The organizers of “The State of the Evangelical Mind” conference in Indianapolis chose to open the festivities with a session titled “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind: A Tripartite Review.” Jay Green, Eric Miller, and yours truly served as the warm-up act for Mark Noll. We offered reflections on the current state of the evangelical mind and how evangelical intellectual life is faring at the Christian schools (Covenant College, Geneva College, Messiah College) where we currently teach. Our “review” will be published in a forthcoming issue of Christian Scholar’s Review, so I cannot share the content here. But I can offer a very small taste of what I said in this session. Here are two disconnected paragraphs from the presentation. If you want context you will need to wait until the talk appears in print:
Today, as a college professor working at a Christian college, I pray that my students–whether they are first-generation college students or not–will experience something similar to my own intellectual transformation. I also want them to know that whatever awakening of the mind I experienced in my early 20s happened WITHIN evangelicalism. It was believing scholars–mostly historians–whose work created something akin to an evangelical republic of letters for me. I know I speak for my other panelists up here, and even some of you in the audience as well, when I say that this community was sustained through the medium of e-mail, conversations at the Advanced Placement U.S. history readings and academic conferences that lasted well into the night, and the on-going sense that our work was somehow going to make a difference in the world.
I am sure many of you have heard this kind of jeremiad before. It’s an old story. But that doesn’t mean we should give up, or stop telling it. Those inspired to press onward by Noll’s manifesto will find that the journey can be a tiring and lonely one. Indeed, those who speak prophetically about the need to worship God with our minds will find themselves in lover’s quarrels with fellow evangelicals, and we will no doubt suffer emotional and psychological wounds along the way. (I am playing here off of Noll’s “wounded lover” metaphor). But in the end, these are the burdens we must bear when we follow what Noll, in another context, has called the “Christ of the academic road.”
Stay tuned. More posts on the “State of the Evangelical Mind” conference are forthcoming.