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.