Mark A. Noll is a leading historian of American Christianity, an evangelical Christian, and a prolific author. From Every Tribe and Nation is a memoir of his evolution as a historian, with a particular focus on his growing belief that “full attention to the non-Western world had become essential for any responsible grasp of the history of Christianity.” Like all of Noll’s writings, its thoughts are lucid and graciously expressed, a tribute to Noll’s capacious mind and generous spirit.
As I read Noll’s memoir, I kept asking myself who should read this book. It has relevance to both historians and missiologists, but it is not a work of history or missiology. It is not an academic book per se, but it is not pitched at a popular audience either. It is—from a marketing standpoint—something of a strange beast.
And yet, for those who have eyes to see, let them read this book. Noll has written two books on the relationship between Christian faith and the life of the mind: The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind and Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind. In these books, he has explored why American evangelicals have not adequately appreciated the value of the life of the mind (and its counterpart in academic vocations) and how Christian faith actually supports that life. Those familiar with Noll’s published research are cognizant of the caliber of his scholarship. What From Every Tribe and Nation does is reveal the intellectual qualities of the scholar who produced them.
Scholarship cannot be reduced to biography, but it cannot be separated from it either. Noll grew up in a missions-minded Baptist home, was attracted to Reformed Christianity in his college years, and has come to appreciate the diverse global expressions of faith in Jesus Christ. Surely this outlook—rooted in a particular ecclesiological tradition but curious about and hospitable to other expressions of the faith—is one worth imitating, whatever your vocation.
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