One of the evangelicalism's premier scholars will be leaving one of evangelicalism's premier colleges. Mark Noll will be moving from Wheaton College to the University of Notre Dame at the start of the school year this fall.
"This is one of the most painful announcements I've had to make in my nine and a half years as provost," says Stan Jones, provost at Wheaton. Noll has served as an inspiration and role model to students as well as other professors, Jones says. "I was inspired by his balance and maturity of thought."
"We're delighted to have him," says John McGreevy, chair of the department of history at Notre Dame. "We feel we have a strong program already. Mark will augment that."
Long a respected historian among evangelical scholars, Noll's stature has risen in recent years. His book America's God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln was named "the most significant work of American historical scholarship" in 2002 by The Atlantic.
His 1994 book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, has become shorthand for the ongoing conversation about evangelical anti-intellectualism, says John Wilson, editor of Books & Culture, a sister publication of Christianity Today. America's God however raised Noll's visibility beyond evangelical academic circles. It was one of the most important historical books in years, says Wilson, who called it Noll's magnum opus. In 2005, Time magazine named Noll one of America's 25 most influential evangelicals.
Noll's impact has been in three areas, according to Wilson: as an American historian, as a historian of evangelicalism to which he brought a global perspective, and as a scholar of the Bible in public life. His forthcoming book The Civil War as a Theological Crisis is a prime example, says Wilson.
Aside from his scholarly writing, Noll has fostered networks of evangelical scholars. He helped to found the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicalism, and in other informal ways, Noll fostered the evangelical intellectual community, according to Wilson.
"I think he has helped us break caricatures of evangelical anti-intellectualism," says Jones. "Noll is an exemplar of all that's good in Christian academia. He set the standard of what it means to be a Christian scholar and a Christian teacher." Despite being courted by other major universities, Noll has, until now, turned them down.
"The position he is going to is fantastic," says Jones. "There are two things Notre Dame is offering that Wheaton can't. One is Notre Dame's expansive intellectual community, especially in regard to history and religion. Another is the intensive training of a fine cadre of doctoral students."
McGreevy said the department had been considering how to replace George Marsden, who will retire in a little more than two years. Marsden has been a crucial part of the graduate program and the leading intellectual presence, says McGreevy. Marsden was unavailable for comment.
Noll expressed an interest in coming to the university, says McGreevy, and was invited to interview. Noll declined to comment on his departure.
"One of the attractions for us is Mark's interest in global Christianity," says McGreevy.
Noll is also active in dialogue between Catholics and Protestants. Noll and Carolyn Nystrom recently published Is the Reformation Over? "One thing Mark is committed to is Protestant/Catholic dialogue," says McGreevy. "Notre Dame is a good place to do that. There are lots of serious Catholics and Protestants who want to think about those issues."
"Mark is a good historian, very talented and distinguished," says McGreevy. "We're eager to welcome him."
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Books & Culture reviewed America's God.
Time magazine's 25 most influential evangelicals package is available on their website.
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