Saturday, January 21, 2012

"Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind" - a Review

Mark Noll has come out in his latest book, "Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind" with a more optimistic picture of evangelical scholarship. He suggests a theological approach to guide evangelical scholarship in the future and provides three examples: history, science and Biblical studies.

The point of the Book 
Noll is attempting to outline a way evangelicals can do scholarship. His thesis is that evangelicals can do scholarship by using the Bible as its foundation, and the creeds are guides or ways of interpreting scripture. Specifically, we ought to use Jesus Christ as our lens in scholarship.

My Thoughts 
Noll presents an interesting thesis. I agree, and I hope all Christians do, with his general point, that Jesus Christ ought to frame our scholarship. I found the chapter on history to be good and helpful. Every Christian historian should read that chapter. The two chapters on science and Biblical studies I leave for others to discuss.

I am coming away from the book wondering whether Noll is saying something new or not. The basic idea of using Jesus in one's methodology isn't new. It is really a "well duh" point, or at least it should be. That's not to say Noll isn't make an interesting point. He gets interesting when he goes into detail on how the Apostles Creed, Nicene Creed and Chalcedon Creed are definitive statements for the Christian tradition. Noll pushes hard for evangelicals to begin to draw on these creeds for their understanding of Jesus. I found that to be by far the most important point of Noll's book. In the least, the most unique and radical point he made.

Noll's point on the creeds is important because he is bringing into the discussion the place of the creeds. The creeds are unique because they were written early in church history and by some very intelligent guys. Furthermore, they made definitive statements on what orthodox Christians believe about Jesus Christ. Lastly, they can serve uniting summaries on what the scriptures says about Christ that many different denominations in Christianity can look to. And Noll is pointing to them as being guides to how we ought to do scholarship. Very interesting.

Those are my general thoughts on the book. I guess the bottom line is that Noll has written an interesting book that needs to be in discussion among evangelicals. He provides fodder for good thinking on evangelicals and scholarship. So, read it and be prepared to think.


  1. The Anglican tradition (AMiA too) draws heavily on the creeds in weekly worship. I like this.

    Sounds like an interesting book, one that I will read asap. But I also wonder, like you said, is there much new here? George Marsden's "The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship" came to mind first. Did you read that? Also a good book on this topic.

    1. Benjamin, I have read Marsden's book. Noll is similar in some sense but his thesis is much more specific since he's focused more on theology then the basic idea of Christian scholarship.

      There are probably a number of similarities between the two books since Noll studied under Marsden. Both are great historians.


Thank you for your comment, I'll review it as soon as I can!