Richard J. Mouw’s Called to the Life of the Mind: Some Advice for Evangelical Scholars (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2014) is short on length but long on insight. Weighing in at only 74 pages, Mouw’s work is part biography, part example, and all exhortation to love God and people through the life of the mind.
Although a relatively disparate collection of anecdotes and thoughts on a wide variety of topics, Mouw’s central idea seems to involve the evangelical Christian scholar’s need for epistemic humility and epistemic hope. That is, in a context of competing worldviews and the critiques of postmodernism, evangelicals must humbly hold to truth claims. Yet at the same time, those truth claims should be held in hope of Truth. Thus, evangelicals must proceed humbly, but also hopefully in their work.
There are many other notable insights in Called to the Life of the Mind. Building on Newman’s idea that liberal education represents a “good in itself”, Mouw encourages evangelicals on to a general cultivation of knowledge and awareness. He also advocates the importance conceiving of academics and critical thinking as ways to serve the Lord. Paul’s image of one body with many members appears highly influential for Mouw, who advocates the academic side of evangelical thought as an important member of the Great Christian Community.
Connected with the one body metaphor is the communal task of the evangelical mind and the importance of engagement in, with, and for the Church. Mouw also makes clear the realities of academic “loneliness” within evangelical churches and offers sage advice on how to recognize and overcome this reality. All in all, this volume presents a lovely blend of important Christian and evangelical thinkers and their insights into contemporary cultural and academic engagement.
Called to the Life of the Mind offers much for evangelical scholars of all stripes, especially those in the humanities and graduate students. It also would benefit certain undergraduate-level evangelicals who are wrestling with how to approach the balance of faith and vocation.