Saturday, January 23, 2010

Coping Mechanisms? Noll's New Shape

One of the books I hope to buy and skim this year is Mark Noll's The New Shape of World Christianity. From what I hear, it is intended as somewhat of a corrective to Philip Jenkins' The Next Christendom.

It also gets put in my new category, "scholarly coping mechanisms." I haven't read the book yet, so it is just a warning category right now. My new category relates to an earlier post on how certain ideological tribes within scholarship (both liberal and conservative) crank up their scholarly machines to address "naughty data" that has emerged. Rather than following the data to its most probable conclusions, they apply their considerable intellect and creativity to possible ones that are more convenient for their tribes.

Now I do suspect that there may be some skew to Jenkins' book as well. But I'm putting Noll's new book on the "coping mechanism" list until I get a good sense of whether he is legitimately correcting Jenkins or whether this is another example of scholarly coping mechanism.


Angie Van De Merwe said...

As "coping mechanism" I think that means to underwrite evangelical faith.

In my understanding of moral, faith, and intellectual development, one's ethnic identity is intact and should be affirmed, not disregarded and ignored and suppressed by a "transcendental" faith based on supernatural texts and revelation.

And when one comes to the aforementioned conclusion, the Church is not supernaturally endowed but viewed as a natural organizational social structure, which is prone to similar abuses of power as any other social structure.

People are not fallen in need of a Savior, but in need of other things, dependent on the social, and personal needs of that individual, which is more than material, but psychological counselling, medical help, social connection, etc.

The moral order is not viewed as static, but dynamic in cultural diversity, where it concerns religious claims, as there is not way of knowing about God, in the true and real sense of knowledge. But, psychological, sociological and biological science informs us of some important aspects of being human.

And the ethical dimension to life is dynamic, because the individual within his social, political and psychological frame comes to make his own choices and act responsibly to further the values he holds most dear, which is not just a static religious view, but all of life.

John C. Gardner said...

I have read and enjoyed your commentary over the years. However, I remember that you have accused Ben Witherington, Tom Wright, and now Mark Noll of being men who write from a skewed perspective. None of these scholars would deny that there is no perspective that is neutral such as Enlightenment scholars presupposed. However, your commentary about Noll and others seems to contain a hint that they are writing propoganda. It might be that they are competent scholars that are writing apologetics or(what I think is more likely)the best history and theology that they are capable. Service to Christ and his church is part of a long tradition of scholars. Remember, for example, the Patristic writers such as Irenaeus and Athanasius, wrote wonderful apologetics while both Witherington, Wright and Noll are very competent historians who also are believing Christians. An individual who has a point of view may also follow the evidence where it leads. I am a business ethicist who is a Wesleyan perspective to my theology but I also follow the evidence when I engage in professional scholarship.

Ken Schenck said...

Certainly we all write from a skewed perspective.