Posts Tagged ‘Mark Noll’

Christ and the Writing of History

Monday, September 30th, 2013 by Dale M. Coulter

icon_VersionHistoryA recent question from a friend on Facebook about Mark Noll’s book Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind prompted some reflections.

Having gone through the book again, my primary objection would be that it does too little in its drawing out the implications of a commitment to Christ in relation to learning.

For Noll, what really matters is an affirmation of the creeds leading up to Chalcedon and a particular understanding of the atonement he takes from John Stott. These twin affirmations are placed within a solidly Reformed framework to tease out their implications.

For example, in dealing with history Noll is less concerned with drawing out any of the implications of Christology for one’s approach to history than with affirming creedal Christianity as a means of steering between historical skepticism and a naive belief that the past can be objectively and fully reconstructed.

The basis of this affirmation is the creedal insistence that Christianity is historical and the dual natures of the incarnation, which affirms universality and particularity. Noll then deals with the question of providence on the basis of a distinction between general revelation and special revelation that supports his Kuyperian appeal to the presuppositions of the historian.

One wonders how different this would look if the starting point were Irenaeus of Lyons’ understanding of Christ’s work, which sees the Incarnation as the re-living of human history in order to heal humanity and bring them to perfection (deification). The narrative structure of the creeds points toward the narrative of salvation that Irenaeus describes.

On Irenaeus of Lyons’ view, the eternal Son becomes flesh and through a process of growth and development overcomes temptations and subdues the demonic in order to achieve perfection. This was all made possible by the Spirit of the Son at work within the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

What are some possible implications of this different starting point? Read the rest of this entry »

Noll, the Evangelical Mind, and the Elephants in the Room

Sunday, September 22nd, 2013 by Dale M. Coulter

Elephant in the roomWhen Mark Noll’s Scandal of the Evangelical Mind hit the market in the early 1990s it created a “title” wave that continues to move out in multiple directions. This fact alone means that if evangelicalism is going to reboot its examination of its own intellectual resources–a process already begun in the cultural liturgies series of James K. A. Smith–then it must grapple with Noll’s critique.

In my previous post I tried to set Noll’s work within the context of American religious historiography.

In this post I want to highlight some elephants in the room of Noll’s analysis.

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Anti-Intellectualism and the Creation of National Myths

Thursday, September 19th, 2013 by Dale M. Coulter

NwswkPopulism.jpg-550x0At the dawn of the 1960s Richard Hofstadter was in his prime as a historian. A recipient of a Pulitzer for his book, Age of Reform, he had been part of an elite group of thinkers who were attempting to re-shape the national discourse in the United States. Among these thinkers were Lionel Trilling and Reinhold Niebuhr. Like all historians, Hofstadter admitted that he wrote for the present and that his efforts were in the service of a larger vision of American democracy.

It took him seven years to write his next book Anti-Intellectualism in American Life.  It was a deeply personal work, a kind of thinking man’s guide to populist rage in which Hofstadter took on middle-class America for what had happened during the Eisenhower years (1953-1960).

The era had been launched by Arthur Miller’s indictment of McCarthyism in The Crucible. It would end with Hoftstadter’s indictment of Midwestern populism and evangelical revivalism as hostile not only to intellectuals, but to the life of the mind itself.

Hofstadter set out to construct a new national narrative for America, one that would find its way into the work of Robert Mapes Anderson who studied at Columbia during the 1960s and into the work of Mark Noll who utilized Hoftstadter to foist blame for the scandal of the evangelical mind upon those belonging to the Holiness-Pentecostal movement. It was, in short, the creation of a new National Myth.

Read the rest of this entry »