Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind by Mark A. Noll is in essence a treatise on everything in our life and world can all be understood by knowing the person of Jesus. Noll goes to great lengths theologically and academically to not only present his view but to also prove it. He firmly believes that knowing Jesus is the foundation to know, interact, and understand life, history, science and theology. Noll walks his belief historically through the formation and defense of the creeds of the church and how Jesus fulfills the fulfillment of knowledge in our world.
I throughly enjoyed reading this book. So much so, that I believe I would have better appreciated and accepted Noll’s Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, if I had first read Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind. Because of the order in which I read Noll’s books I found myself critically evaluating this book heavily, but I found that not only did I support Noll’s view I agreed with him.
There is a popular, nonacademic, book that came out a couple of years ago by Pastor Judah Smith entitled: Jesus is. In this book, Smith unpacks highly practical ways where Jesus is what you need. If you need a friend, healer, savior, or redeemer that is what Jesus is. In a very academic and theological astute manner Noll proclaims the same truth: Jesus is. Jesus is the key to understand the world in which we live. Jesus is truth, life, and the basis of all that was, that is, that is to come. Jesus is.
This belief in the centrality of not only God, but Jesus is bold coming from a liberal leaning historian that does not believe in the inerrancy of Scripture. In essence Noll holds all truth as God’s truth regardless if it is contained in the cannon of Scripture that we hold in our hands. He quotes theologian B. B. Warfield: “Why should you turn from God when turn to your books, or feel you must turn from your books in order to turn to God?” (Noll, 28). I agree with Noll.
Noll does not walk away from the various tensions that exist, in fact he uses them to prove his point of the value of Jesus. The doubleness nature of Jesus demonstrates that there can be more than one meaning and both be correct. The tension is not to deduce where there is no deduction, but use the mind God gave you to theologically reflect. On contingency, the externals (truth outside of written Bible) can inform the internals (truth inside the Bible) as well as the internals inform the externals in life. The tension here is not to misinterpret, but to faithfully exegete truth properly. On the subject of particularity, fact that one particular event has universal effect, truly sums up the person and mission of Jesus. Jesus is the game changer in every way. These principles effect in numerous dimensions: science, history, life, truth, and eternity. If Jesus be God, God is the creator of the world, then apart from him full truth cannot be known or understood.
8 responses to “Jesus Is…”
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Nice one. Do you recommend Smith’s book? I’ve heard of it but haven’t read it. I really like your clear concise explanation of Noll. I am wondering if you read this one the way you did because of his first one? Not a big deal, but I think his tone in Scandal got me to pay closer attention to his writing in this one.
I totally read this second book with much more attention. I am curious if this was Jason’s thinking for the order of books. We will see on Monday!
Thanks for a very clear, comprehensive and concise blog. I agree with you that my take on this book is different than the first one.
I wrote that this is a great Christology book like some of the ones that we read at ORU. He does point people to Christ. It really resonates differently though when scripture is not the foundation but all truth.
His departure from holding to scripture is interesting since he has been involved in Christian academia. I guess Wheaton, Notre Dame and Regent must have a different view point than the A/G.
I concur with you that if Christ is God then all truth is in him.
Why do you think he is so consumed with intellect?
What do you think is the reason for his exploration?
Thanks for an excellent summation and analysis of the book. I like your title and thesis, Jesus is…
Your statement says it all. “in a very academic and theological astute manner Noll proclaims . . . Jesus is. Jesus is the key to understand the world in which we live. Jesus is truth, life, and the basis of all that was, all that is, that is to come. Jesus is.”
I thoroughly enjoyed this book also. It was good to sense intellectualism with a heart for Christ and His Word. You mentioned the critique that you entered in to your reading with the 2nd book….I did too.
What was your takeaway on Noll’s spin on evolution and creationism? Was there any other areas that caused pause with your thought processes and Noll’s presentation?
B. B. Warfield: “Why should you turn from God when turn to your books, or feel you must turn from your books in order to turn to God?” (Noll, 28). I agree with Noll.
How has this B. B. Warfield truth affected your life in recent months?
Do you think Noll is “liberal leaning?” Why?
You wrote, “If Jesus be God, God is the creator of the world, then apart from him full truth cannot be known or understood.” Thank you for that reminder.
Great blog and tie in to Judah’s book. As a pastor how do you help your people to think in a christocentric fashion? How do you lead them to this?
Aaron, like you, I also appreciate the way Noll brings about the importance of the entire created order because of Christ. It has given me a platform to encourage other Christians to engage with the world beyond church programs, knowing that our Christian identity is meant to touch all the realms of what God has created.