Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind by Mark Noll

Source of book: I own this

I have been wanting to read this one for a while, and my wife got it for me for Christmas this year. It seems particularly timely, given the greatest disaster within American Christianity of my lifetime: the overwhelming support of a political figure who ran on explicit racism and xenophobia and personally exemplified everything contrary to the life and teachings of Jesus Christ - and of a party platform which deliberately targets the poor, ill, and vulnerable. That this has shaken me to the core is an understatement. It is a significant reason why I have divorced myself from Evangelicalism, and have no intention of ever going back.

Mark Noll wrote this book in 1994 - over two decades ago. As I read it now, I am amazed at how prophetic it was. Noll’s reasons for optimism did not come to pass, and all of his concerns for the future of Evangelicalism have turned out to be true. I believe that this election and its aftermath have and are continuing to be a purge of the last vestige of intellectual honesty and commitment to the life of the mind that was left in Evangelicalism. Those who speak out against the racism, the social darwinism, and the devotion to a certain political party will no longer be welcomed. 

It is a bit overwhelming to attempt to summarize this book. Noll, as he did in the excellent The Civil War as a Theological Crisis, offers a wealth of historical information (extensively footnoted and supported by solid primary and secondary sources) in support of his thesis. To attempt to cover the scope of the history would be to quote the entire book. However, I will try to hit some highlights.

First, Noll makes a strong argument that Evangelicalism in America is unique, developing as it did under historically unique circumstances. Many of the factors which shaped it were good, on balance, but combined led to the abandonment by Evangelicals of the life of the mind and engagement with intellectual pursuits. In Noll’s view, the last flowering of Evangelical intellectual life took place with Jonathan Edwards, who is remembered for an uncharacteristic sermon (“Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”) which reflects the American Evangelical ethos, rather than the breadth and depth of Edwards’ ideas. From that time on, revivalism shaped Evangelicalism, and the emphasis has been on winning the marketplace of converts, not on engaging the mind.

As one who has had to leave Evangelicalism myself, I found the preface to the book to be poignant:

This book is an epistle from a wounded lover. As one who is in love with the life of the mind but who has also been drawn to faith in Christ through the love of evangelical Protestants, I find myself in a situation where wounding is commonplace. Although the thought has occurred to me regularly over the past two decades that, at least in the United States, it is simply impossible to be, with integrity, both evangelical and intellectual, this epistle is not a letter of resignation from the evangelical movement. It intends rather to be a cri du coeur on behalf of the intellectual life by one who, for very personal reasons, still embraces the Christian faith in an evangelical form.

I am there with Noll - except that the events of the last two decades - and particularly of the last year - have made it clear that, despite my wish to stay, I cannot in good conscience raise my family in Evangelicalism any longer.

In the opening chapter, Noll hits on one reason why. As of 1994, Noll could still claim with a straight face that Evangelicals had “open hearted generosity to the needy, heroic exertion on behalf of troubled individuals.” While plenty of individual Evangelicals still exhibit these traits, as a movement, this is most assuredly no longer true. Even in just the last decade, the embrace of the teachings of Ayn Rand (on economics) and outright xenophobia (on immigration to pick one issue) has been a complete turnaround from when I was a child. It is also completely out of step with the historical teachings of Christianity. (And the teachings of Jesus Christ.)

One of the most interesting claims Noll makes - and he is absolutely correct - is that American Evangelicalism is an historical anomaly. There is a rich tradition of Christian thought throughout the ages, and other branches of Christianity continue to engage with the life of the mind. But there is a huge vacuum that has arisen. Outside of a few areas of personal conduct (mostly sex), Evangelicals do not think in a recognizably Christian way. This is why atheistic and darwinistic ideals dominate Evangelical economics, why opinions on immigration resemble those of David Duke more than they resemble the teachings of Christ, why Evangelicals are hostile to and in denial about science, why conservation (stewardship of the earth) is now considered a left-wing conspiracy. The life of the mind has been abandoned.

Noll notes that in our modern world, we really need to have a truly Christian approach to many issues. “To mention only one of several possible examples, the related problems of medical ethics and equitable provision of health care are immensely complex issues. They also bear, directly or indirectly, on Christian values at every point” Noll also points out foreign relations, job programs, and racism - issues that threaten our civilization. Yet instead of bringing a Christian ethic to bear, the worst of human instincts - tribalism, apocalyptic eschatology, and disdain for the poor have become the de facto positions of Evangelicalism. (I won’t quote more, but Noll deals at length with the historical issues of slavery, racism, and immigration - and the way Evangelicals have in recent decades ignored these issues, preferring denial to actually thinking in a Christian way about them. Likewise, there is a good section about the relation of capital and labor, and the perplexing issues in the wake of the industrial revolution - Christian thought was needed, and it was largely absent. Evangelicalism was essentially blindsided by the industrial revolution and these crucial issues that arose, because it was not in the habit of thinking and observing.)

More recently, as Noll notes (although it dates back earlier in truth), there is the belief that there is a “clear truth” about politics. Today, this takes the form of “of course all True Christians™ vote Republican, no matter what. Because abortion and gays (without any nuance of the causes or effects, of course) are the only issues that matter. As Noll puts it, “If the Christian truth about politics was so clear, there was no need to think about politics at all.” And lo, it has come to pass. All a Christian apparently needs to know is to vote Republican - and adopt whatever the current Republican position is on issues.

One of the other factors Noll highlights is a long-term anti-intellectual trend in Evangelicalism. This dates back at least 200 years, and is again an American tendency in general. I found particularly interesting this quote from Ronald Knox, who contrasted traditional Roman Catholic thought with that of evangelical “enthusiasts”: “That God speaks to us through the intellect is a notion which he may accept on paper, but fears, in practice, to apply.”

Yes indeed. I have had pounded into me for much of my life that reason (and empathy, for that matter) are the enemies of truth, because they lead to questioning of certain theological or political positions. And, as N. K. Clifford is quoted as saying, “The Evangelical Protestant mind has never relished complexity. Indeed, its crusading genius, whether in religion or politics, has always tended toward an over-simplification of issues and the substitution of inspiration and zeal for critical analysis and serious reflection.”

I have been thinking along the same lines for a while. However, one thing I did not really realize before reading this book was the poisonous effect of a number of theological positions. First is Manichaeism - the division of the world into good and evil. And only those with the right theological beliefs are good, everyone else is actively evil. I kind of hit on this in my post on Presuppositionalism - but I didn’t really know the term that applied. The effects of this on politics has been devastating, as genuine evil and malice toward others has been embraced, because the “us” know the truth, while the “them” are evil. And thus, because the GOP is against abortion, we embrace the racism and contempt for the poor that goes along with it as if it were God’s truth. Second is Biblicism, the use of proof texts and a view of the Bible as a textbook with answers to everything, rather than what it is: a record of humans wrestling with the great questions while inspired by the divine.

Noll points out that many of these theological problems stem from a problematic approach to the Bible, which is neither historically informed, nor helpful. He traces it (and makes a good case for it) to the 1700s and the attempt to read the Bible “scientifically,” in the way that Bacon approached science: reasoning from pieces of evidence to broad principles. (Science itself moved on to a more nuanced approach as it developed, but biblical interpretation did not.) The section on this is fascinating, with numerous theologians of the period comparing the Bible to a scientific study, seeking out little pieces of the jigsaw puzzle to fit together into a comprehensive theological (and political) whole. Noll points out that this approach was genuinely new, and deliberately in contrast to historical interpretive methods. It was not informed by historical context, and it ignored centuries of Christian thought. In modern times, however, it has become even more anomalous, because it is out of touch with contemporary realities. If I were to summarize it, it would be the preservation of an anachronistic 19th Century approach to theology and the world.

The worst of the theological problems, however, was that of Dispensationalism. One of my favorite bloggers, who himself came out of a Fundamentalist background, had talked about this both on the blog (and in conversations we had via e-mail), but I hadn’t really understood the impact until reading Noll’s extended chapter on this.

Simply put: the intellectual effort that could have gone into actually understanding the world we live in went instead into attempting to cram that world into a template created by a particular view of the end of the world. John Nelson Darby’s ideas were completely in contradiction to the historical views of the church, and were based on an unsound hermeneutic. (As one of the sources Noll cites notes, no responsible Christian teacher had ever espoused this idea.) Within my own lifetime, the books of Hal Lindsey pretty expressly considered the Bible to be a crystal ball for geopolitical issues, which has not served us well.

You can certainly see this poison in action in a number of ways. The unquestioning support of whatever Israel does is one - after all, prophecy must be fulfilled. (My wife pointed out an example in her facebook feed today.) Or the idea that preserving our earth or helping the poor are worthless, because the world will end soon, so we should just try to convert as many as possible before it does.

Perhaps the best chapter in the book is the one entitled “The Intellectual Disaster of Fundamentalism.” I wrote about cultural fundamentalism previously, but hadn’t delved much into doctrinal fundamentalism. Noll lays the history out there, and it is pretty clear that whatever remained of Evangelical intellectualism after the 19th Century was pretty well crushed by the fundamentalist movement. Even within my lifetime, there has been a strong movement within greater Evangelicalism toward Fundamentalism, both in the theological sense and in the cultural sense. In both cases, it is a belief that we have absolute certainty that we are right. That we know exactly what God’s view is on all subjects.That we know it all, that all moral and ethical issues have been resolved, that any new knowledge that comes to light is of the Devil if it casts doubt on Nineteenth Century dogma. Noll notes the result:

If intellectual life involves a certain amount of self-awareness about alternative interpretations or a certain amount of tentativeness in exploring the connection between evidence and conclusions, it was hard to find any encouragement for the intellectual life in the self-assured dogmatism of fundamentalism.

This dogmatism meant that there was no perceived need to actually study the world. All that was needed was the right theology, and you could understand everything. This is in radical contrast to the historical Christian belief that we had two books: scripture, and nature, and that a study of both was both necessary and holy. That the book of nature was as divine as the written book. (And indeed, since scripture was mediated by human authors - something fundamentalists deny in spite of overwhelming evidence - its meaning cannot be fathomed without understanding of the cultural limitations and prejudices of its authors. To quote Noll again: “This belief had the practical effect of rendering the experience of the biblical writers nearly meaningless. It was the Word of God pure and simple, not the Word of God as mediated through the life experiences and cultural settings of the biblical authors, that was important.”)

Specifically in the context of Dispensationalism (but also as to Fundamentalism in general), Noll states:

The supernaturalism of dispensationalism, especially in the extreme forms that were easiest to promote among the populace at large, lacked a sufficient place for the natural realm and tended toward a kind of gnosticism in its communication of truth. Adherents were instructed about nature, world events, ethics, and other dimensions of human existence, but almost always without studying these matters head-on. Bible verses were quoted to explain conditions and events in the world, but with very little systematic analysis of the events and conditions themselves.

This is why, to pick one example, so many of my acquaintance were focused on figuring out exactly where President Obama fit into their view of Armageddon (was he the Antichrist?) rather than applying Christian ethics to treatment of refugees, or learning the true history of the Middle East in the aftermath of two world wars. (Which would likely have made a huge difference in how subsequent events would be viewed…) In this, as in everything, the actual facts were irrelevant.

In each case fundamentalists denied that historical processes - networks of cause and effect open to public analysis by all and sundry - had anything significant to contribute.

And, this again was tied up in the Manichaean view of the world: everything is pure good or pure evil. As Noll puts it,

[I]t shows an evangelical community unwilling to sift the wheat from the chaff in the wisdom of the world, unprepared to countenance the complexity of mixed motives in human action, and uniterested in focusing seriously on the natural forces that influence human behavior.

I won’t go into the detail that Noll does, but he draws a solid line from this kind of thinking divorced from reality to the belief in conspiracy theories and “alternative facts.” Both involve deliberate disregard for evidence from the world we live in.

Noll also points out an interesting historical phenomenon: the way that fundamentalism (and evangelicalism in recent decades) has responded to stress and crisis.

In general responses to crises, evangelicals in the late twentieth century still follow a pathway defined at the start of the twentieth century. When faced with a crisis situation, we evangelicals usually do one of two things. We either mount a public crusade, or we retreat into an inner pious sanctum. That is, we are filled with righteous anger and attempt to recoup our public losses through political confrontation, or we eschew the world of mere material appearances and seek the timeless consolations of the Spirit.

Sigh. You can see both of these at work still. On the one hand are the Franklin Graham/Jerry Falwell Jr./Bryan Fischer types, who celebrate Le Toupee as the “dream president for Christians.” Hey, now that we have one of “our” people, we can go kick some infidel butt! On the other is The Benedict Option, a withdrawal from the icky world and disengagement from the issues of the day. You can also see this second idea in the appeal of Bill Gothard. Yep, I believe our involvement with that shyster was driven by this instinct. What neither of these responses demonstrate, however, is a commitment to loving our neighbor.

Also, while Noll doesn’t get into it in this book (he does a bit more in The Civil War as a Theological Crisis) is that the “crisis” here isn’t purely religious. It is racial. And what both the Benedict fantasy and the Trump presidency have in common is a desire to return to a whiter past. I find this article in The Federalist (not usually one of my sources…) on the book to be interesting because it quotes a passage in which being “Men and women of the West” is seen as largely synonymous with Christianity. And I have already discussed the Trump platform (virtually indistinguishable from the 1920s KKK) and its express racist appeal.

In both the racial and theological sense, both of these toxic responses might have been prevented by a robust intellectual engagement with both doctrine and the reality of the world. Such an approach might instead lead to a renewed effort to love our neighbor rather than harm him, and a rejection of tribalist rhetoric.

Noll doesn’t offer specific political prescriptions - that isn’t within the scope of the book - but he does lament that evangelical politics have rarely been recognizably Christian in the sense of reflecting Christian values rather than secular ones associate with a particular party.

Where Noll believes the damage has been the greatest, however, is in the realm of science. As Noll (quoting Ronald Numbers) asserts, “a fatally flawed interpretive scheme of the sort that no responsible Christian teacher in the history of the church ever endorsed before the 19th Century came to dominate the minds of American Evangelicals on scientific questions.” The fatal combination of Biblicism (and dogmatic literalism) and a refusal to accept evidence from the world itself led to increasingly untenable dogmas about science that were ever more stridently asserted as the only possible Christian belief.

As usual, Noll knows his history, and points to the origin of the discussion in the 1800s. In 1812, Archibald Alexander noted that the sciences are often of great service in assisting the interpretation and understanding of scripture. Later, Charles Hodge (who was fairly conservative theologically) went even further by asserting that in areas in which science speaks, “the Bible must be interpreted by science.”

Nature is truly a revelation of God as the Bible; and we only interpret the Word of God by the Word of God when we interpret the Bible by science.

Hodge goes on to note that we interpret phrases like “the pillars of the earth” in light of our knowledge of earth’s position in space, and argues that other interpretations must likewise be informed by actual scientific knowledge - that is, the reading of God’s other book.

Likewise, interpretation must be informed by an understanding of the culture in which the Bible was written. The limited scientific understanding of its authors, for example, or the cultural beliefs about gender and sexuality, as another. Revelation has a context, and failure to take that into account - and instead read scripture in the Baconian way, as an instruction book, is to guarantee grave and harmful error.

Noll concludes that the damage done by Young Earth Creationism goes far beyond the surface.

Creation science has damaged evangelicalism by making it much more difficult to think clearly about human origins, the age of the earth, and mechanisms of geological and biological change. But it has done more profound damage by undermining the ability to look at the world God has made and to understand what we see when we do look.

This has been true across a wide range of issues, from the Evangelical rejection of Conservationism (which I believe they hate because it is perceived as “liberal,” not because they have thought about it in either a biblical or a scientific manner…), to gender identity and intersexuality. In fact, it occurs to me that the same approach to the age of the earth is in play when it comes to sexuality in general. In neither case has evangelicalism been willing to depart from their Biblicist and hyper-literalist approach or to accept evidence from the natural world to inform their interpretation of scripture. Likewise, because of the Manichaean view of the world, both mainstream geological, astronomical, and biological science and LGBTQ people become demonic conspiracies. As Peter Enns (who has been a tremendous help in my faith journey over the last few years) put it, perceived theological needs do not determine reality.

I love that Noll also points out (yet again!) that this approach is simply NOT in line with historical Christianity. He quotes Augustine at length on the issue of origins (something I never heard until the last few years - it’s well hidden in Evangelical circles) and how Christians need to be very careful about asserting dogma that is clearly contradicted by the real world. He particularly condemns the quoting of scripture to non-Christians as if it trumped reality.

Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will then try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof, and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make the assertion.

If I could fix one thing about Evangelicalism, it would be this: Just shut the %*#@ up about things you have not actually researched and understood. Stop making up alternative history. Stop asserting alternative facts. Stop insisting that you understand the realities of other people without actually listening and understanding what those realities actually are. And for God’s sake, stop saying things that are “utterly foolish and obviously untrue.” Such as, say, denying that intersexuals exist, claiming that the poor are lazy, or expecting credit for ending slavery when your theological tradition actually defended slavery and fought against civil rights.

Ironically, Francis Bacon himself (who Noll points out ended up inadvertently influencing Evangelicalism for the worse in their approach to the bible) near the end of his life wrote a poignant call for humility and above all charity in our approach to life.

Wherefore, if there be any humility towards the Creator; if there be any reverence and praise for His works; if there be any charity towards men, and zeal to lessen human wants and human sufferings; if there be any love of truth in natural things, any hatred of darkness, any desire to purify the understanding; men are to be entreated again and again that they should dismiss for a while or at least put aside those inconstant and preposterous philosophies which prefer theses to hypotheses, have led experience captive, and triumphed over the works of God; that they should humbly and with a certain reverence draw near to the book of Creation…

To put it bluntly: don’t be so damn sure that you know truth, but humbly and reverently actually study the world and humans as they actually exist, not how your theological or philosophical system says they should be.

I want to end with some of Noll’s thoughts on a positive way forward combined with his fears (which have very much come to pass) that things would get worse.

First, Noll has an interesting and (I believe) helpful way of looking at scripture. Noll believes (as I do) that theological convictions have intellectual consequences. (Which is why in the aftermath of the last election, I have been pondering exactly which facets of Evangelical theology are responsible for the evil fruit it has borne.) The first quote from Noll that I found fascinating is this:

Thus, for example, any theology that encourages Bible reading as puzzle solving, instead of Bible reading as an occasion for the reader to examine his or her own soul, or that encourages Bible reading primarily to understand a “world out there,” instead of “the world for me,” is not only bad theology but a theology prejudicial to the intellectual life. The prejudice is the barrier set up by such Bible reading to the entrance of scriptural reality into the deeper parts of the personality, engagement of which is most urgently required for an intellectual life that would honor both God and the world in which he has placed us.

Gothardism in particular encouraged the poisonous method of reading, but it is rife throughout the Evangelical approach. Thus, we read to determine (once and for all) what other people should do with their genitals and how the law should treat them (or persecute them), and yet we do not look at how our own bedroom behavior reflects gender hierarchy rather than the love of neighbor. (Yep, that is something I myself have had to face as I have taken scripture more seriously…) Ultimately, if we seek to control others, rather than look inside ourselves at the darkness that is mixed with what light we have, we make our faith into poison, into hate, and into a lust for power. As this election has amply demonstrated.

The second point that Noll makes is that the intellectual activity within the Christian tradition has been largely occurring outside of Evangelicalism - particularly the American version. Noll notes what I have found to be darkly amusing: C.S. Lewis is positively venerated in Evangelical circles, despite the fact that his theology is far from Evangelical. In fact, Lewis took special care to repudiate the Evangelical facets of his upbringing, and he was only able to return to faith because of his rejection of the anti-intellectual beliefs of Evangelicalism. (And this was the British version, which was far less fundamentalist than the American version…)

Noll notes that Evangelical thought has generally improved when it permitted ideas from outside of the bubble to enter. And more than that, “Where evangelicals leave behind the specific shape of fundamentalist theology and fundamentalist spirituality, thought advances.”

So too, Noll calls upon Evangelicals to put aside the instinct to jump to snap conclusions, and actually learn their subject matter before speaking.

Finally, if evangelicals are ever to cultivate the mind, habits of intuitionism - or the rapid movement from first impressions to final conclusions - must be changed.

Along with Noll’s hope for the future, though, comes a note of warning. Many attempts to create a intellectual Evangelicalism have been thwarted by populist pressure. I previously discussed some of the reasons that one gets “farewelled” from Evangelicalism: basically, dismissed from the tribe as a heretic. Noll also points out a few other issues: calling into question the “all or nothing” approach to abortion, and C. Everett Coop’s advocacy for AIDS research and treatment. Unfortunately, this trend hasn’t abated. Those of us who call into question the unholy marriage of Evangelicalism and right wing politics - particularly as those politics have become increasingly white supremacist, social darwinist, and materialistic - are increasingly unwelcome in Evangelicalism. And many of us have had to leave for the sake of our conscience.

I think two other voices should be heard in this regard.

The first is Peter Enns, who noted that the real scandal of the Evangelical mind is this:

The only acceptable use of our minds is to confirm pre-determined conclusions. We can think - as long as our thoughts lead us to the exact same conclusions that fundamentalists reached in the 1800s. And that is it.

Perceived theological needs determine reality, and any time reality contradicts dogma, we have to turn our brains off.

The second, though, is even more serious, and I find it fascinating that it is a woman who pointed it out.

Like Rachel Held Evans, my struggles with my faith have not been primarily intellectual. (After all, I was raised by a father that accepted an old earth and wasn’t wedded to fundamentalist dogma - despite our foray into Gothardism. I have long understood the various approaches to intellectual questions.) No, my struggles have been moral. Questions of empathy and conscience - and indeed basic human decency. And it is there that I have found the most profound deficit within Evangelicalism, which seems to have embraced white nationalism and (I kid not) outright social darwinism as if it were gospel truth.

As Richard Beck puts it, when we divorce our theology from empathy and emotion, we end up with something dysfunctional - and even monstrous. We end up with sociopathy in the name of God.

And ultimately, this is why I have divorced Evangelicalism. I feel it has been increasingly demanded of me that I check not just my brain, but indeed my conscience at the door. I must not just ignore the reality I know to be true - historical, scientific, economic, and in my own experience - but I must ignore the pangs of my own conscience. I must tolerate without protest the ill will toward my fellow man in the name of political expediency. I must tolerate open racism and xenophobia without calling it what it is: evil. I must keep my mouth shut about open misogyny and pride in sexual assault. I must put aside my aversion to hate groups and allow my children to be exposed to their poison - because said groups claim the name of Christ. This I could not do, and so, I am an Evangelical ex-pat, along with many others. A friend has dubbed us “The Dispossessed.” Not sure whether this is a reference to Ursula Le Guin, but it seems to fit.

Noll’s book is, like all of his books, thoroughly researched, historically informed, and academically oriented. Don’t expect page-turning writing. But do expect extensive footnotes and citations, verifiable reference to primary and well-respected secondary sources. Noll isn’t merely expressing an opinion - he is bringing to light inconvenient truths about history. Most compelling of all, Noll demonstrates that the peculiarities of American Evangelicalism are not merely out of touch with modern reality: they are an anomaly in history itself, out of touch with traditional Christian thinking about the life of the mind, science, and the book of Creation. And thus, the way forward is also a way backward. It is an embrace of modern reality, modern knowledge, and ongoing discovery. But it is also a return to the traditional view of the Book of Nature, a return to an historically and culturally informed view of the Bible, a return to the view that human reason and scientific knowledge aid us in interpreting scripture, and a return to the idea that God himself gave us both nature and our own brains and empathy - and that these are our friends, not our enemies. Noll also invites us to consider looking outside of our own theological and cultural bubble and embracing truth regardless of its source. To quote Milton: “Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?”

I strongly believe that my Evangelical friends need to read Mark Noll. Both this book and his one on the Civil War. History may indeed be an inconvenient truth, but it is one we need to face, and in facing it, come to a better understanding of our past and present, and make better decisions for our future.


I know it has been a while since I posted a review. One reason for this is that we have a new addition to the family. My youngest, six year old daughter, Lillian, has been begging for a kitten for some time. We finally got one. (Special thanks to my mom for taking her to the pound to select one.)

The problem is, I am a hopeless cat person. Although little Chocolate Chip (aka Kit Kit) is officially Lillian’s kitten, cats have their own opinions, and they just know. She thinks that the time after the kids go to bed is the time that she gets to curl up on me and get snuggled. And I am such a softie that I cannot possibly say no. Cat snuggling, alas, tends to make it more difficult to look up quotes, to say nothing of typing. Oh well. She is warm and she purrs and she is such a sweetheart even while she is a total punk who wants to climb up my legs. Hey, here she is purring on my chest again…


  1. I'm thankful for your well-researched and thoughtful review of this book. Your words clarify for me what has been brewing in my heart and answers many of my 'how did we get here?' questions. I would never have read a book like this, so your review is extra meaningful. And of course I love the photo of KitKat!

    1. I would be happy to lend you this book if you want. :)

    2. Useful info: Any public library in the country can obtain any book in any other public library in the country through interlibrary loan. I have never been charged for this service. I've gotten some out-of-the-way books this way.

    3. Not all libraries play in the same system. The libraries here in California's San Joaquin Valley share, and that makes for a fairly large pool of books. But this one isn't in it, which is why I had to buy it.

  2. Not all Evangelicals have abandoned conservation.

    1. There are obviously going to be a few minor exceptions. But I would say that few if any of they 81% of white Evangelicals who voted for Le Toupee are part of this group.

    2. I prefer the moniker Orange Julius.

  3. Great review as usual. I was really into young Earth creationism and Dispensational theology when I was much younger, but these days it really makes me nervous. It really seemed as if these doctrines will lead you down an anti-intellectual road. While I do believe in the tenants of the Bible alone, I feel that there are limits to the Bible. While it teaches us about who God is, and the way to salvation, it was never meant to be a scientific text book, and when we start using it as such then problems are going to arise.

  4. You mention that "Lewis took special care to repudiate the Evangelical facets of his upbringing, and he was only able to return to faith because of his rejection of the anti-intellectual beliefs of Evangelicalism." Just curious where you heard/read this, is it in one of his books?