I’ve got to deal with Noll’s Scandal in a place somewhere and so I’m thinking about it. I ought to go through his book more carefully, but from what I remember, it was a more respectable form of Douglas Frank’s Less Than Conquerors both in its argument, and acceptance. Which is to say, Mark Noll is cooler than Frank.
I don’t wonder why Frank didn’t make it and Noll did. Frank wants to preach as much as Noll does, but Frank’s preaching is more obvious than Noll’s, and, unfortunately, you can tell pretty well. That is not cool. Also Frank is more condescending and that tends to make a chap look less than intellectual. If you want to seem intellectual, sarcasm and contempt are going to come across like prejudice and bigotry. In the academic world, where seeming is everything, it won’t fly; you can’t seem intellectual that way. Nobody will take you seriously if you make the same poor argument and come across as bigoted and holy. It simply is not cool. So Noll polishes up the argument and gets all the acclaim. That’s tough on Frank, but who likes a cocky maverick anyway? NOT ME!!
Ok, so this guy Noll rolls out the usual suspects: SCSR, dispensationalism and holiness (the movement, the associated theory of sanctification, pentecostalism, all that jazz).
I know SCSR was big, I know it was a mistake, but I just find it awfully ironic that latter day evangelicals knock former day evangelicals for grabbing onto the tail end of the passing fad in academia without bothering to understand it any more carefully than I understand it. Hello modernists. Hello postmodernists. And why never existentialists? How about something a little more timeless? How about an original critique of something for a change instead of the passe truisms of the critics of the former fad (which critics were in the avant guard of the present fad back in the day). And if SCSR weren’t so boring, I’d try to understand it better myself.
I seriously find it irritating that their shallow analysis of dispensationalism always leads them to conclude it makes for cultural disengagement. Well, it makes for cultural disengagement of the kind they are loath to disengage from (the World), but it is a really stupid conceit both of anti-dispensationalists and also of dispensationalists—unfortunately—to find in dispensationalism the logic for failing to take matters of culture seriously (our Father’s cosmos and its enjoyment in subcreation and recreation. Ultimate Re-Creation = New Heaven and New Earth. What could be more refined than the culture of a City that comes down out of Heaven?). With Traherne a dispensationalist may be transported by the Revelations of St. John.
It is all the rage to be Reformed and a Calvinist nowadays, so much so, that one is loath to call oneself anything other than an Arminian and an Anabaptist or a Plain Old Papist just to be set apart. The sanctification of the affections is never in view when one reads the analises of Keswick, Victorious Life Theology, the Holiness movement and all of those things. Let them trash the aberrations, but let them not build caricatures. One has the feeling from conversations tinted by Tozer that what they make out to be one thing, was really another, and that they practice cheap shots at what is not in style.
They can’t look deeper because of their metaphysical dream of the world. They can’t change the thickness of their dream because they would first have to change their loyalties. To change their loyalties they would have to change what they value. But what they value is ordered by their intuition about the immanent nature of reality, and they are not dissatisfied with that intuition. They are dissatisfied with how it works out in practice.
Now, having gotten that out of the way, it is time to see if I remember what Noll actually says.