Faithful to the Story

Mark Noll's brisk and elegant run through Christian history, Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity, displays his usual trademarks. The Wheaton College professor never has trouble keeping the plotline of a story clear, and here as always he holds the attention of readers. He is likely to grasp the notice even of those who do not like, or do not think they like, history. Give this author a 15-minute chance, and you are likely to get hooked by this book, designed to attract and hold newcomers to the subject.

While Noll always has secular and catholic readerships in mind, he speaks out of and with special passion to the communities of faith called evangelical. He has taken pains in recent years to diagnose some problems of evangelicalism, including its absence of a "mind"—an evangelicaldom-wide love of learning—and of a mind informed by history. Here, as in his much longer and more concentrated A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada (Eerdmans, 1992), he puts up rather than shuts up. Instead of apologizing for story and history, he offers up stories and lets them be their own justification for existence.

Why see history as a problem for evangelicals and its value as a case that requires selling? One of the strengths of evangelicalism, one to which Noll has much devoted himself, is devotion to the Bible (and its history), which often can turn to biblicism. The biblicist tends to consider that everything God had to say occurred in the times we call biblical and everything God has to say occurs in the heart of the individual sinner, convert, and Christian congregation today.

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Sojourners Magazine September-October 1998
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