I’ve long wanted to read Mark Noll’s seminal Scandal of the Evangelical Mind but have not stumbled upon it at the used book stores and thrift shops I peruse. (I live in the Bible Belt where you can find quality Christian books, even academic ones.) But I did stumble upon Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind by Mark Noll. I was excited to see it, in near new condition, for only $1. I do buy new books sometimes, but I am patient at waiting for books to show up used!
A quick look at reviews reveals that those who read the Scandal book, found this one not quite as good in comparison. However, I found Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind to be exceptional! I have a special interest in Christology, and anything that focuses on Christ and has a high Christology interests me. While this book is academic, it is definitely readable and accessible to the interested lay person.
Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind by Mark Noll. Wm. B. Eerdmans publishing Co, Grand Rapids, 2011.
The premise of the book is that our Christology – the person and work of Christ as taught in the Scripture and early creeds of the church – should influence every area of human study. It provides a place for us to stand and see; it gives us a framework for learning. The opening chapter reviews the creeds (Apostles, Nicene, Chalcedon) and also has an outstanding section on “glory” as applied to YHWH in the Old Testament and Jesus Christ in the New Testament.
Chapter two demonstrates how Jesus Christ should be our motive for learning in life. Passages such as John 1, Colossians 1, and Hebrews 1 proclaim Jesus as the Creator. “That affirmation carries the strongest possible implications for intellectual life. Put most simply, for believers to be studying created things is to be studying the works of Christ…Taking this stand of New Testament teaching seriously reveals the world in a new light. There simply is nothing humanly possible to study about the created realm that, in principle, leads us away from Jesus Christ.” (page 25)
Chapter three provides guidelines for how Christology can guide serious learning, that is scholarship. Several points are made, but one is about humility. Sometimes scholars can be known for arrogance, looking down upon non-academic folks. But scholarly pursuits through the framework of Christ should keep scholars humble. Scholars following Christ should be doubly aware of how limited their own wisdom is, and should use their God-given mental abilities in gratitude for salvation in Christ.
Chapter four is brief. It is about how Christ’s substitutionary atonement for sinners can affect scholarship. I see chapters 1 – 4 as more broad, and then chapters 5 – 7 get more specific, as each chapter discusses how Christology should specifically guide the study of history, science, and the Bible respectively. These chapters, I think, become a bit more academic or technical, and may not hold the same interest for lay people, as the opening chapters should.
On that note, don’t be afraid to read “differently” as you go through a book, particularly if you are reading for “pleasure” – that is, for informal learning and not for a class. You may find that certain chapters of a book interest you less than others, and it is okay to read these chapters in a less-detailed way. Read to get the general idea. You need not get lost in the details, but simply expose yourself to some new or deeper ideas without going overboard! If that makes sense? Keep on reading that book, don’t stop!
Chapter 7 is about Christology providing the foundation for Bible study, and it had thoughtful content on the inerrancy of Scripture. The Bible is a unique book in that it contains God’s Words yet was written by humans. I will likely have another post sharing about this, as one thought that particularly stimulated my thinking was that Christians have allowed Enlightenment standards to influence how they defend the Bible.
The book has 8 chapters, and a postscript updating how things fare with the evangelical mind today, since the publication of the Scandal book years ago. I recommend Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind to you. It will remain on my book shelf, and I know that content will prove useful to me in the future.