by Mark Noll
Nothing I say here is going to make Mark Noll a gifted writer. I hope heís a gifted teacher, and I have little doubt that he is a talented historian, but realistically he should stay away from publishing.
Doubtless, this makes Turning Points a strange choice for a great books list. Itís not well written, and itís not going to be one of the books that most influences the great conversation. It does, however, neatly summarize some of the most influential moments in the great conversation.
The premise underlying Turning Points is simple: Noll volunteers what he considers to be the ten biggestóyou guessed itóturning points in the history of the Church. This is obviously dangerous ground, but it is a tribute to Nollís expertise and his vision that generally readers find his choices persuasive.
Some of the choices are obvious: the fall of Jerusalem, the legalization of Christianity in the Roman Empire via the Edict of Milan, and Lutherís defense at the Diet of Worms are all indisputably momentous. Other choices seem quite odd before you hear Nollís argument. The French Revolution? Why would anyone argue that such a godless time was a turning point for the Church?
Then there are the problems created by the omissions. How dare Noll forget about St. Patrick, who might have been the first Christian missionary to barbarians? What about William Tyndale sacrificing his life to give Bibles in the common tongue to common men? Something must be wrong here.
Well, perhaps something is. No historical list is perfect, and no one can comprehend the way God works through history. But Nollís arguments are compelling, and his grasp of history is impressive. You donít have to view this work as the last word on the history of the Church to benefit from its discussion of some of the most significant moments in the great conversation.
by Jeff Baldwin