In his more than 20 books (most notably The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind) and his university posts (first at Wheaton College, then at the University of Notre Dame), Mark Noll has played a pivotal role in reviving the serious study of history among evangelicals. Here, he chooses his top 5 books for inspiring a passion for history.
David Brion Davis (Oxford University Press)
Davis wrote several important books on slavery before penning this summary volume for high school teachers attending summer seminars at Yale. It begins with Aristotle's description of a slave as less than human, carries the story through Roman, Byzantine, medieval, and early modern periods, and then expands on the crucial role that slavery played in funding European settlement in the Americas. Davis' sensitivity to the moral consequences of America's long toleration of slavery makes for painful, but essential reading. His main concerns are economic, racial, and diplomatic, but the role of religious actors—on every side and every aspect of "the rise and fall"—is a constant sub-theme.
Daniel Walker Howe (Oxford University Press)
Howe's Pulitzer-Prize winning contribution to the Oxford History of the United States is a page-turner, not least for its full attention to the religious dynamics of this critical period. It is a "Whig history" because Howe admires John Quincy Adams (of the Whig Party) and shows so clearly how unconscionably Andrew Jackson carried out his public duties. Without hiding instances where religion exacerbated social strife, he also shows that Christian energy and Christian determination contributed at every stage to the startling rise of the American nation in this period of rapid change. The book is long, but very, very satisfying.
George Marsden (Oxford University Press)
This superbly crafted and profoundly insightful account treats a subject of enduring significance for American history as well as the modern history of Christianity. The book's careful research, shrewd analysis, occasional humor, and unusual empathy for its subject have kept it as essential reading. Its concluding reflections explain how critical historical methods can complement definite Christian convictions. For its content as well as for those reflections, the book was largely responsible for sparking the great boom in historical writing produced by evangelicals over the last quarter century.
The Chronicles of Wasted Time, 2 vols. (The Green Stick, 1972; The Infernal Grove, 1975)
Malcolm Muggeridge (Regent College Publishing)
Muggeridge's autobiography is a great book, although it is hard to say exactly what kind of history it represents. It is notoriously selective, and also strongly influenced by his later convictions, as it narrates his earlier life. Still, this autobiography eviscerates the modern Zeitgeist with surgical precision. Over the course of his lifetime Muggeridge knew almost everyone of note in Britain and also many other places. That life underwent a perpetual series of disillusionments with the gods of the age (Fabianism, Marxist socialism, Western affluence) even as, in the most secular of centuries, it came to be haunted by God.
Andrew Walls (Orbis)
The essays collected in this volume, which combines history and theology with extraordinary effect, offer the best demonstration imaginable of how the world-wide spread of Christianity fulfills the inner character of the Incarnation. In Walls' depiction, Christianity in its essence is a religion of translation—first the Word of God into human flesh, then Jewish forms of Christian faith into Mediterranean, then Mediterranean into Northern European, then spreading to the ends of the earth. A highlight of Walls' witty, yet humble prose is his sparkling treatment of the remarkable explosion of African Christianity in the recent past.
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