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Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind Hardcover – July 22, 2011
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― David F. Wells
Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
"It is odd that so much modern theology has treated Christology as just another doctrinal topic. Mark Noll shows us Jesus right where St. Paul left him ― in Colossians ― as the one 'in whom all things hold together.' Now that we have a christological clarion call for scholarship of all kinds, it's hard to believe we had none before. This is the ideal bookend for Noll's Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, sketching out a way for intellectual pilgrims to follow Jesus into academic fields of all kinds. May many take up that way."
― Jason Byassee
Duke Divinity School
"Mark Noll resolves the Scandal of the Evangelical Mind with the scandal of Christ crucified."
― Gene Edward Veith
Patrick Henry College
"In this wise and eloquent book Mark Noll draws on four decades of experience serving Christ in the academy. Many evangelical colleges and universities claim to be Christ-centered, but Noll shows the depth of meaning that phrase can convey. He offers a rich theological base for a life of learning, rooted in 'all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge' that are in Jesus Christ."
― Joel Carpenter
Nagel Institute, Calvin College
"More than a sequel to his Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, Mark Noll's thoughtful new book offers at least the beginnings of a constructive christocentric theology for evangelical intellectual life. Rooted in the classic Christian creeds, Noll shows how a thoroughgoing Christocentrism can and should shape Christian engagement with such arenas as history, science, and biblical studies. . . . Though modest in length, this may be one of Noll's most important scholarly contributions."
― David P. Gushee
"Without retreating from his principles, Noll in this book offers a mature, nuanced, and wide-ranging reprise of his Scandal of the Evangelical Mind ― but that is not all. By drawing constructively on poets, theologians, philosophers ― and especially on the great historic creeds and confessions of the faith ― he has crafted a challenging, inspiring christological philosophy of Christian education for the twenty-first century. This is a major contribution."
― David Lyle Jeffrey
About the Author
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This book cannot be accurately summarized in a few sentences, nor fully grasped in a single quick reading. Those involved in evangelical life, especially those within higher education, must ponder the rich perspective and possibility it proposes. Those outside the evangelical world who want to understand what evangelical scholarship could become if it were true to its historical roots (as viewed through Noll's eyes) will learn of a future that looks distinctly different from the recent past.
A Place to Stand
Noll assures readers of the firm foundation the Christian worldview provides. The creeds of the early church serve as concrete blocks in this foundation: "The creed ... offers full cause for taking seriously the fact of the physical world as created by God, but also the dramas of redemption that relativizes all terrestrial realities in eternal perspective. It offers, in short, an ideal place from which to approach the tasks of Christian learning."
Noll reminds readers that this world is uniquely christological. As such, all learning should begin and end with Christ: "The light of Christ illuminates the laboratory, his speech is the fount of communication, he makes possible the study of humans in all their interactions, he is the source of all life, he provides the wherewithal for every achievement of human civilization, he is the telos of all that is beautiful. He is, among his many other titles, the Christ of the academic road." Indeed, this is much needed oxygen for the evangelical mind.
Motives for Learning
The author challenges the misplaced notion that a commitment to the Christian worldview necessarily derails a serious pursuit of scholarship. Noll argues, "The beauties of creation reflect the fullness of the being of God; the person of Jesus Christ is God incarnate in human flesh; through learning of Jesus Christ we learn of God's chief purpose in creating the world; that chief purpose is the manifestation of his own glory; the manifestation of God's glory accounts for the deep origin of all that is beautiful in the world." So the author vividly conveys a motive for learning by pointing to Christ who creates, controls all things, and became flesh in order to redeem the people of God.
Guidance for Learning
Noll encourages readers with four general expectations that inform the Christian mind, should the great truths of John 1, Colossians 1, and Hebrews 1 be taken seriously. The four expectations include doubleness, contingency, particularity, and self-denial.
The first expectation that Noll includes, by way of example is "doubleness" which is rooted in the Chalcedonian Creed, namely Christ is one person with two natures - fully human and fully God: "The doubleness of Christ as divine and human, which undergirds the whole edifice of Christian life and thought, is a model for studying the spheres of existence." Therefore, Christian scholarship will take into account the Chalcedonian formulation at every juncture.
The Atonement: A Theological Principle to Frame Scholarship
The author successfully demonstrates how an evangelical understanding of the redemptive work of Christ affects scholarly pursuit. Drawing on John Stott's monumental work, The Cross of Christ, Noll argues that the atonement affects scholarship in a variety of academic disciplines.
Christology: A Key to Understanding History
The key to understanding history is understanding Christ. Central to the christological underpinnings of redemptive history is a robust view of providence. Noll guides readers through a series of providential snapshots and seeks to correct erroneous assumptions along the way.
A Christological Invitation for Science
The author directs readers to God's "two books," namely - Scripture and nature in order to make scientific observation. He posits, "The key is that if Christ is the central and unifying theme of Scripture, then Christ should be preeminent in understanding scriptural revelation about everything else, including nature." This notion is developed and bolstered by the musings of Galileo and B.B. Warfield. And the presuppositions of the Chalcedonian creed help navigate through choppy scientific waters.
Christology: The Foundation of Biblical Study
Noll evaluates Peter Enn's recent work concerning inspiration and incarnation. His lengthy conclusions lead readers back to familiar ground, namely - the foundation of Christology: "If christological materials provide the right foundation for building other houses of learning, they offer the same for biblical study." Again, Noll seeks to guide readers to the lodestar who is Christ - "all things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made" (John 1:3, ESV).
The author concludes with a helpful list of goals for anyone who is ready to take the life of Christian scholarship seriously. Noll's heart in this work is to move Christian scholars to action. His goal is accomplished in this much needed volume. He continues, "Life in Christ is a gift that makes all things new, including the vocations of learning, but it makes things new only because of how the gift is given and who the giver is." May the church take in the oxygen that Mark Noll offers. And may the result be a kind of scholarship that is uniquely Christ and God-glorifying!