In 1994, Mark Noll published his bold book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, and in covering the various aspects – first cultural, then institutional – finally brings up the Theological Aspect. Or in other words – we have the various academic and practical ways of looking at this or trying to approach it – but with the theological aspect, we’re especially asking what this means to God, for our relationship with Him. About how the Bible deals with the matter.
And very very simply – this is: sin.
“Finally, there is a theological dimension to the scandal of the evangelical mind. For an entire Christian community to neglect, generation after generation, serious attention to the mind, nature, society, the arts — all spheres created by God and sustained for his own glory — may be, in fact, sinful.”
Note however the seeming timidness of this statement – he’s saying it just “may be – in fact …”
Now we American Christians tend to like bold preachers and “calling a spade a spade” – and part of this is our inheritance in Scottish Common Sense Realism, plus our tendency to uncritically tap into feelings language, emoting, and various forms of emotional manipulation when preaching or “doing ministry.” Though with this particular falling-short – you can google for it – we are almost silent. David Naugle stands out as a prominent exception, in an address he gave in 2003. But other than that – it’s like everyone has sorta been hush-hush. Quite a few will boldly say that Evangelicals have something to do about our anti-intellectualism. But saying our falling-short in not learning stuff, not developing our minds, not using them? It’s mostly quiet.
But the very man who is so associated with our mind problem – who we rightly call bold – when it came to this moment – he was very humble.
We advise that you take this to heart, and that you do the same. We may seem like we are “boldly calling out the church!!” – but appearances can also deceive. We are not all that bold. A lot of agony went into this project. It is in some ways heart-rending. It’s especially sad that it seems the only way to get you lot’s attention is by tapping into your “weaker parts” – by ironizing the crap out of things, by being visually and textually so very dorky and cheesy. Though still – in some areas – we’re insistent on holding “the high ground” in aesthetics, communication, general practices – and not “just” chucking this all out as it seems some are currently doing, “because it be God’s work and we’re tearing down walls.” No – that sounds more like Romanticism and just general unethical behavior. It may all look jokey. But it really hurts.
The church is the bride of Christ. It’s like our mother. We have the Bible from the church.
When you discuss the issues that you see on this site – try to “raise the level” a little bit in respecting the person you’re speaking to – even if that person might not respect themselves so much, or consider themselves to be “simple” or “just this just that.” You are speaking to a child of Christ and one who must maintain a proper relationship of respect and authority to the church.
We urge you – as we do on this site – if you go snarky – later to make clear that you respect and love the church as the bride of Christ. And this includes the love and respect of the person with whom you are speaking.
In the last decades we have seen a tremendous amount of careless, over-snarked, insufficiently loving criticism of the church.
Before we launched TRACTSwithLEGS – we wrote over 1,000 pages on this problem in a site behind a login wall, for church leaders and those they designate to read only. This took tremendous love, care, work, research on our part – trying to build relationships, trying to build understanding.
Expect to have to do the same, though of course not to such an intense degree, when you confront the issues we present here – and when you have conversations. You will come across tremendous opposition, and will likely provoke anger. You will be accused of not appreciating all the wonderful things people around you are doing. Many things like that. That is all because of this one little word – “sin.” It hurts so much.
But the tough news is – yes, what we must confront is sin. And not some baddy-baddy guy’s sin, or “those secularists!!” – “those atheists!!”
What we must confront is our sin, as a body.
Honor that body.
One of the ways of honoring that body is in understanding and respecting its order – and this is a point where Protestants in general, but especially Americans, are tremendously weak.
We are trying very very hard – to get church leaders to teach their people to love God with their minds. Unfortunately – after so many generations of this sin – it also means they need to teach the people to deal with the natural consequences of sin. A dysfunctional body. People running around in little circles shouting, “Ministry! ministry! Impact Impact! Wonderful! Heart-changing!” A generation of adrenaline bunnies just-just-justing their way through the critical task of speaking to God’s people in a way that helps them obey Him. People who have graduated from seminary and apparently still believe that God somehow zaps ideas into their heads as a kind of reward for reading the Bible.
This is so dreadfully sad that we believe: it is really much, much better for the people to hear of these problems from the natural order that God ordained His church to live in – in this case, the natural social order. That is, churches. The local church. The people groups we are supposed to belong to, and have as our “primary community” – arguably even before we are a part of a “family” and such.
It’s really the task of pastors to love their people in that special way that tends especially to their spiritual side. The “theological aspects” – like how we aren’t loving God with our minds, and that utterly painful task of learning that our spiritual forefathers were critically falling short in this area as well. They may have been learning a lot – in many cases – but it really does seem that for American Protestants – virtually none of them have been teaching people to love God with their minds, and that refraining from doing so is very serious sin – or that we must address this blighting, daunting corporate sin which so weakens the body and brings to us so much dysfunctionality.
But we have the hope of Christ – we have something to hold on to, about the very being and who-ness of who Jesus is. He is our Savior and Redeemer – and Paul tells us that the very power of the Resurrection is for us. Just like how Jesus is God With Us.