Book Review: Jesus Christ And The Life Of The Mind

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Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind is a book which was written by Mark Noll. His book was edited in 2011. Mark Allan Noll is an American historian who is currently working as a research professor of history at Regent college. He is a reformed Evangelical Christian who masters the domain of the history of Christianity. Most of the books he wrote are about history of Christianity in America. His dedicated work and personality led him to win the National Endowment for the Humanities medal at a White House ceremony. Dr. Noll has written many books, the most recent being “In the Beginning Was the Word: The Bible in American Public Life” (OUP, 2015), “From Every Tribe and Nation: A Historian’s Discovery of the Global Christian Story” (Baker Academic, 2014) and of course the book “Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind” (Eerdmans, 2011). He plays an important role in spreading the word of the Bible. In 2005, Mark Noll was rewarded by Time Magazine as one of the twenty-five most influential evangelicals in America.

In Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind, Mark Noll divides the book in two parts: the first part holds an observation on Christology, while the second section highlights the importance of learning Christianity and the significance of applying the human learning to faith and Christian theology. Jesus is important in our lives. He is our foundation. “My contention in this book is that coming to know Christ provides the most basic possible motive for pursuing the tasks of human learning”. Doctor Noll wants his readers to see the His greatness. The author highlights how God is the root of our world, how everything on earth is from Him. He wants the reader to realize how important the relationship with Christ is and, how deeply looking to strengthen it is crucial. Noll uses Jesus Christ’s example to inspire christians and show us how important human learning is. He invites us to keep digging in our faith and knowledge to realize how Christ is pertinent when learning any subject such as social science, chemistry… Everything can be related to Him. Throughout his book, Doctor Noll’s purpose is to create a relationship between faith and learning and show how beneficial it can be for a greater understanding of Christ and also the world God created. The author details in each chapter different ways to learn and gives us insights on how to apply it to our faith. He supports his observations and point of views with scripture and renowned scholar’s work. He suggests to pursue learning and talks about the importance of Christian scholarship to understand scriptures and Christ a better way. ‘The message in this book for my fellow evangelicals can be put simply: if what we claim about Jesus Christ is true, then evangelicals should be among the most active, most serious, and most open minded advocates of general human learning’ (Kindle location 22). Then, Mark Noll discusses about how four principles of doubleness, contingency, particularity, and self-denial can support scholarship. Doctor Noll also brings the subject of providence and history writing. He gives us interesting information about how historians can write from two different perspectives. To end the book, the last chapter of “Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind” talks about the importance of the Bible and how its content relates to Jesus Christ. He gives his point of view on the authenticity and truth of scripture. Everything in the bible is proven. Jesus Christ is the greatest leader the world ever had and Him and the Bible positively influence humans lives.

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I believe Mark Noll’s Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind brought up many points that make the reader adopt a different approach of Christianity. I like how the author is permanently stimulating our curiosity which makes us want to dig deeper into our relationship with Jesus Christ and expand our knowledge about Him. Mark Noll did a great job at challenging his readers on how to approach scripture. He shares the same point of view as J.I. Packer and used one of his quotes from the book ‘The Bible in Use’ that states the following: ‘The Bible has been given to us, not to define for us the realities of the created order, nor to restrain our interests in them, but to enable us to diagnose, understand, appreciate, and handle them as we meet them, so that we may use and enjoy them to the Creator’s praise.” In his book, Mark Noll opens our mind on the bible and explains us the role of scripture. Scripture is here to give us instructions on how to understand the world but not only. It also gives us a sort of freedom to discover the world God made with all the tools He gave us. Here, we get to use our mind to explore religion and human nature in a deeper way.

I appreciate how Mark Noll guides us through his book. The clear structure he established helps for a better understanding. The author breaks elements out. For example, each chapter is focused on something different. I believe it helps us to identify the different concepts of Christianity. On the other hand, he associates powerful words to some situations: For example, Noll invites readers with four general expectations informing a christian mind. The four expectations are the following: doubleness, contingency, particularity, and self-denial. I like the way he names each of the expectations which makes it very understandable and easy to remember. He guides us in our learning process when reading his book which I believe is a wonderful way to keep us close from the ideas Noll is trying to share.

Mark Noll uses references coming from scholars and theologians who have a great knowledge. These are very credible sources. He involves many different sources that support his ideas very well. However, he is not only using other’s incredible knowledge but, also gives his own point of views and analyzes. He starts with an idea and then uses references to strengthen what he is trying to prove. He then, connects it to the scripture. All this to state that I appreciate the professionalism that Mark Noll is having by picking his sources having an incredible knowledge. He also uses Biblic references a lot to make statements.

On the other hand, a potential worry I have the book and especially its second part is about Noll’s non awareness of scholarship being shaped and communicated by presuppositions within each academic discipline.

Moreover, it seems to be Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind is a book which is addressed to a Christian population. I believe it could have been interesting to write it in a way the readers could have been from other religions to open their mind on the subject. It is unfortunate because Mark Noll’s references are sometimes not Christian references but I felt the book was written in a way only Christian could really understand and be really be aware of.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind. The book really opened my mind and I liked the way the ideas the author expressed. It was really creating a feeling of curiosity to explore deeper in the scripture. It made me bring up questions on the way I see the world God made. It definitely contributes my faith development. Being from France, the way religion is approached there is different and I like getting knowledge from as many sources of knowledge as possible. Being here in America and now having read Noll’s book, my understanding of Christianity has grown a lot. A book with much scholarly perspective on the development of Christian beliefs and practices. My Christian faith is strengthened as was my capacity to make up new scientific findings with the bible. My knowledge on the life of Jesus is now more developed. The book was constituted of many good explorations of christology as well as its implications for Christian scholarship.I highly recommend Noll’s Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind as a must read for all.


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