Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind by Mark Noll

Few sentences have had as great an impact on evangelicalism in the late twentieth century than the opening of Mark Noll’s 1994 book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. “The scandal of the evangelical mind,” he wrote, “is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.” For many, the book was a wake-up call to the anti-intellectualism of the church and the state of evangelical scholarship.

Seventeen years later, the Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History at Notre Dame returns to the topic in a new book released this month: Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind.

If Scandal was chiefly a critique, Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind presents a much more hopeful outlook. Based on the material he presented at a Cornell symposium in 2009, Noll offers not just an assessment of the current state of evangelical thought but a way forward. Underscoring the deep resources of historic Christianity, he argues that a right understanding of the person of Jesus can provide an ideal vantage point for viewing the vast domains of human learning and enhance intellectual engagement in specific disciplines.

Here is an excerpt from his introduction to the book:

“If what we claim about Jesus 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 faith. Yet if there is an evangelical coloring to this book, and if evangelicals are the ones addressed most directly, I also hope that Catholics, Orthodox, other kinds of Protestants, and representatives of the world’s proliferating indigenous churches will find encouragement for approaching human learning as a distinctly Christian enterprise. In addition, I hope that nonbelievers and believers adhering to other faiths may find some clues in these pages for why at least some Christian supernaturalists are wholeheartedly committed to the tasks of learning.”

You can also listen to some of book’s material in the lecture series he gave in 2009:

  • Session #1 – Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind: Perspectives
  • Session #1 – Q&A
  • Session #2 – Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind: Principles
  • Session #2 – Q&A
  • Session #3 – Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind: Practices
  • Session #3 – Q&A

Here are some of the endorsements for the book:

“One of America’s finest historians, Mark Noll takes us inside his mind to see the set of Christian convictions that have shaped his work. The clarity, forcefulness, and insistence with which he writes will certainly provoke questions that others have not asked or have asked but have not answered well. We are in his debt for this considerable service.”
— David F. Wells
Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

“It is odd that so much modern theology has treated Christology as just another doctrinal topic. Mark Noll shows us Jesus right where St. Paul left him — in Colossians — as the one ‘in whom all things hold together.’ Now that we have a christological clarion call for scholarship of all kinds, it’s hard to believe we had none before. This is the ideal bookend for Noll’s Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, sketching out a way for intellectual pilgrims to follow Jesus into academic fields of all kinds. May many take up that way.”
— Jason Byassee
Duke Divinity School

“Mark Noll resolves the Scandal of the Evangelical Mind with the scandal of Christ crucified.”
— Gene Edward Veith
Patrick Henry College

“In this wise and eloquent book Mark Noll draws on four decades of experience serving Christ in the academy. Many evangelical colleges and universities claim to be Christ-centered, but Noll shows the depth of meaning that phrase can convey. He offers a rich theological base for a life of learning, rooted in ‘all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge’ that are in Jesus Christ.”
— Joel Carpenter
Nagel Institute, Calvin College

“More than a sequel to his Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, Mark Noll’s thoughtful new book offers at least the beginnings of a constructive christocentric theology for evangelical intellectual life. Rooted in the classic Christian creeds, Noll shows how a thoroughgoing Christocentrism can and should shape Christian engagement with such arenas as history, science, and biblical studies. . . . Though modest in length, this may be one of Noll’s most important scholarly contributions.”
— David P. Gushee
Mercer University

“Without retreating from his principles, Noll in this book offers a mature, nuanced, and wide-ranging reprise of his Scandal of the Evangelical Mind — but that is not all. By drawing constructively on poets, theologians, philosophers — and especially on the great historic creeds and confessions of the faith — he has crafted a challenging, inspiring christological philosophy of Christian education for the twenty-first century. This is a major contribution.”
— David Lyle Jeffrey
Baylor University