Good Book Review About The Following Sections Will Be Brief Summaries Of Noll's Exploration Of These Turning Points.

Type of paper: Book Review

Topic: Religion, Church, Christians, History, Literature, Jesus Christ, Turning, Books

Pages: 6

Words: 1650

Published: 2020/12/23

Book Review

This report is based upon the book Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity, written by Mark A. Noll. This book is originally published in 1997 by Grand Rapids; MI: Baker Books. It is now on its Third Edition.

Introduction of the Author

The book Turning Points is written by Mark A. Noll. Noll is an essayist, professor, and a historian. He specializes in the history of American Christianity ("Mark Noll | The BioLogos Forum"). He is a creative author whose writing pieces are being celebrated, especially in the academic community. He has greatly contributed in the understanding of evangelical convictions and attitudes that reflects the past and the present face of American Christianity. In 2005, Time Magazine has named him as one of the 25 most influential evangelicals in America ("Mark Noll").


I found this book to be very informative and satisfactory both in the intellectual and spiritual sense. It is very much on point. The most commendable thing about Noll’s disposition in his book Turning Points is his neutrality on the subject. His intention is focused in the presentation of facts by showing opposing accounts of historical events that took place. He relays his opinions and backs them up with the information that the reader needs in order to create their own speculation. Noll stressed the fact that the turning points mentioned in this book are of his choosing. He wants the readers to understand that although this may be a subjective exercise, its purpose is to somehow provide clarity and order to a rather complicated subject. In effect, his book serves as a summary of a two millennia period that defined the history of Christianity.
The book is subdivided into sections of in-depth probing of the 14 most decisive moments in the past two thousand years that shaped the face of the church. For the purpose of providing a summary, these sections can be clustered into three parts. The first part talks about the birth and origins of the Church and its early years in Jerusalem. The middle part dwells in the events that took place in the Middles Ages, the crises that the church faced during this phase, and the birth of Protestantism. And the last part tackles the progress of the Christian faith in the last two centuries. Noll’s pedagogical approach in this book is very effective and, not to mention, laudable.

Body of the Review

In his book Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity, Mark Noll sets out to transcribe two thousand years of rich and colorful history of the church. His goal is to provide facts that explain the origins of Christianity. Furthermore, Noll considered it his mission to inform his readers of the progress of the church in the span of 2 millennia. He enumerates 14 important events that he calls the church's turning points. He believes that these major events have everything to do with the church’s becoming.

The fall of Jerusalem: Noll considered this a turning point because the fall of Jerusalem was, first and foremost, the reason why people were forced to develop a new church apart from Judaism. He examines the connection between Judaism and Christianity in its early years.
The Council of Nicaea: The highlight of this turning point was the challenges that the Church faced regarding its doctrines of faith and how Constantine came about with his resolution.
The Council of Chalcedon: Noll presents the theological importance of Chalcedon as a restatement of the scriptures to another conceptual language. He also noted the cultural and intellectual significance of Chalcedon as a tool that balanced two extremes in the church: Alexandrian and Anitochene.
Benedict’s Rule: In this section, Noll acknowledges the rise of monasticism as one of the significant turning points in the history of the church. Despite his positive take on the monasticism, he didn’t fail to present the dangers that it represents. Noll also stressed out the significance of Benedict's regime at this point in the history of the church.
The coronation of Charlemagne: According to Noll, this turning point can be summarized in three major events: The Rice os Papacy, the Rise of Northern Europe, The Christianity of Christendom. He mentioned the coronation of Charlemagne as Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Leo III as a "dramatic symbol of relationships undergoing permanent change."
The Great Schism: Noll considered the Great Schism of 1054 as one of the major turning points in the history of the church because it represented the division of the East and West. The development of theological differences, ecclesiastical suspicion and cultural disengagement grew larger, leading to the isolation of Eastern churches for a long period of time.
The Diet of Worms: Another noteworthy incident that took place during this time is the beginning of Protestantism. In this section, Noll tackles the theology of Luther and goes on to contrast his vision of God. He provides a brief history of Luther's life and works. He also described in brief detail the events that led to the Diet of worms.
The English Act of Supremacy: Reporting the circumstances during this period that were vastly relevant to the church would require the consideration of the economic status of Europe, as well as the nature of politics during this time. Noll did a good job of presenting the information that the readers would need in order to vividly paint a picture of what transpired in this epoch. He also discussed how the tenures of the Popes rerouted the church’s original godly path and drifted to a politically tainted road.
The Founding of the Jesuits: This section talked about how the Jesuits came about. Noll provided a brief background on Loyola. The focal point of his discussion was the efforts of the Catholic Church on its reformation campaign. According to him, this reformation phase is considered as a major turning point in the history of Christianity because it is when Christians were inspired to be active and participate in spreading the faith. The pioneering efforts of the Jesuits made an impact not just to the European history of Christianity but to the world as well.
The Conversion of the Wesleys: In this section, Noll introduced Phillip Jakob Spener as the Father of Pietism. He provides a biography of Spener and discusses about his activities that impacted the church. Noll also did a comparison and contrast analysis of what Europe was in the sixteenth and the eighteenth centuries. He also mentioned the changes that took place in Europe in the theological point of view.
The French Revolution: Noll discusses how the French revolution’s dechristianizing symbolism was expected to cause suffrage on the church. It did trigger the end of Europe as the most dominant force in the Christian domain. Noll described what Europe looked like in the course of the nineteenth century during its post-Christian era. Meanwhile, Christian believers are growing in number in the other parts of the world.
The Edinburgh Missionary Conference: This section is basically a report on the accomplishments of the church’s missionary efforts and the emergence of Christian martyrs. He considers the Edinburgh Missionary Conference of 1910 as a turning point because it represented the beginning of the dispersion of Christianity throughout the world.
Further Turning Points of the Twentieth Century: In the twentieth century, the activities of the church have become exponential. Noll emphasized that many noteworthy events took place in this era which contributed to the deepening of the Christian faith. He enumerated the events that are strongly nominated to be turning points in the Christianity history. He especially mentioned the rise of Pentecostalism and the rapid expansion of the Christian faith outside the West. Noll also pointed out the contribution of women in the field of theology and how they were an integral part of the missions.
The translation of the Bible into different languages was also a remarkable milestone in the history of Christianity. Noll did not leave out the struggle of the church under Communism and its triumphant survival through the communist regimes.
Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization: Noll describes the Lausanne Congress as the Protestant equivalent of the second Vatican council. In this section, he elaborates on how the Lausanne movement influenced the face of evangelicalism today.


In my opinion, 14 sections to cover a span of two thousand years are quite deficient. Nevertheless, Noll’s choice of historically significant events is very comprehensive. All of the points he mentioned really were major turning points in the history of Christianity. Noll certainly did an incredible job in providing a tactful description of the history of Christianity which he skillfully compressed into fourteen sections. As expected, each chapter is informative, engaging, and obviously well-researched. However, some sections play more to Noll’s strengths than the rest. It is apparent how he displays more freedom in writing in the areas where he has done extensive research on.
In my evaluation, I think his strongest chapter is the one about the Evangelical revival, while his weakest one is the chapter about the Jesuits. Nevertheless, he is a very effective writer in the sense that he was able to provide sufficient references, especially in the areas beyond his expertise.
Aside from Noll’s remarkable research skills that were showcased in this book, I believe his fairness in his criticisms of the church deserves acknowledgements as well. His attempt to provide a fresh approach on a rather sensitive subject has been successful. As a conclusion, Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity is a highly recommended book.
It is considered to be a very useful text for scholars and readers alike who are looking for a solid reference on the historical framework of the Christian faith. An effective way to use this book is to have it as a companion text to other Christian history books. The "Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years” by Diarmaid MacCulloch and Roland Bainton's "Christianity," is much recommended.

Works Cited

"Mark Noll | The BioLogos Forum." N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2015.
"Mark Noll." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc, 12 Feb. 2015. Web. 18 Mar. 2015.

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