement across two centuries of American thought. I found this to be incredibly helpful, as Noll points to t ...more
Joseph McBee
Feb 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a book that is unflinchingly honest and yet is written from a heart of obvious love for God and for the church. Noll turns a spotlight, and in some cases a magnifying glass, on a subject that most evangelicals never consider, which is of course the problem and his point.

"The scandal of the evangelical mind," Noll writes, "is that there is not much of an evangelical mind."

He then goes on to lay out a cogent and powerful historical, philosophical, and theological argument to prove his poi
C. Varn
Jun 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Mark A. Noll is a first rate historian, a powerful voice for evangelicals, and a stern critic of the intellectual and social position evangelicals found themselves in at the end of the last century. While not an evangelical, Noll documents how a mixture of populism and activists forced a diverse tradition with religious intellectuals to freeze its thought in the popular sentiments of the late 19th and early 20th century, making the tradition that produced luminaries such as Jonathan Edwards into ...more
Jul 28, 2012 rated it liked it
Scandal is an older book, but one that should be read by Evangelicals even though it's a bit dated. It's written by Mark Noll, a history professor and former professor of my friend who suggested it. The main strength of the book is in its discussion of the rise of Fundamentalism and its effect on the pursuit of Evangelical scholarship. Moreover, Dr. Noll examines the effects on political thought and science with pointed critiques of the Christian right and creation science. I found myself saying ...more
Kris Rolls
Mar 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: must-reads
Phenomenal survey of Evangelical thought-life and intellectual climate. Noll traces the historical roots of evangelicalism and focuses in on the loss of intellectual potency after fundamentalism. Great read for anyone searching on how to become a better Christian scholar, or how to interact with the Church in its present state. Noll is charitable but honest in his critique of the "brain-drain" in our pews, and puts forth a charge for evangelicals to pick up the baton and be leaders once more.
Jacob Aitken
Good suggestions, but he tends to identify anyone who disagrees with him as indicative of the evangelical scandal.
Enoch Kuo
Oct 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A brief overview of the major trends in American and evangelical history that have encouraged anti-intellectual habits among American evangelicals and why that is a tragedy.
Sep 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Many of Noll's criticisms of Evangelical (stipulated components of Evangelicalism: biblicism, conversionism, & activism) thought life are spot on. This book is plenty convicting (and, I think, inspiring/encouraging) even if there are quibbles with some of his criticisms. Particularly powerful are Noll's thoughts on the ways Evangelicalism has "teamed up with" or drawn on Enlightenment goals and methods and Americanism. Specifically, he describes the Evangelical dependence upon 19th-century Enlig ...more
Jan 14, 2017 rated it liked it
The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind by Mark A. Noll seeks to explain how, “…modern American evangelicals have failed notably in sustaining serious intellectual life. They have nourished millions of believers in the simple verities of the gospel but have largely abandoned the universities, the arts, and other realms of ‘high culture.'”

Noll gives as evidence that evangelicals do not sponsor “…a single research university or a single periodical devoted to in-depth interaction with the modern cultur
Alex Stroshine
"The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind" has become a landmark publication in Christian circles. In it, the distinguished historian Mark A. Noll offers a critique of evangelicalism's attitude towards the life of the mind.

The book deals primarily with the state of American evangelicalism, although Noll sometimes notes the contributions and goings-on of Canadian and British evangelicals. According to Noll, the decline of the evangelical mind in America had much to do with the Revivals and the rise o
Stan Shelley
Feb 17, 2020 rated it liked it
I agree with the premise but this is a flawed book. Yes evangelical Christians need to pursue excellence in all legitimate categories of academics and currently this does not happen nearly enough. But the author seems to suggest that Christians who adhere to doctrines different from those he adheres to are automatically anti-intellectual. This is just not true. Also the author naively seems to think that if a Christian achieves real excellence in some field of the academy, he/she will automatica ...more
Aug 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
An excellent analysis of why American evangelicals are not using their minds as properly in understanding the world, and why that can be problematic. As this book is over twenty years old now, I do wonder what Noll would have to say about the current status of the evangelicals mind. In my view, there is still a scandal, and evangelicals need to expand their mind, not for any other sake but for God's glory. As Noll says, why better reason is there for using our mind then to understand the world G ...more
Blaine Welgraven
Aug 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Noll's work delivers a strong synthesis of the history of Christian and Evangelical intellectual life in America, with a particularly weighty analysis of 20th century fundamentalist intellectual modes of thought. Noll's expressed definition of what he terms the scandal--"that there is not much of an evangelical mind" to begin with--and his subsequent examination of the scandal's anti-intellectual, anti-cultural, and a-historical components, makes The Scandal a primer for understanding the mindse ...more
Frank Theising
Jul 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: christian-misc
Informative and thought provoking. A must-read for evangelical Christians. While I don’t agree with every aspect of his analysis, I think his central argument is important and worthy of your time and consideration. As Christians, we are called to love the Lord our God not only with all our heart and soul but with our mind (Mt 22:37). The book also contains a substantial amount of historical analysis that I found insightful and fascinating. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it has helped me to see ...more
May 14, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in better understanding the culture of the religious right
In a sense this is two books: one describing the historical background of evangelicalism and emerging fundamentalism in 19th and early 20th century America, with a special focus on the habits of the mind and intellectual culture that distinguished American evangelicalism in this period, and another outlining the "scandal of the evangelical mind" in the 20th century and speculating on the future of the evangelical mind. In both portions of the book Noll's approach is more of a synthetic one which ...more
May 27, 2011 rated it liked it
After reading a number of other books citing this source I determined to real Noll's "Scandal." Initially impressed by the author's initial thesis -- the scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind -- I became less enamored by not only his writing style but also the flesh he put on to the skeleton. That is, the book is academically written at a level that borders on elitism and self congratulation. Moreover, after a number of chapters the observant reader beg ...more
Christopher Rush
Jul 23, 2011 rated it it was ok
Noll's overall premise is true: the nineteenth-twentieth centuries did not see much of an "evangelical mind" in the areas in which Noll's desires (politics, science, philosophy, and general culture). His conclusions also provide some positive directions and suggestions for ameliorating the scandalized lack of an evangelical mind, primarily with his incarnational focus. Also, his mildly self-effacing remarks that even his book should not be dwelt on too much but should instead be viewed as a brie ...more
Dec 04, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: christianity
While I agree with Mark Noll's general conclusions, I felt that this book had several major flaws. First of all, since he is essentially talking about evangelicals' failure to either be educated or to use their education, his book would have been better if he would have defined his own philosophy of education. The book also had a very negative feel to it. The negativity made some sense, since this book is, at root, a condemnation; but, by the end, I was left wondering why anyone would want to be ...more
JD Tyler
Jun 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book really is a must read for anyone who considers themselves evangelical in the United States. Noll succinctly lays out the history of evangelicalism and why that has not produced serious intellectual reflection. It is just as relevant now as it was when initially published in the 90s.
Thomas Reeves
May 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Solid and worth the read if one wants to learn the roots of the anti-intellectualism, sectarianism, and creative-simplistic beliefs/movements that inform most Evangelicals.

While Noll is sympathetic to Evangelicalism, he is also honest about the bleakness of its future in having much depth of a lasting nature.

Jan 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
Extremely interesting book. Written by an evangelical as a challenge his fellow brothers and sisters. He addresses the lack of intellectualism in evangelical circles head on, and is brilliant in his reasoning. A must read for any Christian who thinks "blind faith" means "dumb faith".
Jan 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
a great book explaining the history of evangelicalism in america and the problems that evangelicals have created for themselves.
Dec 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Justin by: Steve
Shelves: religion
Essential reading for all evangelical intellectuals, and a great book in general.
Oct 09, 2018 rated it liked it
I really want to give this 5 stars for the content and that I agree with Mr. Noll about the issues of the book, but it has some problems. The main one is that the guy needs an editor...bad! First off let me say my writing is horrible. So when someone like me notices run on sentences or repeats of the same words/phrases in the same sentence it must be pretty bad. I found myself rereading the same sentences or paragraphs over and over just to try to figure out what his point was.

The content of th
Mar 02, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: christian
Ordinary person here ~
Lopsided Christianity wears me out. Can there be a “balance” please?
I don’t want teaching so deep that someone is expecting me to stay awake while they tell me ten different ways we know, and why it matters, that there is manganese in the pool of Bethesda.
Nor do I want to be where there is nothing but evangelism 24/7.

Is it possible to have some teaching that will help ordinary folks make better decisions this week at their ordinary job?
As far as 24/7-evangelism types go, d
Richard Kabiru
Nov 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Am reading this book which was published in 1994 and, clearly, over a period of 25 years, much has changed and we've seen much improvements on the issues addressed therein. Among the emerging school of thought is not just the connection "between theology and the other forms of learning" (unlike the past where the dichotomy was quite apparent) but also the understanding that both are one and the same thing (or should I say both emanate from one and the same person). This has been achieved (in som ...more
Jan 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Update (1/28/19): I’m taking away a star, because he doesn’t reflect much on how the main body of the church, the laity (besides leaders/scholars), can engage fruitfully in cultivating the life of the mind. That is kind of a big oversight when writing about the “Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.” Maybe he does in his follow-up to this book.


I might take away a star at some later date, but for now I’m giving it 5, because it lays out a clear and strong argument
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Mark A. Noll (born 1946), Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame, is a progressive evangelical Christian scholar. In 2005, Noll was named by Time Magazine as one of the twenty-five most influential evangelicals in America. Noll is a prolific author and many of his books have earned considerable acclaim within the academic community. The Scandal of the Evangelic ...more

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