The Scandal Of The (Male) Evangelical Mind -- By: Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 09:3 (Summer 1995)
Article: The Scandal Of The (Male) Evangelical Mind
Author: Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen

The Scandal Of The (Male) Evangelical Mind

Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen

Dr. Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen is on the faculty of Eastern College, in the Department of Psychology and also the Center for Christian Women in Leadership. This article was originally presented at the Third Annual Crossroads Conference on Faith and Public Policy, July 1995. Dr. Van Leeuwen’s books, Gender and Grace and After Eden: Facing the Challenge of Gender Reconciliation. may be purchased through the CBE Book Service.

Comments on Mark Noll’s The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Eerdmans, 1994)

The scandal of the evangelical mind, Mark Noll tells us, “is that there is not much of an evangelical mind” (p.3). The reasons he lists for this are many, and include evangelical over-emphasis on the emotionally-charged experience of conversion, an overly-populist approach to evangelism, a preoccupation with personal sanctification to the exclusion of concern for creation, for society, and for the institutions represented therein, and a fortress mentality left over from the fundamentalist-modernist controversy of the early twentieth century. The minimal intellectual life that has survived in fundamentalism — affecting evangelicalism by association — has relied on an uncritical retention of nineteenth century “common sense” epistemology, with its reliance on intuition, its naive confidence in the existence of indisputable facts, and its appeal to Baconian inductivism as the route to sure truth in science and theology alike.

To a Kuyperian Calvinist like myself, much of Noll’s critique is a case of preaching to the converted. Calvinism’s strong creation theology, its insistence on the working of common grace even in the midst of pervasive depravity, its rejection of nature-grace dualism and conviction that all of life is to be redeemed — all of these have made for a solid appreciation of the life of the mind in the service of God’s kingdom. Moreover, because of their more recent immigrant heritage, many (though certainly not all) North American Calvinists have been spared the polarizing fallout of the fundamentalist-modernist controversy, retaining instead a continuous connection to more European and less naively-positivist, modes of scholarship.

The Invisible Woman

However, in spite of such natural sympathy for Noll’s “epistle (to evangelicaldom) from a wounded lover” (p. ix), I found myself continually troubled, as I read it, by a pervasive narrowness in the scope of its analysis. Let me begin my exegesis of this concern with an anecdote from another Christian scholarly gathering.

A few years ago my colleague Elaine Storkey, a British Christian philosopher and social critic, gave a...

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